Experiences of recovery and adaptation after Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

In this longitudinal qualitative study we talked with 89 adults in New Zealand - 52 who had a TBI and 37 significant others (e.g. close relative or close friend). We asked about how people recovered and adapted to living life after the injury at 6 months, and again at 1 year and 2 years later. We found common themes across different people, different circumstances and different severities which we are attempting to share in a multiple ways.


Experiences of recovery and adaptation following Traumatic Brain Injury: A qualitative longitudinal study

Knowledge about the impacts of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and aspects that influence recovery and adaptation are key to understanding how best to provide appropriate services. Whilst injury experiences have been documented, factors that help or hinder recovery and adaptation over time and across injury severities remain unclear. This large longitudinal qualitative study of recovery and adaptation following TBI has provided some powerful insights.

What people shared with us in their interviews was thematically analysed cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Two overarching themes were captured in the analysis:

  • Making room for recovery
  • Cultivating important resources

Themes comprise circumstances and processes that changed and developed over time in different ways for different participants. Key complexities within the overarching themes included the notion of “acceptance” and the role it played in allowing for recovery and adaptation; and the concept of “self” as a resource aiding recovery, but one that is perpetually at risk due to the intersection between the functional and social effects of the injury. Developing concepts of TBI recovery and living with TBI were central processes across diverse participants, but necessarily individualised in how they could be enacted.

To help make some of our rich and complex findings more accessible we are developing a website aimed at people who may be working with people who have had a brain injury.

Project details

Health Research Council 2010

Research team:
Kathryn McPherson (co-PI), Alice Theadom (co-PI), Joanna Fadyl (current project manager) plus a large team – see publications for full list

Joanna Fadyl

2011- 2015

Sharing findings