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The psychological experience of acquiring a communication impairment in adulthood and the therapeutic implications

Adams, Rachel


Rachel Adams


There is little research exploring the psychological experience of acquiring a CI (communication impairment) in adulthood, possibly due to a perception that people with a CI are unable to participate in an interview (Bronken, Kirkecold, Martinsen, Wyller and Kvigne 2012). This study seeks to challenge this perception and explore the experiences of adults who have had to adjust to a change in their communication due to a stroke or head injury. Five participants were interviewed (3 face to face and 2 by email) about their experience from the moment they realised their communication had changed until the current day. All of the participants were 2 years or more post acquiring their CI. The data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Results indicate the levels of fear, anxiety and confusion triggered at the time of acquiring the CI and a need for more awareness of CIs within hospital environments. The importance of compassionate communication and psychological support within healthcare services was noted. An instinctual drive or motivation to find an alternative way to communicate and a determination to keep communicating were also highlighted, as well the challenges of living with a CI; including a lack of awareness within society. The study also highlights the significance of expressive writing, singing, humour, laughter and finding the positive to support recovery, adjustment to living with the CI and psychological well-being in the longer term. Considerations for what could be offered therapeutically by counselling psychologists are discussed throughout. Gaps in the literature and further areas for research are identified, such as attachment history and acquiring a CI and the impact of a CI on the family homeostasis.


Adams, R. The psychological experience of acquiring a communication impairment in adulthood and the therapeutic implications. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Apr 15, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 15, 2019
Keywords aphasia. communication impairment head injury stroke
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