Counselling for Those With a Traumatic Disability – Results of Research by David Gladwell

Another heartwarming message landed in my inbox a couple of days ago, this time from David Gladwell who some of you may remember featured on the DBF website several years ago when he was looking for volunteers to take part in research he was doing for a post-graduate degree in therapeutic counselling. David has now sent in the results of this work and it is wonderful to see what he has gone on to achieve in both understanding and supporting people with disabilities and also to bringing awareness to the importance of the internal journey that accompanies the physical one. 

I am so grateful to David for sending us this update, both articles are really interesting reads and it was fascinating to see the research made reality. I hope it is also of interest to those of you who took part and thereby contributed to this rewarding conclusion to new and important research.

I discovered early that the hardest thing to overcome is not a physical disability but the mental condition which it induces. Nikolaievich Prokofiev de Seversky (1894 – 1974)

Article: Counselling for those with a traumatic disability

The article explores the challenges facing a person newly disabled, whether it is seen as a nightmare or an adventure, and considers how counselling can be engaged to support the individual through the transition from ability to living with a disability, integrating it into his or her life. It also looks at the experience of those who see disability as a stimulus to reinterpret their lives and reconstitute personal meaning, to grow psychologically.

Almost 20 years ago I took part in a Bader Bike Ride across Jordan. In the group there were four amputees. I had not known anyone with a disability before and I suppose I had the fairly standard preconceptions of someone who isn’t disabled, an outsider, about those who are, those who are experiencing disability from within. I learnt a lot. The four were emphatically not defined by their disabilities: they had a disability, about which they spoke quite objectively, but they were not ‘disabled’. It was just one element of who they were.

It was that experience, wondering how the four had accepted what seemed a massive, devastating, blow, that started my journey to becoming a psychotherapist-counsellor, wanting to understand the experience of suddenly becoming disabled and reflecting on how the individual might be supported in moving from a situation in which the disability dominated his or her life to a situation in which that disability was put into perspective.

My journey involved studying for a post-graduate degree in therapeutic counselling which included undertaking a research project: my field was the experience of counselling for those with a traumatic disability, and that forms the basis of the accompanying article. It wouldn’t have been possible without tremendous support from Wendy McCleave of the DBF and help from the Spinal Injuries Association.

The second article covers the background to the research and its design, and examines the constraints put on those who wish to study groups deemed ‘vulnerable’. It also explores my frustration with those constraints!

If you have any comments or observations, please let me know. I’m still learning.

(David Gladwell)

Links (will open in new tabs):