Embodiment and self in reorientation to everyday life following severe traumatic brain injury

Physiother Theory Pract. 2015 Mar;31(3):153-9. doi: 10.3109/09593985.2014.986350. Epub 2014 Nov 28.


People with severe traumatic brain injury (sTBI) are often young and need long-term follow-up as many suffer complex motor, sensory, perceptual and cognitive impairments. This paper aims to introduce phenomenological notions of embodiment and self as a framework to help understand how people with sTBI experience reorientation to everyday life, and to inform clinical practice in neurological physiotherapy. The impairments caused by the sTBI may lead to a sense of alienation of one's own body and changes in operative intentionality and in turn disrupt the reorganization of self, identity, everyday life and integration/co-construction of meaning with others. Applying a first-person conception of the body may extend insights into the importance of an adapted and individualized approach to strengthen the sensory, perceptual and motor body functions, which underpin the pre-reflective and reflective aspects of the self. It seems important to integrate these aspects, while also paying attention to optimizing co-construction of meaning for the person with sTBI in the treatment context. This requires understanding the patient as an experiencing and expressive body, a lived body (body-as-subject) and not just the body-as-object as is favored in more traditional frameworks of physiotherapy.

Keywords: Embodiment; phenomenology; physiotherapy; self; traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / psychology*
  • Brain Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Self Concept*