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Instructional Course: Overcoming Adversity after Spinal Cord Injury: A Positive Psychology Perspective.

Track 1
Tuesday, September 1, 2020
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM
Auditorium - Track 1


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Prof Stanley Ducharme
Boston University Medical Center

Overcoming Adversity after Spinal Cord Injury: A Positive Psychology Perspective


A traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) creates a series of profound psychological challenges for the individual. The injury has the power to challenge the validity of one’s beliefs about life and can lead an individual to question one’s fundamental understanding of the world. This process of adjustment is usually accompanied by high levels of psychological distress and depression. Ultimately however, it is possible that over time, depression and other natural emotional responses to injury can give way to emotional growth and personal development. The psychological resources, social supports, skills, and personality traits of a person play an important role in determining whether the individual will be able to find long-term and positive benefits from such a challenging life event. Survivors of traumatic events such as SCI can not only heal from their trauma, but may actually grow into a stronger, more driven, and a more resilient person because of their trauma. This resilience comes about by the development of adaptive coping skills. People who have higher levels of self-esteem, social support and personal mastery before encountering the injury are likely to engage in more adaptive styles of coping, resulting in a greater frequency of positive long-term effects and positive outcomes. Ultimately, they perceive stress as an opportunity for growth and self-renewal. In contrast, people who have lower levels of self-esteem prior to the injury are likely to engage in more maladaptive styles of coping, resulting in poorer outcomes. They are worn down and negatively impacted by the stress. As rehabilitation professionals, it is our responsibility to encourage positive methods to manage stress and to help the individual in developing a deep determination to overcome the overwhelming challenge of an injury. Strong emotional support during this time of crisis will ultimately facilitate personal growth and resilience.

This instructional course on positive psychology will explore issues related to psychological adjustment and emotional growth after a spinal cord injury. The faculty of the symposium, a psychologist, psychiatrist and peer counselor will each explore how the rehabilitation team can facilitate psychological adjustment with healthy positive coping strategies. Each presenter will speak for 20 minutes. The title of Dr. Ducharme's presentation will be "Post Traumatic Growth after Spinal Cord Injury". Dr. Kumar will speak on the topic, "Can Psychiatric Disorders be Minimized by Early Intervention? A Psychiatrist's Experience in a Tertiary Care Center." Mr. Raghav will speak on the topic "Is Overcoming Physical Limitations Enough? Perspective of a Person with Spinal Cord Injury". Sufficient time for interaction and discussion will conclude the course.


Stanley Ducharme, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and member of the medical staff at Boston Medical Center. In addition, he is a Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine and Professor of Urology at Boston University School of Medicine. He is a diplomat in sex therapy and provides education internationally to hospitals, rehabilitation centers and community programs on matters related to the psychological aspects of disability and sexual functioning after SCI. He is twice past president of the American Association of Spinal Cord Injury Psychologists and Social Workers and is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Education Foundation of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. He served as chair of the Consortium for Spinal Cord Injury 's Clinical Practice Guidelines for Sexuality and Spinal Cord Injury. For six years, he also served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, (CARF). He currently serves as a member of CARF's International Advisory Board. Dr. Ducharme is a former member of the Education Committee of ISCoS and presently serves as the chair of the ISCoS Psyhosocial Working Group.