A life transformed: how the right therapy helped David enjoy life again

When Better Rehab Behaviour Support Practitioner Melissa Holden met participant David, he was struggling with social interactions and battling negative thoughts.

These struggles significantly impacted his relationships with his support staff, family and previous clinician and his ability to participate in activities he enjoyed.

“Due to David’s Mild intellectual Disability (ID), Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), and Bipolar Disorder, he really struggles with his interactions with others and may use verbal aggression as a way of expressing that he wants to escape from a situation,” explains Melissa.

Another cause of David’s verbal aggression was his fixation on his financial situation and upcoming commitments. “He would make excessive, and often abusive, calls to his support staff NDIS and plan tracker,” says Melissa.

As a result of this behaviour, David spent each day at home in his recliner chair, feeling lonely and stressed. This often led to him reporting chest pains or a desire to self-harm, which resulted in attendance by an ambulance.

Small steps, big impact

Melissa selected strategies from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that would help address David’s negative thoughts, enhance his sense of control, and, in turn, reduce his stress levels. Throughout their sessions, Melissa introduced several practical tools and techniques, including:

  • A weekly planner for support staff to fill in with David at the start of each week so he is aware of his appointments 
  • Visuals of the times and days his formal supports, including his Support Coordinator, will contact him to reduce his need to call them excessively 
  • A printed list of emergency and mental health support contact numbers he can call if he is feeling like he needs someone to talk to urgently 
  • Affirmation cards created with David’s involvement and placed on the wall in front of his recliner “so he can see them at all times while at home,” explains Melissa, adding that they are his favourite.

Melissa credits the weekly visual schedule with helping reduce David’s verbal aggression relating to his appointments. With this goal achieved, Melissa worked on increasing David’s meaningful engagement, which involved having at least two conversations with his support staff each day and helping him return to the social activities he enjoys most.

From recliner to recreational activities

Recognising the importance of social activities for David’s mental wellbeing, Melissa collaborated with his support coordinator and social worker to identify activities close to home. Melissa then set about encouraging him to take part in least three sessions a week by assuring him his support staff would be present and that he could leave if he felt uncomfortable.

After overcoming his initial hesitation, David soon discovered he enjoyed going to bowls, bingo and arts and crafts sessions – a renewed sense of happiness that he regularly shares with Melissa. “David enjoys telling me about his wins at bingo or how much fun he had at his activities. This has had a huge impact on him as he reports that he is feeling much happier – and tells me how calm and happy he feels during sessions with his clinician,” says Melissa.

Transforming lives, one step at a time

Since Melissa started working with David, his negative thoughts and verbal aggression have decreased and his ability to redirect his agitation has improved. And as his overall wellbeing has improved, he now requires fewer sessions with a clinician.

David’s biggest achievement has been his return to community activities. By participating in his favourite activities outside home three times a week, he feels significantly happier and more connected.

“David’s affirmation cards have been a huge help for him. He is often singing these loudly when I arrive for sessions at his home, and he always reports to me how much they help him to feel better when he is upset and that he is having fewer negative thoughts. David often says how calm and happy he feels during sessions, which is fantastic!” says Melissa.

The journey continues

The next steps for David’s support include continuing to improve his engagement with others when at home with Melissa, and building on his ability to complete daily tasks and self-case routines with his Occupational Therapist.

Melissa found working with David a rewarding experience and applauds his unwavering resilience and determination. “David has a great sense of humour, an infectious smile, and is a pleasure to be around. David’s strength and resilience is what has gotten him to where he is today. I am just happy that I was able to help him along the way and I know he will continue to do his best.”

The best result for our clinicians is positive feedback from participants and their carers and support workers. For Melissa, feedback doesn’t get much better than David’s: “Mel has done wonders for me and my mental health. The cards make me so happy and I love to sing ‘I believe in myself’. It makes me feel better when I am having a stressful day. I am also really enjoying bingo and the other activities I do every week because it gets me out of the house and sometimes, I win, which is even better!” says David.

To learn more about Behaviour Support at Better Rehab, click here

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