This is a part of the Hot Topic podcast series from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center on Relationships After TBI. Dr. Jeffrey S. Kreutzer discusses Recognizing the Positives.

The other thing that we really work on and we do a lot of work here at VCU Medical Center with couples is we really try to help people avoid thinking of the negative. And most of us are human and I’m afraid that one of the things that comes with being human is we all have a tendency to worry or focus on the negative. And one of the things that we do here is we use a form of therapy called cognitive behavior therapy and we help people to understand that while it may be easy or may come naturally to focus on the negative focusing on the negative is not a good thing; it has the potential to make things worse.

And what we try to help people do is instead of focusing on the negative to recognize the positive things in the other person. And it’s really hard to do because many people are overwhelmed by fear, by anxiety, by depression, by feelings of hopelessness, but what we try to help people do is to recognize their feelings and then really, really focus on the positive.

And we ask people questions. And questions can sometimes be very powerful tools. For example, we might ask a wife what kinds of things do you see in your husband now that are familiar and recognizable? What traits does your husband have now? What qualities does he have now that he had before? And I will honestly tell a lot of wives that there are often changes in people after brain injury that are positive, so the husband who was never at the kid’s ball games, never at the soccer games, never home for dinner after work might have a lot more free time and have a lot more time to spend with the children.

The person who was really intense before and difficult to get along with might be very patient and understanding now. So I can say with all honesty and I do say to wives that many people change for the better. And the other thing that we tell wives is that while the injury that happened was very sudden and unexpected ultimately over time if people are patient things will become more predictable and more understandable and people will adapt.

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