Relational approaches to rehabilitation

During a recent Fellowship in London, I completed a number of papers detailing the processes of family adaptation following neurological injury. This impact can be seen across various settings – for example, for children in school and home settings, and for adults in the role of spouse, parent, friend, work colleague and so on. What is clear is that as well as achieving the maximum physical recovery, rehabilitation also needs to redress the disruption felt at the level of self-identity and relationships. For children there is the added factor that the full impact of injury may take years to unfold and become clear, and at each stage of life (e.g. moving schools, leaving home, starting a job) new challenges may present.

Attached are two papers – one that appeared in the journal Human Systems which presents primarily case study material, and a second from the International Journal of Rehabilitation and Therapy in which I chart the theory and research base in this field at the time of writing (2007). I highlight specific service examples of good practice, and countries where this work is flourishing. Further papers (not available here) focus specifically on Multiple Sclerosis, a most disabling condition partly because of its unpredictability, the likely time of onset (midlife/ childbearing), and because it affects more women than men and so plays havoc for aspiring families. I am indebted to the ‘The Multiple Sclerosis Trust’ (UK) who supported this work and a number of succinct reports are available from their website, see Open Door and Way Ahead article. Another paper (below) discusses the interface between music therapy and social relations after brain injury.

My time in London culminated with the publication of a book entitled “A Relational Approach to Rehabilitation” (co-edited with Giles Yeates & Siobhán Palmer), which updates and develops these earlier ideas, and a sample of this work can be seen on Google Scholar at Sample pages. Finally, for those with an interest in the impact of neurological problems on the family, together with colleagues I used to run a networking group for disseminating new research, training events and funding opportunities. For further details, go to TBIFAMILIES network and click ‘subscribe’.


Bowen, C. (2007) Family therapy and neuro rehabilitation: Forging a link. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 14: 344–349.

Bowen, C., Hall, T., Newby, G., Walsh, B., Weatherhead, S., & Yeates, G. (2009). The impact of brain injury on relationships across the lifespan and across school, family and work contexts. Human Systems: The Journal of Consultation and Training, 20: 65–80.

Bowen, C., & MacLehose, A. (2010) Multiple sclerosis: Long-term care and the ‘family care pathway’. Social Care and Neurodisability, 1(1): 31–38.

Bowen, C., MacLehose, A., & Beaumont, J.G. (2011). Advanced multiple sclerosis and the Psychosocial Impact on Families. Psychology & Health, 26(1): 113-127.

Magee, W.L. & Bowen, C. (2008) Using music in leisure to enhance social relationships with patients with complex disabilities. NeuroRehabilitation, 23(4): 305-311.

Bowen, C., Yeates, G., & Palmer, S. (2010) A Relational Approach to Rehabilitation: Thinking about relationships after brain injury. London: Karnac.

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