Early in my counseling I learned that TBI and PTSD have many similarities. They also have plenty of differences. PTSD Break the Silence is a page on Facebook. If you have Facebook, I recommend adding this page to your resources.
Tips for Communicating with People with TBI
(Note: Many people who have TBI don’t need any assistance.)
Some people with TBI may have trouble concentrating or organizing their thoughts. If you are in a public area with many distractions, consider moving to a quiet or private location, and try focusing on short-term goals.
Be prepared to repeat what you say, orally or in writing. Some people with TBI may have short-term memory deficits.
If you are not sure whether the person understands you, offer assistance completing forms or understanding written instructions and provide extra time for decision-making. Wait for the individual to accept the offer of assistance; do not “over-assist” or be patronizing.
Be patient, flexible and supportive. Take time to understand the individual, make sure the individual understands you and avoid interrupting the person.
Tips for Communicating with People with PTSD
(Note: Many people who have PTSD don’t need any assistance.)
Stress can sometimes affect a person’s behavior or work performance. Do your best to minimize high pressure situations.
People experience trauma differently and will have their own various coping and healing mechanisms, so treat each person as an individual. Ask what will make him or her most comfortable and respect his or her needs.
Be tolerant if the person repeats his or her stories and experiences, and avoid interrupting the person.
In a crisis, remain calm, be supportive and remember that the effects of PTSD are normal reactions to an abnormal situation. Ask how you can help the person, and find out if there is a support person you can contact (such as a family member or your company’s Employee Assistance Program). If appropriate, you might ask if the person has medication that he or she needs to take.
Treat the individual with dignity, respect and courtesy.
Listen to the individual.
Offer assistance but do not insist or be offended if your offer is not accepted.
Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know,” or “Let me check.” You can be clear about the limits of your authority or ability to respond to a person’s needs or requests.
Be mindful that symptoms of TBI and PTSD may fluctuate and are influenced by many factors – there may be periods of ease and comfort as well as more challenging times.
Support, patience and understanding go a long way. Be generous with these.
I am painfully aware of how difficult communication can be with me may be frustrating and sometimes impossible. I remember my counselor chastising me for practicing what I said to him. I tried to explain I worked very hard to say what I needed to say. One session he took me off subject and tried to have me talk about something I hadn’t planned on talking about. Within minutes, my voice stopped, my mouth opened and closed but not a sound came out. I felt terrified and trapped. My counselor watched for a second then observed, “You really can’t talk unless you practice.” I shook my head, mute, unable to express one thing crashing in my mind. He waited and let me calm down by guiding our conversation into safer topics. I truly wish I could be different. I notice with conscious work I improved. However, there are still times that communication is the hardest thing I do.