A Neuroplastic Model of Secondary Contribution to Behavioral Health Disability: Theory and Implications
Anecdotal and statistical information has long suggested that people who find themselves in the various systems for assisting or compensating injury or behavioral health concerns sometimes suffer from new or exacerbated symptoms while in the process of negotiating the system. Too often, the response of systems has to distrust or blame the person reporting the symptoms and attempt to control the behavior on the premise that it must represent either an attempt to take advantage of the system or an inherent characteristic of the complainant. This discussion suggests that another significant factor influences the observed phenomena: that the system itself creates some of the harm that is reported and observed. The chapter goes on to describe the influences impinging on the life of people with behavioral health disability in their day-to-day interactions and suggests that the repetition of these experiences – either literally or through self-talk as a mechanism for internal repetition. With sufficient repetition in temporal proximity to one another, those thoughts, emotions, memories, and physical sensations become linked through neuroplastic mechanisms in the brain. The resulting associated experiences form a “network” that has the property of triggering, without conscious decision, other components in the network when one is stimulated. This phenomenon is offered as an explanation of heretofore unexplained behavior of individuals in behavioral health systems.
The chapter goes on to discuss various clinical implications of the conceptual model and also discusses implications for the design of intervention systems that are less likely to create the kind of harm that is described.
The final discussion looks at the concept of “resilience” in this context and offers a new operational definition of the term and discusses interventions that can build practical individualized approaches to resilience that may have a beneficial impact on people who live with behavioral health disability
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