All in-person support groups are going to be canceled indefinitely at this point and we will post updates here and our Facebook page.
Photo Credit: Sean Su Photography
I am a speech-language pathologist who has spent 23 years specializing in neuro-rehabilitation for patients and families living with acquired brain injuries and other neurological challenges. I have worked in the ICU, acute-care and inpatient rehab units as well as within follow-up care provided at skilled nursing, home health and outpatient therapy clinics.
The foundation for my passion working in neuro-cognitive rehabilitation was sparked at my first position at SierraGates, a post-acute brain injury rehab facility in Sacramento, CA. I was fortunate to mentor with some of the finest neuro-based therapists and medical practitioners during my five years there.
I learned the value of treating the person, not the injury or illness and thinking outside of the box with my approach to rehab. We did some of the most functional therapy I have seen to date. We took patients on outings to learn how to navigate around a store, to path-find and to use their memory strategies during everyday tasks. We led various groups for self-awareness, disability adjustment and tackling executive function skills for real-life challenges as they arose. It was here too, that I led my first support group and I was hooked for life. Some of the most meaningful and emotionally authentic interactions I have had working with individuals in my time as a therapist have been during the support groups I facilitate.
In 2003, after 5 years of Northern California life, we moved back to Washington state and settled in my hometown of Ellensburg. I spent a few more years working mostly in skilled nursing care and I found I was growing more motivated to start my own practice. I wanted to get back to focusing on patient-centered care and functional outcomes and less time on productivity. In 2009, I launched Brainstorm Rehabilitation, LLC with the intent of providing outpatient speech therapy services, but soon realized that the need for contract speech therapy services was so large in our region that it made sense to expand into those needs. We provide mostly school-based contract speech therapy support at this time, but have worked with area hospitals for coverage. Getting back to school-based therapy has stretched my clinical skills and allowed me time to mentor other speech therapists and assistants, which I love to do.
One of the best perks, though, about running my own practice is that I can devote more volunteer time back to facilitating support groups. I currently run two groups, The Aphasia Group and Brainstorm Rehab Group, that have gatherings and outings throughout the year. We have gone snow shoeing, river rafting and taken local hikes, though potlucks and art therapy groups are the routine gatherings. In an effort to provide these events at no-cost to families, we have partnered with a nonprofit organization in our state, the Brain Energy Support Team, that has supported our fund-raising efforts.
My desire to keep building better supports for the families I work with led me to the Doctorate of Speech Language Pathology program at Northwestern University. This program has strengthened my leadership and business skills while feeding my passion to make effective change in the area of support group interventions with research into outcomes. My culminating project, which was a systematic review of support group interventions for adults with acquired brain injuries and neuro-degenerative conditions, looked at what impact different types of interventions have on the quality of life for participants. I am excited to apply this information in more research, working with other organizations in our state to build a stronger network of long-term supports for families living with neurological insults.