Date of Award

Winter 12-19-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Richard J. Gelles, Ph.D

Second Advisor

Ram A. Cnaan, MSW, Ph.D

Third Advisor

Drew Nagele, Psy.D


In the past, when thinking of injured soldiers returning home from war, pictures of individuals in wheelchairs with amputations might come to mind. It was hard to ignore those visible injuries. Soldiers returning home from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan can have unseen wounds, some in the form of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). In the past individuals with TBI died of their injuries. Currently, advances in technology has drastically change our image of what an injured individual with TBI looks like, whether veterans or civilians. Unseen wounds such as TBIs pose a new set of challenges for an injured individual’s reintegration into society. Objective: The purpose of this study was to gain insight into the experiences and needs of an OIF/OEF veteran and a civilian with TBI from their perspective. Method: A qualitative study was conducted using semi-structured intensive interviews with two participants (one civilian and one veteran) who suffered a traumatic brain injury. The interview information is presented in case study format that allowed for in-depth exploration of each participant’s experience. Findings: Some of the core themes that emerged from the interviews included isolation, depression, somatic complaints, self-medication, and inability to return to work. Conclusion: The findings suggest that the road to recovery after a TBI contains challenges on a personal, familial, and community level. Implications for social work education, practice, policy, and future research are also addressed.

Included in

Social Work Commons