VA Mental Health – Health Care Providers Treating TBI
Health Care Provider
Traumatic Brain Injury
A number of resources are available to health care providers who work with Veterans and may be concerned about a Veteran experiencing traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Training for Health Care Providers
A 2017 review of studies by researchers at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System found that little information is available on comparing outcomes for TBI caused by blasts with those of TBI caused by other factors. The available research showed that groups with TBI from blasts and other causes had similar rates of depression, sleep disorders, alcohol use, vision loss, balance problems, and functional status.
Results pertaining to PTSD, headache, hearing loss, and neurocognitive functions were inconsistent. More research is needed, according to the researchers, on the differences between blast and nonblast TBI, along with consistent definitions of blast exposure.
According to a 2017 study by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, nearly half of soldiers who had a military TBI while serving in Afghanistan or Iraq had post-concussive symptoms, such as sleep problems, forgetfulness, irritability, and headaches, three months after their deployment. According to the researchers, this suggests that military TBI is associated with continuing problems for longer than has been generally recognized in the active duty population.
Resources To Share With Veterans
Treatment for traumatic brain injury (TBI) typically includes a mix of cognitive, physical, speech, and occupational therapy, along with medication to control symptoms such as headaches or anxiety. Treatments focus on the symptoms that cause the most problems in everyday life. These treatments may include:
- Strategies to deal with health, cognitive, and behavioral problems
- Rehabilitation therapies, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language therapy
- Assistive devices and technologies, such as electronic aids and learning devices
In addition to medications, psychosocial treatments play a key role in the treatment of TBI. These treatments help individuals to develop skills and supports needed to be successful in their daily lives and help with symptoms that remain after treatment with medications. VA provides the following psychosocial treatments:
- Assertive Community Treatment: Assertive community treatment helps people with serious mental illnesses access regular treatment by clinicians who visit clients in the home or in their local community. This treatment has been shown to decrease the number of hospitalizations and help people live independently and remain employed. VA offers a version of assertive community treatment that has been modified for the VA health system known as Intensive Community Mental Health Recovery (ICMHR) Services.
- Supported Employment: Supported employment, specifically the individual placement and support model, helps individuals with serious mental illnesses find and keep jobs. Compared with other patients, those who have received these services more often found jobs, worked more hours, were employed longer, and earned more money.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps people understand relationships among their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and learn new patterns of thinking to support positive feelings.
- Illness Management and Recovery (IMR): IMR helps those with serious mental illnesses set meaningful goals and learn skills to support their mental health and recovery.
- Social Skills Testing (SST): SST was developed to help Veterans learn effective social skills that aid in their recovery. SST includes education, breaking skills down into simple steps, modeling, role-playing, and group support.
In Veterans' Own Words
Clinicians can use Make the Connection as a tool to engage with Veterans or family members who may be reluctant to seek support.