Coping & Adapting to a Disabling Injury or Illness

Clinic Location

Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital
Second Floor

The Rehabilitation Psychology program helps people recovering from and living with a disabling illness or injury. Our team of highly trained rehabilitation and behavioral health psychologists will help you or your loved one adapt to this new way of life. Our treatment plans use a collaborative approach with our patients to optimize their health, well-being, independence, functionality, and social skills.

Our program is a part of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at University of Utah Health. We provide inpatient and outpatient services throughout the course of the patient’s rehabilitation program to address any social, emotional, cognitive, and/or behavioral concerns that may arise from their disabling condition or chronic illness.

Our rehabilitation psychologists work with a multidisciplinary team to coordinate a patient’s care and treatment. These specialists often include:

  • physiatrists,
  • neuropsychologists,
  • speech therapists,
  • occupational therapists, and
  • physical therapists.

What Is Rehabilitation Psychology?

Rehabilitation psychology is a specialized field that focuses on the unique psychological, social, and vocational challenges faced by individuals living with a chronic illness or disability. Our rehabilitation psychologists help support patients in their goals to live meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Our rehabilitation psychologists offer services related to assessment, clinical intervention, and consultation. As clinical faculty members in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), we also participate in program development, research and training, and public policy advocacy.

We are trained in the assessment and intervention of personal, psychosocial, behavioral, physical, and cognitive factors that might be affected by a person's disability or chronic illness. Topics of discussion may include:

  • neurocognitive status,
  • sensory difficulties,
  • mobility or freedom of movement,
  • desired level of independence and interdependence,
  • self-esteem,
  • moods and emotions,
  • behavioral control and coping skills, and
  • values surrounding quality of life.

As psychologists, we strive to support our patients around things that influence their resources, perceptions, and capabilities, including:

  • culture,
  • age,
  • gender,
  • social network,
  • available services,
  • sexual orientation,
  • socioeconomic status, and
  • relative visibility of disability.

We aim to be part of your all-inclusive team and welcome patients with rehabilitation needs to our clinic. Our compassionate team of specialists is here to listen to your concerns and help determine the best treatment suited for your individual needs.

Conditions We Treat & Evaluate

Our team has years of experience primarily treating adult patients with disabling conditions resulting from traumatic illness or injury, with an emphasis on injuries of the central nervous system.

These include, but are not limited to, the following:

We also evaluate and treat patients for conditions that create challenges or barriers for their rehabilitation and well-being, such as:

  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),
  • anxiety,
  • depression,
  • chronic pain,
  • somatic symptom disorder (a mental health condition that causes an individual to experience physical symptoms in response to psychological distress).

Services

Our services focus on enhancing your motivation, resilience, and psychological skills to cope with any physical, emotional, or mental changes that you may face as you adjust to your illness or injury. We also strive to support our patients in social settings with family, friends, and co-workers.

Patient services include:

  • conducting psychological evaluations related to your injury or illness,
  • individual psychotherapy to assist with your adjustment and adaption,
  • educating patients and their families, and
  • providing caregiver support to family members.

Family Support

Our rehabilitation psychologists provide strategies for family members or caregivers on how to help their loved ones address and manage emotional and cognitive changes from their injury or illness. We aim to partner closely with patients and their families to offer collaborative and supportive care. 

Spinal Cord Stimulator Evaluations

We partner with PM&R providers at the University Orthopaedic Center and the Clinical Neurosciences Center to provide psychological evaluations for patients before they undergo surgery for neuromodulation treatment (procedure to relieve pain), such as implanting a spinal cord stimulator (a device that sends low levels of electricity into the spinal cord). These routine evaluations prepare patients and their physicians for how to best proceed with the procedure.

This evaluation is required for some insurance carriers to cover procedure costs. Physician referrals are required for pre-surgical psychological evaluations. Patients can be evaluated virtually via MyChart or in-person at the Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital

Find a Rehabilitation Psychologist

What to Expect at Your First Appointment

At your first session, you will undergo a clinical evaluation, which will help our psychologist get to know you. You will complete paper questionnaires or computerized tests. The evaluation typically lasts about one to two hours. During your evaluation, your provider will discuss your:

  • current symptoms,
  • medical history,
  • unmet needs, and
  • goals for treatment.

This evaluation will help us learn about your strengths and challenges. In doing so, you and your provider will be able to partner together to create a plan that meets your needs.

How Long Will I Need Rehabilitation Psychology?

The length of our program largely depends on your health needs, your treatment plan, and your progress. In the beginning, we typically see patients once a week or twice a month. Over time, your sessions will taper off as you learn to cope with this new chapter of your life and feel more comfortable. Ultimately, session frequency is based on your needs.

Bariatric Surgery & Weight Management Partnership

We have a unique partnership with the Bariatric Surgery Program and Weight Management Program at U of U Health. Our psychologists provide pre-surgical psychological evaluations for patients struggling with obesity who are undergoing gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy procedures at U of U Health.

We also provide psychotherapy services for some of these patients before and after surgery, including:

  • assistance with motivation for making changes in health behavior,
  • addressing problems with binge eating or emotional eating, 
  • depression and anxiety treatment, and
  • other mental health difficulties that may interfere with weight management success.

We also provide evaluation and psychotherapy services for patients who are seeking non-surgical assistance with weight management through the Weight Management Program. All of these services require a referral from your bariatric surgeon or another provider who supervises your medical weight loss. 

What to Expect at Your Psychiatric Evaluation Before Bariatric Surgery

How to Make an Appointment

A referral is needed from a provider in our PM&R clinic or one of our referring partners to receive services at our clinic. Once a referral is placed, our referral team will call you to schedule your first appointment. Please confirm your insurance coverage with your carrier before your visit. Call 801-581-2267 for follow-up appointments, cancellations, or rescheduling existing appointments.