Therapist’s Creative Thinking Inspires Patient Success
“Challenging patients pays off in the long run.”
A hallmark of Centre for Neuro Skills’ treatment is an approach of tailored care for each patient. Michael Liebel, a clinical case manager at the Bakersfield clinic, has been a model of this innovation for the 12 years he’s been with CNS.
“We have the freedom to be creative,” he said. “We give patients the potential to fail, but we’re a giant net for them.” In the safety of a familiar but controlled scenario, he says, “they have opportunities they wouldn’t have in the outside world.”
Following a brain injury, most people return to a world of distractions. When appropriate, therapists will replicate real life scenarios to ease the transition into work, home, or the community. Michael has helped scores of patients using this safe, controlled but creative method of relearning skills.
Take the case of the 19-year-old bouncer from Colorado, a tough woman of steel who suffered a brain injury. “She had a no-nonsense presence,” Michael recalled, “and needed to speak forcefully to direct people. Her cognitive and emotional decline required us to rebuild her confidence, so she’d be taken seriously.”
He asked the bouncer to lead a group of her peers – patients at CNS - on a pumpkin patch tour. Michael watched her skills resurface as she kept everyone in line. “She had to keep corralling them,” he mused. The patients complied with her directives and Michael witnessed a patient reconnecting with her inner strength.
Michael had another ah-hah moment in creative skill building, this time searching for sea mammals in the Pacific. He took a group to an aquarium and noticed that it also offered whale watching. The wheels started turning, and he booked a tour. Amid dolphins and diving pelicans, Michael recalled, “I took a patient through the cognition module on a boat full of people in this highly distracting environment. It was so fun, and he did really well.”
So did the small-town sheriff that Michael will never forget.
Sirens, police radios, high speed chases, and criminals were all in a day’s work for this lawman in a small desert city. “But post injury, he had issues with dual tasking,” Michael said. CNS needed to replicate typical police scenarios in a safe way.
Again, Michael’s innovative thinking came into play.
CNS had a touch screen portable device with a flight simulator program, so Michael had him utilize aspects of that for multitasking. With the cooperation of the sheriff’s department, Michael also replicated his work environment. In the squad car, the patient listened to the local police radio band,
wore headphones, and translated the nature of the call while Michael asked him questions from the cognition module CNS utilizes.
“It was triple duty,” Michael said. “Our creative ability helped him return to work. Challenging patients at this level pays off in the long run.”