How OTs Can Help You Get Your Life Back After a Brain Injury

Occupational therapists (OTs) help patients improve their ability to do everyday activities through the use of therapeutic activities. This includes patients who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.

Following a traumatic brain injury (TBI), one might encounter many difficulties, including speaking problems, behavioral and personality changes, as well as uncontrollable physical elements. Occupational therapists can help with these difficulties in many ways. 

There are many ways in which an OT can help you get your life back together following a brain injury. Keep reading to learn more about these incredible professionals and all they have to offer.


Help Improve Both Short and Long-Term Memory Loss 

When the limbic system in your brain is harmed, memories and emotions could be as well. Occupational therapists work with patients to help them regain memory, both short term and long term. 

Problems that come with memory loss can include: 

  • Confusion with identities of family or friends
  • Forgetting to eat at mealtimes
  • Getting lost when driving or walking
  •  Wandering out of the house during the day or night 

The way that occupational therapists work with their patients to help them regain memory is by implementing daily routines and strategies to minimize memory loss or confusion. Through these routines, the patient will eventually be able to improve their memory. 

Helping the Patient Learn to Control Emotions 

After a brain injury, many patients experience difficulties with emotional regulation. One area where occupational therapists help those patients is in the ability to deal with emotions, as well as how to calm themselves down intense situations. 

By helping patients increase their self-awareness, occupational therapists can help identify the characteristics that could trigger emotional difficulties. By identifying these difficulties, the occupational therapist can take the next steps towards rehabilitation. 

After this, occupational therapists often times help the patient with self-management. This will allow the patient to regulate thoughts and behavior, as well as learn stress-management skills, cope with stress, and learn how to set goals for themselves. 

Work with Clients’ Behavioural/Personality Changes 

Each patient is different, and the best way to work with these differences is to create a plan for each patient regarding how to move forward with working on their behavioural or personality change. 

Occupational therapists spend some time collecting data from the patient through observation, which allows them to create a plan that will address specific behaviors the patient is experiencing. These behaviours may include: 

  • Changes in the processing of senses 
  • Difficulty processing information
  • New challenges with learning 

There are many different activities an occupational therapist may work on with their patients, all dependent on the specific behaviours of the patient. Some of these therapeutic activities include: 

  • Drawing 
  •   Jumping
  • Sensory stimulation
  • Using weighted vests 
  • Work activities

Every occupational therapist must work on their patient’s specific needs when it comes to behavioral and personality changes to ensure the best recovery possible. 


Improve the Patients Focus and Concentration 

After a brain injury, the patient may have issues with focus and concentration. Occupational therapists can work with the patient and do specific activities to improve their overall focus and ability to learn new skills. 

Occupational therapists have many different ways to work with the patients to lengthen their attention span and improve their concentration. They will work with the patient in the following ways: 

  • Decrease the patient’s distractions 
  •  Only focus on one task at a time
  • Practice simple skills that need the patient’s attention (ex: reading a paragraph or coloring in a drawing)

These tasks can be difficult for the patient, but time and practice with an occupational therapist is very beneficial. OTs understand how to work with their patients and ensure they never push the patient too hard and give them a break if they get tired.  

Help the Patient Process and Understand Info 


After a brain injury, it might make the patient more time and effort to process new information. Common problems patients encounter with processing new information include: 

  • Following directions at a slower pace
  • Having a harder time or taking longer to grasp what others are saying
  • Slower at physical tasks
  • Slower reactions 

Occupational therapists can work with the patients to help their brains process information faster and improve the nervous system’s responsiveness. It’s important to be able to work with an occupational therapist on these problems as it can cause many strains in the patient’s life, such as the inability to drive, read, cook, or clean. 

There are many ways an occupational therapist will work with their patients in therapy, and by giving them ways to work on processing information at home. In therapy, the OT will work with the patient to decrease distractions and placing their full attention on what they are trying to comprehend. 

Helping the Patient Communicate with Others

After a brain injury, there is frequently trouble with the patient’s ability to communicate effectively with others. Occupational therapists first help the patient learn how to process information, then they work with the patient to help themselves and others communicate and complete daily tasks. 

There are many ways the patient can work with themselves and others to help them communicate, process information, and complete daily tasks. Some of these methods include: 

  •  Re-reading information as necessary
  • Allowing themselves more time to think
  • Asking others to repeat themselves if needed 

Communicating with others requires effort from both the patient and those communicating with them. If both sides can put in the effort, communicating will be much easier for both parties. 

Help the Patient Learn How to Control Impulses

Some individuals with a brain injury may have damaged the brain in a way that causes a lack of self-control and awareness. As a result of this, they often are faced with impulsive and/or inappropriate actions in social situations. 

Some of these problems may include: 

  • Acting out of place
  • Behaving in an inconsiderate way to those around them
  • Denying that they (the patient) have problems with cognitive function
  • Lack of awareness in social settings
  • Saying hurtful or unthought-out things to people 

These actions are caused by a lack of self-control or damage to the complex thinking skills following a brain injury. Both occupational therapists and the family of the individual can work with them on these actions. In therapy, the OT might work with the patient on how to establish verbal and non-verbal cues and show the family how they can help. 

On the family’s end, they also have to do a lot to help the patient both at home and in social settings. Some activities family members can do in order to help with these impulses as well as what to do if they are happening include: 

  • The family providing clear expectations for social settings
  • Thinking ahead about what could happen based on the typical actions of the patient
  • Rehearse interactions with going into a social setting
  • Understand that if the impulsive behavior doesn’t stop, they need to stop whatever they are doing. 

Work with the Patient Based on Brain Injury Severity

There are several levels of severity when it comes to a traumatic brain injury. Occupational therapists will work with the patient based on the severity of their injury and create a plan to move forward. 

Using the Rancho Los Amigos scale, the occupational therapist will tell the severity of the injury and what areas of the brain are being affected. 

The levels of the rancho Los amigos scale include: 

1.         No response: total assistance

2.         Generalized response: total assistance

3.         Localized response: total assistance

4.         Confused/Agitated: maximal assistance

5.         Confused, Inappropriate non-agitated: maximal assistance

6.         Confused, appropriate:  Moderate assistance

7.         Automatic appropriate: minimal assistance for daily tasks

8.         Purposeful, appropriate: stand-by assistance

9.         Purposeful, appropriate: stand by assistance on request

10.       Purposeful, appropriate: modified independent

Using this scale, the occupational therapist will be able to work with the patient based on their individual needs. 

Teach Patients New Problem-Solving Techniques

In a brain injury, there are going to be many new challenges to overcome. An occupational therapist will help the patient with these challenges and work with them to create problem-solving techniques specific to the patient and their own challenges. 

As every patient is different, these techniques could vary greatly depending on the problems that need to be solved. For some, this could be working through everyday tasks. For others, they could need help with motor function or sensory difficulties. 

Occupational therapists will help the patient come up with specific tasks to address their needs and how they can solve problems for themselves outside of therapy. The occupational therapist also works with the patient’s family to help them understand the new challenges they will face in the home. 

Help the Patient Re-Adapt to the Workplace 

After a brain injury, going back to the workplace will set a new presence of challenges both socially, physically, and personally. For an occupational therapist, there are several goals they wish to achieve with their patients: 

  • Maximize levels of function following a brain injury
  • Make sure the patient returns to work in both a safe and relatively timely fashion
  • Try to prevent future illness or injury from happening 
  • Help the patient retain or resume their role as a worker

The first step an occupational therapist will take when it comes to workplace rehabilitation is evaluating many different factors in both the patient and their workplace to see what changes need to be made and what rehabilitation needs to be done. 

Some of the factors the occupational therapist will evaluate include: 

  • Cognitive function
  •  Medical conditions on work performance
  •  Physical disabilities 
  •  Psychosocial factors
  • Wellness of the patient

Using these factors, an occupational therapist will help set up a plan specific for the patient to reintegrate into the workplace. 

Help the Patient Return to Social Activities 

Occupational Therapy can help to regain your independence after a brain injury.

Returning to social activities following a brain injury is important for almost every patient. Whether it will be going out with friends or simply having dinner with the family, social settings following a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) can be difficult to manoeuvre. 

Based on the patient’s individual needs, an occupational therapist will work on exercises and activities to help the patient regain confidence in communication and interactions with others. 

In order to have effective communication, the occupational therapist works with patients on the following: 

  • Being able to both listen and remember what is being said
  • Being aware of how the words being said affects the listener
  • Saying words in a manner that makes sense and is organised
  •  Taking turns to talk and making sure not to interrupt
  • To be able to connect tones of voice with emotions

An occupational therapist will be able to work on these skills with the patient in a way that works for them. These skills will ultimately help the patient adapt to social situations after a brain injury. 

Teach the Patient’s Family how to Adapt

After being treated for a brain injury, the patient will most likely not be able to go home and live on their own immediately. This is where the family members, friends, or caregivers who are caring for the patient come in as they will have a significant impact on the patient’s life. 

Adaptations don’t just need to be made by the patient; the family has to adapt as well. Occupational therapists help the families learn how what modifications they need to make to their home and what they need to do individually to help. 

Many common modifications include: 

  • Adding a grab bar in the shower
  • Changes to furniture arrangements to increase accessibility 
  • Keeping the house free of clutter for mobility purposes
  • Making sure the bathroom is safe and accessible
  • Wheelchair access to stairs if needed

Making these modifications will overall make both the life of the patient and the family easier. Your occupational therapist will work with you and discuss what adaptations to the home will need to be made and what the family needs to do to help. 

Help the Patient Learn How to Live Independently 

For those with brain injuries who are able to be moderately independent, your occupational therapist will work with you to figure out what changes you will need to make to fit your needs and live on your own. 

Depending on the parts of the brain that were affected, the modifications will be a bit different for every patient. Occupational therapists often help patients who need wheelchair access around the home due to some sort of immobility issue. 

Some common wheelchair modifications include: 

  • Walk in shower shower
  • Having an open-spaced furniture layout
  • Lowered countertops 
  • Lowered storage areas
  • Modified bathtub 
  • Stair access

Living on your own following a brain injury can be difficult, and there are often times a lot of changes that need to be made in the home. Occupational therapists will work with the patients to determine what they need to do and how to get started. 


To Help the Patient go out on Their Own 

Going out to a store, movie, or social setting is a lot different than the “safe” home environment for most brain injury patients as public places don’t have the same accommodations for their needs. Occupational therapists work with patients to determine what they can do in order to make going out easier. 

Occupational therapists will help with communication skills, mobility issues, organizational skills, and many others to make going out a bit easier. Driving is one of the biggest factors that will ultimately help a brain injury patient gain more independence, which an occupational therapist can detail. 

Going out requires help from family as well. When first regaining independence, the family must be there to help guide the patient and be a support system in case they are needed. 

Motivate the Patient to Keep Learning New Tasks

After a brain injury, it is extremely important to keep the brain working and continuously going over skills that have been learned. Occupational therapists will make sure that you always have the tools necessary to keep cognitive function going at a good pace. 

Making sure the patient is motivated and actually wants to learn more will help greatly with adapting to life after a brain injury. As hard as the circumstances are, trying your best to push through and learn how to overcome new challenges will be the best way to regain as much function as possible. 

Occupational therapists will give the patients activities to do both in and out of therapy to ensure a consistent cognitive and motor function progression. 


Life after a brain injury is extremely difficult, and it takes a significant amount of adaptation both by the patient and their families. An occupational therapist will be there to help in any way they can, and they truly want their patients to regain as much function as possible. 

Normal life scenarios such as communication, social interactions, driving, shopping, or even taking a shower are significantly more difficult following a brain injury. Your OT will be there and provide activities for you and your family to practice. 

After a brain injury, an occupational therapist will be an amazing resource when it comes to rehabilitation.

Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this Blog article are not intended to amount to advice, and you should not rely on any of the contents of this Blog article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this Blog article. OccupationaltherapyBlog disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this Blog article. 


I'm a Neurological Occupational Therapist and Founder of HT Neuro Rehab an Holistic & Person-Centred Adult Rehabilitation in London. I"m fully registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT). I have founded HT Neuro Rehab to provide clinical Occupational Therapy services to adults with neurological conditions, brain injuries, major trauma, upper limb retraining and rehabilitation, Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness (PDoC) and Functional Neurological Disorders (FND). My practice provides support, training, and guidance to both the patient and their families and caregivers. My goal is to enable each patient to achieve their personal ability, mobility, and independence goals while cultivating a long-term support network that is capable and prepared to engage in the rehabilitation journey.

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