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Your Recovery Team for Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a bump, blow, jolt, or penetrating injury to your brain that can change the way your brain works. A TBI can change the way you think, feel, act, and move. It can cause different kinds of problems and symptoms. Because everybody’s brain is different, it's hard to predict how your brain will recover from a TBI. It takes a team of healthcare providers to help you develop the best plan for your recovery.

Teamwork is important. And one of the most important members of your recovery team is you. You need to be an active member of your recovery team and work closely with all the other team members. Let’s take a look at who might be on your recovery team.


This is a medical doctor who specializes in rehabilitation. You could think of this healthcare provider as the quarterback. This is because they call the plays for all the other members of your recovery team. While you are recovering from a TBI, your physiatrist may be your main doctor.

Physical therapist

TBI can change the way you walk and move. It can cause weakness and clumsiness. Your physical therapist can help you learn to move and walk well. In physical therapy, you can also work on painful or stiff muscles and joints.

Occupational therapist

This professional helps you learn to handle your day-to-day activities after a TBI. For example, you might have trouble doing tasks you need to do at work or at home. Your occupational therapist will help you find ways to adjust to any changes caused by the TBI.


Emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, and irritability are common after a TBI. Your psychologist can help. Psychologists may do testing to find out how much your TBI is affecting the way you think and feel. Psychologists also do talk therapy (counseling) to help you deal with the emotional effects caused by TBI.


A TBI can cause slowed thinking, called cognitive dysfunction. This may result in memory loss, and trouble concentrating and organizing. This person can do tests to find out where you need help. They can teach you ways to improve memory, concentration, and organization.


This is a medical doctor who specializes in brain and nerve problems. A TBI may cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and seizures. This doctor may be called in to treat these problems.


Like your psychologist, this team member deals with emotional and behavior symptoms caused by a TBI. In most cases, talk therapy works best for these problems. But if medicines are needed to treat symptoms such as depression or anxiety, this doctor can help.

Rehabilitation nurse

This is a nurse who specializes in helping people with disabilities and chronic illness reach their highest level of function and overall health. They also help people adjust to their new, changed lifestyle. They work closely with doctors to carry out the medical plan and prevent complications. This nursing care often takes place in a hospital, rehab center, or long-term care facility.

Speech-language pathologist  

Memory loss may occur after a TBI. This can make it hard to find the right words or to put words together the right way. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) can help you with speech and language problems. If you can't speak after a TBI, an SLP can help you learn to use assistive technology. They may also be able to help you with memory issues or problems with attention or organization. An SLP can also help you improve your eating and swallowing, which can be affected after a TBI.

Vocational rehabilitation counselor

A TBI can change your brain in ways that may make it hard to go back to your old job and hard to find a new job. This counselor can help you find work and may provide special support as you adjust to a new job. 

Social worker

A TBI changes your life in so many ways. You may need help with family matters and home care after you leave the hospital. A social worker can help figure out what type of help you need and the services that are available.


Some people have trouble swallowing after a TBI. They may need to have some or all nourishment through a tube that goes into the stomach. The nutritionist can create a diet to make sure you have enough energy, vitamins, and minerals to heal.

Recreational therapist

Recreation may not seem like a big priority while you're recovering from a TBI. But being active and having fun is important. Some people with a TBI spend too much time alone. Isolation isn't good for a recovering brain. This therapist will help you stay active and involved in life. That will help your recovery.

Depending on how your TBI affects your brain, your recovery team may have other members, too. These could include the nurses who care for you in the hospital or at home, surgeons who repair areas of damage, or doctors who specialize in vision, breathing, or hearing.

Remember that every brain recovers at its own speed. And most people do get better with time. Make sure to work closely with all your recovery team members. And don’t forget to let friends and family members become part of your recovery team. Their love and support is what makes all the teamwork worthwhile.

Online Medical Reviewer: Anne Fetterman RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph Campellone MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2021
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