Fortunately, rehabilitation is often possible after a serious illness. But what does it really mean to rehabilitate, and what role does psychology play in rehabilitation?
The healthcare system has become better at saving lives. But lives that are saved must also be lived. Surviving a critical illness, such as cancer or an acquired brain injury, entails major life changes. After this, you will often need rehabilitation.
Life can change in a split second. We can all suddenly be hit by a serious illness or accident and find that our lives change. It is not only physical changes that result from serious illness, but also social and psychological ones. That life changes in a short time often creates a crisis. It can be associated with an experience of trauma and loss.
What is rehabilitation?
The word rehabilitation means to put something back on its feet again. But the concept of rehabilitation is a complex interdisciplinary concept, which covers various efforts across the social, health, work and education fields.
Rehabilitation is therefore a process where the person is supported to achieve the best opportunities to live the life they want after, for example, illness or accident.
Perspective and starting point for rehabilitation
It is very different whether rehabilitation takes place, for example, in a hospital, a 24-hour service, in your own home or a municipal service. Regardless of where and how, rehabilitation starts from a holistic perspective, where the whole person is at the center of the rehabilitation. This means that illness and health are always understood in both a biological, social and psychological perspective. It is called the bio psychosocial model. The bio psychosocial model was introduced in the 1970s and is today the current model.
The role of psychology in rehabilitation
Rehabilitation is about something and more than regaining physical function. It is equally about finding the life you want and living with the changes of the new life. Therefore, precisely the social and psychological aspects of rehabilitation are important.
Psychology can contribute broadly. Most people who have experienced being in rehabilitation after, for example, an acquired brain injury, have probably met a neuropsychologist or a health psychologist. The neuropsychologist contributes important knowledge about the brain and cognitive processes. But within rehabilitation psychology, you also look at the general psychology of being in a life crisis or life-changing situation.
Many experience a life crisis as a result of serious illness. Life changes, and suddenly you can no longer do the same things as before you got sick or were injured. Maybe you can no longer go to work, run with the grandchildren, look after the garden or be the same to your family and friends.
Psychological rehabilitation is a process where you find a balance with the new life circumstances. It is completely natural and normal that you may need support, space and time for this. Just as you can physically retrain and increase your physical and cognitive functions, it is also important to acknowledge and make room for the reactions that follow when life is changed, no matter how difficult it is.
Many experience periods of difficult emotions such as anger, sadness, powerlessness and grief. Emotions that quite naturally can take up a lot of your everyday life and take a lot of energy that you need, for example to participate in rehabilitation. Psychology can help focus on and create recognition for the difficult feelings. In addition, conversations with a psychologist can, for example, help to create a space for some of the emotions and provide energy and motivation for an everyday life full of training. It is about balancing the physical and psychological needs.
The diversity of rehabilitation
If you have suffered a brain injury, you must focus on the physical and cognitive changes. But you also have to focus on the crisis you are in. During the rehabilitation, the changes become clearer. You might get a glimpse of how you, life and others have changed. Here you may experience the need for supportive conversations to find yourself in the new circumstances and rebuild the relationship with your relatives.
Psychological interventions in connection with rehabilitation can be carried out both by psychologists and other professionals with psychosocial skills. It can be, for example, individual conversations or group sessions with others in the same situation. Efforts to support psychological rehabilitation should be based on the person undergoing rehabilitation and on the experiences of relatives. It is natural that needs change during the rehabilitation process.
Psychological needs in rehabilitation
- It is natural that psychological needs in rehabilitation differ from person to person, but also from situation to situation. In many cases, you experience a need for support to deal with, for example:
- Changed surroundings and a new everyday life
- Loss of functional level
- Changed identity
- New roles and relationships.