“To be ourselves we must have ourselves – possess, if need be re-possess, our life-stories. We must “recollect” ourselves, recollect the inner drama, the narrative, of ourselves. A man needs such a narrative, a continuous inner narrative, to maintain his identity, his self.”
My psychotherapy practice holds a special place for individuals and their families who are recovering from stroke and TBI (traumatic brain injury). Although aphasia occurs more frequently in the US than Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy, public awareness of it remains scant. Approximately 2 million people in the US today experience aphasia, with 180,000 new cases occurring annually (National Aphasia Association, 2018). Aphasia is a loss of language, not intellect, and yet too often, a person struggling to find words must deal with assumptions of diminished intellectual competence.
Psychotherapy has long been called "the talking cure" — but patients whose access to language has been impacted by stroke or other neurological trauma have long been left out of this traditional paradigm. The scarcity of psychotherapeutic services for individuals with aphasia constitutes a grave concern, because they may be particularly vulnerable to depression. The circumstances of aphasia are uniquely isolating. Limits to language often result in the abrupt disconnection from self expression, and as a result, also impinge upon an individual's right to self determination.
My personal commitment and research interest is in detecting creative ways for "feeling felt" in psychotherapy when verbal facility has been affected by stroke, traumatic brain injury, or aspects of neurodiversity. In 2017, I received a CAMFT Educational Foundation Grant to research ways for hosting psychotherapy with clients who have aphasia, a condition impacting language function. For this project, I engage in ongoing outreach with the innovative aphasiologists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, now The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. Through deep personal engagement with aphasia, stroke, and TBI recovery, I provide psychotherapeutic care, community resources, referrals, and practical support to individuals with aphasia and to those who love them — both of whom may yearn to restore a lively connection with each other.