Counselling and Concussions

Westwood Total Health


What is a Concussion?

Concussions are considered mild traumatic brain injuries that can occur during a sporting event, workplace accident, or motor vehicle accident (MVA), among others. Concussions can also be quite disruptive. I’ve had a few friends with concussions and have seen how much it affected them. It is also quite common to more easily experience concussions again if you’ve had one before. Most people go to their doctor for mild cases, or the hospital for more serious cases, when they’ve had a concussion. Physiotherapy and chiropractic care, even massage, is quite common. Not a lot of people consider counselling unless it’s been specifically recommended to them by their doctor. But before we get into how counselling can be a good thing to add to your treatment plan, let’s review some of the most common symptoms of concussions:

  • Issues with cognition: trouble thinking clearly, difficulty concentrating, and trouble remembering newer information
  • Issues with sleep: either sleep more hours or fewer hours than normal and trouble falling asleep
  • Physical problems: headaches, blurred vision, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, sensitivity to light and/or noise, trouble balancing, “brain fog.”
  • Emotional difficulties: feelings of irritability, sadness, anxiety, crying, loneliness, and having mood swings

Between 12% and 44% of people with concussions experience emotional difficulties in the first few months, particularly depression and anxiety. Yet, we most often focus on sleep and physical problems as a result of the concussion (and to a lesser extent the cognitive problems). A lot of evidence suggests that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help with the emotional symptoms of concussion/post-concussion syndrome. CBT focuses on our thoughts, feelings and behaviours as they relate to your injury. Mindfulness can additionally help with cognition symptoms.

All that said, what exactly would you be working on with your therapist?

  • Processing your emotions: it’s easy to get swept away by our emotions or try to push them away (which has the same effect as trying to hold a beach ball underwater). Learning coping skills for emotions and talking about them nonjudgmentally can help.
  • Processing grief: concussions can have long-term effects and, on average, take 2 years to heal. A lot of grief can come with this, and your counsellor can help you process and manage it. This includes finding a happy medium between hopefulness about the future and realism about the present.
  • Improving your communication skills: asking for help can be difficult and yet a necessary part of concussion recovery. You and your therapist can work on building these skills together.
  • Adjusting to your daily routines: pacing is extremely beneficial in concussion management because your brain needs time to heal. This may mean an adjustment to your daily routines. Your counsellor can help you make these adjustments.

If you have experienced a concussion and would like some help with the emotional and cognitive difficulties you are experiencing following it, book a consultation with me to see if therapy would be a good fit for you.