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The Road to Emotional Recovery After Injury

Originally posted by QLI Omaha

Join Jon Pearson from QLI as he discusses the road to emotional recovery after a traumatic injury. Topics include establishing a trusting relationship, creating vision of a life path beyond injury, and developing a plan for growth and learning.

Speakers: Jon Pearson, Tim Benak

Video Transcription


Tim Benak – 00:00

All right, Jon, we’re now live. The webinar is live. Awesome. Welcome, everyone to another webinar Wednesday here at Studio Q. I’m actually not in the studio with Jon today. Back in my office, Jon’s got home studio himself, and I’m a little jealous. So yeah.

Jon Pearson – 00:17

Yeah, the doors locked the door shut.

Tim Benak – 00:19

It’s kind of nice in here. We appreciate you joining.

As always, we got some amazing content for you today, we got Jon Pearson, who if you’re a QLI webinar Wednesday, regular, you’ll recognize his voice.

He’s going to be ending the 2020 year for our webinar series with the road to emotional recovery. Always a good one to end on. And just one that really kind of makes you think about resilience and life and what’s important, and really how we can impact individuals lives when they’re going through this journey of recovery.

So we hope you take away something from this professionally and personally. And yeah, we’ve got Jon, we’ve got 140 people with us right now. So I’m going to go ahead and do a little introduction for you, have a little conversation about your, your career path here at QLI.

So I always, you know, like to point out that you have arguably one of the most unique titles of anybody, as director of creativity, but I don’t want that to discredit your 22 years of being an influential part of our clinical program on the life path services side.

So if you could tell everyone a little bit about the path to your title now and maybe what you do day to day here as Director of Creativity, as well as what you you’ve done over the years here to a lot.

Jon Pearson – 01:50

Yeah, I’ll try to condense 25 years into 25 seconds. Because it has been quite the journey. I mean, from finding out about QLI in a little ad in the newspaper and the new staff don’t even understand what a newspaper is, let alone that you would find a job in a newspaper and coming to work at QLI and as an hourly employee, and then falling into a leadership and clinical role.

I always tell people, I was green as a pool table and twice as square. I had no idea. I was a clueless clown trying to lead a two float parade. But we had such great mentors, and we still do and our mentoring program is so strong that it’s really kind of what we’re talking about today is revealing people’s potential and giving them the tools to grow and to learn.

We’re going to talk initially here about the life path program. And that’s really where I cut my teeth, both in terms of the clinical role, but also leadership. Leadership is something that I never saw myself ever, ever aspiring to, and it was the thing that became most motivating to me.

But then about three years ago, my boss, who’s the CEO, Patricia Kearns here, approached me and she knows that I love storytelling, and I love photography. And she offered me an opportunity to pursue that and to tell the story of QLI through words and through pictures as well and through video, and I jumped at the chance.

So after the meeting, I said, Well, I suppose I’m gonna have to change my title from director of life services. And she said, Oh, yeah, I didn’t even think about that. Do you have any ideas? And I said, How about Director of Creativity. And she said, sounds good to me.

So that’s how I got my, that’s how I got my title. You know, talking about creativity…I think people make the mistake, that they think creativity is being artistic. And certainly if you’re an artist, you have to be creative.

But some of the most amazing creative people that I’ve encountered are right here at QLI. To be a great clinician is to be creative because what you’re doing is imagining someone’s potential again, and how they can achieve…Same with leadership. You can’t be a great leader, you can’t be a great clinician without being creative.

So I’m always preaching that. I can pick up a camera and take a picture. Yeah, that’s creative, but it’s nothing. It’s nothing compared to helping somebody achieve in life and overcome obstacles. So that’s the ultimate creativity. So Absolutely.

Tim Benak – 04:27

Well, I appreciate you kind of walking us through your path to the Director of Creativity role. And I’m excited for everyone to hear from you today about the road to emotional recovery. And just as a reminder, to everyone, there will be a poll question later on throughout. If you are wanting to receive a credit for this, please make sure you answer that. That’s how we do our follow up.

And then also, Jon, we did get a little bit of feedback through the chat real quick. If you can move closer to the microphone. Someone said your audio was a little bit low. So it sounds good on my end. But if everyone else if someone else can maybe chime in and just tell us throughout the throughout the presentation if audio sounds good.

So, Jon, with that, I’m going to go ahead and pass the mic to you. And have you taken away. Awesome. Yeah,

Jon Pearson – 05:18

It’s always better when people say, hey, would like to hear you come closer? Yeah. Can you? Can you move away from the mic a little further? A little further. Maybe that will happen later. So hopefully, you can hear me. Please free. Feel free to give feedback because I can increase the volume too.

Tim Benak – 05:36

Yeah, absolutely. And to Jon’s point, feedback throughout on multiple things. We’d love for this to be a conversation. Please use the chat or the question and answer throughout. We definitely want this to be more of a conversation than a presentation. And we hope you have some questions. Don’t wait until the end. There will be a question and answer, but don’t hesitate to chime in throughout. And I will make sure that we get those questions asked to Jon.

Jon Pearson – 06:01

Yeah, absolutely. I love distraction. And I can barely tolerate to hear me talk for a straight hour, so I can’t imagine what position you guys are in. So feel free to interrupt with any thoughts, questions, comments, rebuttals. All of that would be great. I love when it’s interactive. And I love tangents. So for sure, we can definitely do that.

With with that we’ll get rolling and Tim, feel free to jump in anytime.

So just another note, I mentioned that I have a real strong passion for photography. And we’ll talk a little bit about that if there’s time at the end. But all of the photos save for one which will be coming up here, I think for the first photo, all of these photos were taken at QLI since the pandemic started.

And I think that the pandemic, and COVID-19, and all of that has been such a test of resilience. There’s so many things…emotional recovery, we could call this the road to resilience. We could call this the road to acceptance. I know I think the questions that you have revolve around acceptance. But we could also substitute emotion recovery or resilience for that, too.

So it’s been a remarkable time to just walk around and observe and see the strength and the resolve and the fortitude and the grit of so many people that people that we serve our family. So we’re finding a way to try to stay connected our team members who have been challenged so much. It’s been an inspiring time.

So hopefully, we’ll have some time to show a few more photos of that at the end.

The Life Path Program from QLI

But I thought we’d start today…We mentioned the life path program. And really, life path evolved. We used to call it our dimension three services, which didn’t make sense to anybody. It kind of sounds like a 1960s doowop group or a Twilight Zone episode or something.

So really, as you guys have seen probably, our logo is a triangle. And that really symbolizes three phases of rehab. And to go back to your Intro to Psych days, for those of you that had that course, you may remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. And that’s really was the basis of our Tri Dimensional approach.

QLI was founded by a clinical psychologist. And that was really where the concept came from. And so Maslow talked about your basic needs as the base of the triangle. And in essence, if you did not have your basic needs cared for, then you were not going to be able to really put any energy or resources, nothing else mattered above that.

So in terms of our rehab program, we call that our health and safety. If our folks aren’t healthy, and they aren’t feeling safe, then nothing really else above that triangle matters.

The second component of our tri dimensional approach is that learning component, and we are big on learning. So I mentioned clinical work, or leadership or even photography, we believe virtually everything is a skill. And we believe that everyone has potential to learn and to grow. So that is a massive, massive part of our program.

But at the end of the day, there has to be a reason for it all there has to be something that makes it all worthwhile. And that’s what we call our Life Path program. And it’s not rocket science, but it is the rocket fuel of our program. It is what propels the people that we serve and our families.

And just thought we’d talk a little bit today about some of the components of the life path program. And I think it starts and ends with the quality of relationships that we’re building; the trust, the rapport, the empathy, the compassion.

Establish a Trusting Relationship

If the folks we’re serving don’t genuinely believe that we’re invested in their life, not just their diagnosis, or their medical recovery, which is obviously very important, but we’re invested in their life and everyone that’s connected, and everything that is important to them. So that relationship is so important that we’re able to take time with people and build that really strong bond.

Vivid Picture of Life Path Before Injury

Now, once the bond is is established, we want to spend more time than just looking at what’s happening today. While that’s very important, and that’s one down the list there is taking a look at the impact of the injury.

And I kind of always think I’m a bit of a pest when I sit down with somebody and talk about life path. I really am inquisitive.

And I’m curious, and I want to know, what did life look like before this injury, before this illness? So I may say, okay, it’s six weeks before your accident. It’s a random Tuesday. Walk me through your day. I want to know everything.

I want to know the mundane things. So when you get in the car, what did you do? Did you listen to music? Did you listen to podcasts? What podcast? Was it? What kind of music do I want to know the rhythm of your life?

Tim and I were talking earlier that 2020 has been a challenge for all of us. And it has interrupted our life path, it has interrupted the flow of our life, and also the rhythm of our life. And I think that rhythm is so important, the routines and the people that we spend time with. When that becomes disruptive, that can be a real challenge.

So I want to know everything I can about this person.

What’s Most Important – Who vs. What

Ultimately, it comes down to what is it that they value. What’s most important in their world.

And as much as it sounds like a bumper sticker, because it is, I’ve seen it before. The most important things in life aren’t things, right. They are people.

So when you sit down with somebody, and you say, Tell me what’s most important in your world, they name people. They may say their spouse, their children, their family, their co workers, their friends.

These are the things that are so important to people, the roles and the responsibilities. And that’s what they’re grieving. And that’s what they’re afraid of when they think about the future, how has this been impacted.

And it’s really important to just get this clear vision of what life was like before this injury.


And ultimately, what it boils down to is what is someone’s identity. There’s so many interesting and fascinating things that I’ve seen throughout the years. One of the dynamics that I’ve seen, let’s say we have a spinal cord injury support group. And maybe the folks in that group haven’t met each other.

So they go around the room, and they introduce themselves. And I’ve noticed this several times. Someone might say my name is Bill, and I’m a C4 incomplete quad. And I think gosh, that now has become Bill’s identity, hopefully very temporarily.

So Bill would have never said that obviously, it wouldn’t even been a concept before his injury. And now the first thing that he says about himself is his diagnosis. How can we get beyond that?

And our goal is in a year’s time Bill doesn’t start off with I’m a C4 incomplete quad. Bill talks about what’s most important in his world, and how do we get back to that.

So identity has been has been altered because of these injuries.

Pre-Existing Obstacles

Another one, that I know you folks really, really understand that this is an issue. We can’t just treat an injury as clean and as simple as that would be. That’s not what happens.

We’re dealing with humans, and we’re dealing with everything that comes with that package.

So drug, alcohol history, psychosocial history, family dynamics, educational barriers, maybe people who have had a criminal background, those things that were pre existing before the injury. Those don’t go away after an injury.

And in fact, they oftentimes become amplified. And we have got to take a look at those and really examine how can we help the person be successful, not just the patient.

So that’s a really important part of this life path program, is really examining those things and giving people an opportunity to address them, maybe for the first time.

It doesn’t always happen. I’d love to say that it does. But I have stories of people who have said, Look, I’m here because I was drinking and driving. And you know, thank God, nobody else got hurt. But if I wasn’t doing that, and I didn’t have an issue with alcohol, I wouldn’t be here and I want to I want to face it. It’s time to to address it. And so that becomes a part of their program.

There are other times where we build that relationship, we’ve got to build that relationship. They have to know we’re invested in their success, and we may approach them with it and say, let’s talk about this. Our job is to help you be successful in life. And we don’t believe we can do that if we ignore the elephant in the room.

And it’s a big, big part of the life path program.

Assessment of Impact of Injury – How is the Person Coping Now?

We have to assess how someone is coping today, but then we also have to forecast for the future. What does that look like for this individual and for their family, and for their entire life.

Vision of Life Path Beyond Injury and a Plan for Growth and Learning

You want to talk about creativity, you’re taking a look at somebody today and you’re taking a look at their potential, and you’re trying to forecast and you’re trying to plan for a vision for a life that’s worth living beyond QLI. Beyond Today. And I can’t think of anything more creative than that.

And obviously, all of this isn’t us developing a plan separate of the person. This person needs to drive this plan, they need to own the plan. That’s a huge part of the life path program. So you know, you can’t talk about emotional recovery without addressing what this life path program is all about.

So I thought that would be an important place to start our discussion today. And certainly, if you folks have any thoughts or questions about that, let me know.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Rachel and we’ve told her story in this presentation before and typically, I have told the story of Rachel’s injury, her accident, and it’s a remarkable tale. It’s a harrowing tale.

It involves her at 19 years old in between her freshman and sophomore year. She worked at Panda Express. She worked late into the evening cleaning the store.

She had a typical impulsive, 19 year old notion and decided that she was going to drive several hours across the state of Iowa into Illinois, drive overnight, leaving at 1am. And she was going to surprise one of her best friends in Illinois.

And this wasn’t fueled by alcohol. It wasn’t fueled by drugs. It was just a typical 19 year old who was a good friend who wanted to do something and surprise her friend. She made it about an hour into the trip and she fell asleep and she went off the road.

Her car flipped several times. And she had a high level spinal cord injury. And she sat in the car for six hours.

So that whole story, I have detailed that before. And it’s a remarkable story of her resolve in the middle of that car.

But for me, I was thinking about it as like, that’s not my story. I wasn’t in the car with Rachel. I wasn’t the state trooper who found her at sunrise.

My story with Rachel began the first day that I met her and I didn’t know her story at that time. And it happened just right across our campus here at our coffee shop. And it was her second day at QLI.

She had spent weeks in a in a rehab hospital and had transferred to QLI. She was still 19 years old. And I was sitting across from this remarkable lady, not knowing much about her life at all.

I remember doing the life path assessment. And pretty quick into our conversation. I said, Rachel, what were your plans before all of this happened?

And I remember she looked at me and she said well, before my accident, I wanted to be a nurse. And then she looked down at her legs that could no longer move. And she looked down at her arms folded in her lap. And she said when I was in the hospital, I realized being a nurse takes a lot of physical strength and endurance. And I just don’t think that I’m going to be able to do that anymore.

And I thought to myself, Oh gosh, I should know better. I asked that question too soon. She’s really broken. This is difficult for her.

And then she looked up at me with a smile on her face and a look of determination and she said, You know, I’m going through something that is going to make me stronger in the end. And I asked myself when I was in that hospital bed, Why do you want to be a nurse? And the answer is I want to be a nurse because I want to help people. And she said when I get through this I’m going to be in a position to help people more than I ever would have before.

So I want to be a counselor. And I want to help children and families who are in the hospital who are dealing with illness, and injury. And I want to help them get through that.

That’s remarkable. That is, to me, emotional recovery. That is pivoting, and being agile, and taking a look at what you value and broadening your scope so that you still can access that. That is taking adversity and making it into opportunity. That is being stronger through struggle.

And now years later, Rachel has two master’s degrees, and she’s still on that path. She is helping children. And she’s helping families get through difficult situations.

And it’s no surprise that she’s also a spinal cord injury mentor in our program, because she is such an inspiration.

So, to me, that’s really my story. That’s the time that I got to be a part of Rachel’s life, and how that’s impacted me. So when I encounter my own struggle, which is so insignificant in comparison to what Rachel has faced, I can draw from her. And I can be sure that I can get through too.

You know, at QLI, we maybe sometimes see us ourselves as the mentors and the teachers. But more often than not, we are the students. And Rachel is a great example of that.

The Problem With Goals

So just a little bit of a kind of a side thought…Typically, with somebody when we sit down, let’s say somebody like Rachel, who’s had a spinal cord injury. And I say, Okay, what are your goals? What do you what do you want to get out of QLI?

Sometimes they’ll look at you like you’re crazy. And they’ll say, I want to walk! What do you mean, what do I want to do. I’m here to get out of this damn chair. I want to walk. And that’s the goal I want to walk.

And the really profound thing is, you would think after almost 25 years of working at QLI, that every single day, I would wake up, swing my legs off the bed, stand, start to move and stop and say, thank you, I am so grateful that I can walk.

I didn’t do it this morning. I didn’t do it yesterday. And unless I really think about it, I won’t do it tomorrow.

And the truth is this person who says their goal is to walk. They didn’t do it before either. Because walking is not a value. It’s a goal. Walking is not the value.

And so again, we talked about that really strong trusting relationship, if I have built that with somebody, and they tell me, they look at me fiercely and they say, I want to walk, I’ll say, maybe something like this, Gosh, you know, I’ve worked here a long time, but I’ve always been on the other side of the fence. My goal has always been to imagine what it might be like. And I can imagine that I would be thinking about that a lot.

Let me ask you, if I could wave a magic wand, and you could get out of that chair, right now, and stand and walk just like you did before your injury, what’s the very first thing that you would do?

Now whatever they tell me, that’s what they value. So they may say, I’ve got a five year old son, and I would get down on the floor and I would play trucks with him. And someone else might say I’d go back to work, because I miss going to work. For me, I might say I’d grabbed my camera and I jumped in the car and I go photograph.

Whatever that person says. That’s what they value. And that’s really what they miss. Walking just allows us to do those things. And so the more we can get people to broaden their scope into really what they value. It’s a really helpful thing.

Because they may not be able to get on the floor and play trucks. But could we bring the trucks to the table? We probably could. Right? And so what’s more important than the trucks, is the child. How can you see yourself as being a father or being a mother?

So it goes beyond the what is really important to discover why, why does somebody want to achieve that goal?

Tim Benak – 24:48

Absolutely. Hey, Jon, before we move on, I just want to chime in. You know, I think this is a good time to maybe reach out to our audience and ask you guys all to participate in the chat and just tell us maybe some challenges you’ve had with helping individuals navigate emotional recovery, especially with a catastrophic injury. Maybe share a quick story of how you’ve helped somebody navigate that.

Jon, you also made a point earlier that I wanted to touch on, your title being director of creativity. When talking about life path, you touched on a lot of things that really solidifies the point that anyone who helps somebody navigate this journey of recovery, has the opportunity to be a director of creativity in a sense.

Understanding all the moving parts and making sure that they all fit together, you are kind of, you’re being creative, because every injury is unique. Every person is unique. Right? I think that that is one of the main things that you and I have talked about, and everyone here at QLI.

I mean, it’s the person, it’s not the injury, and so you have to really have the understanding of the person to really help somebody navigate that.

And so I just, I just thought about that, like, you know, everyone has the ability to be a director of creativity, in a sense, whatever role they’re in, as long as they have a good deep understanding of the individuals that they’re helping.

Jon Pearson – 26:22

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a really, really important point is that it is about creativity, right?

I mean, we all know this, but let’s say you have a patient…and I use spinal cord injury a lot because brain injury is so dynamic, and it’s so different, and there definitely are no two people with a brain injury that are the same.

But, you know, if Tim and I were to suffer a C5 complete spinal cord injury, we would have very similar effects. So it’s something that is comparable.

But let’s say you do have a person with a certain level of spinal cord injury, and you dust off the plan that you used for the last person with a spinal cord injury, in terms of whether that’s physical therapy, or occupational therapy, or whatever it may be. You just can’t do that.

You’ve got to recreate it every time. That doesn’t mean you can’t draw from, what did I learn from working with this person in the past? What was helpful? That’s kind of that feel felt found, right? Like, you know, I’m trying to understand how you feel. I know other people have felt the same way. When they found out this, it was really helpful.

So certainly, you want to draw from your experience, but you can never just say, well, this person has the same diagnosis as the last person that I worked with. So let’s dust off this routine or the program and implement it. It just doesn’t work that way.

We’ve got to be creative, and we’ve got to be innovative. And it has to be individualized because everyone is so different.

Responses From the Audience

So looks like we’re getting some some questions in the chat there, Tim?

Tim Benak – 27:54

Yeah, so I’m just gonna go ahead and read off. It looks like we have five folks that answered.

So I’m going to read through these real quick Jon. Maybe it might spark a side conversation.

So someone said, getting people to accept a disability after the injury seems to be very difficult. Anger is the biggest challenge that I faced from individuals. One thing that I do is help them morn their past self so that they can move forward into helping them find their new identity. Tailor a mental recovery based on the state of mind they are in and at the time of our interview and build from that. Be creative and think critically, by making sure they know they are not doing this alone and providing the tools to recover.

And then, some said, for me, I think it’s the anger, letting the client sit in the anger, understand it and use it to motivate. Some similarly, then went on to say, I’m not great with anger. So maybe just understanding that a little bit, that is something that is very tough to navigate, I think even for individuals that are well versed in it. But, just really trying to understand that anger.

Jon Pearson – 29:02

And I think somebody in there, where their anger was mentioned twice, but then also letting them grieve, which is mourning and one of the steps of grieving is anger. Right? So that’s understandable and it’s totally human that people are going going to be angry.

And there can be some craving justice, someone needs to pay for this, right? So I know insurance companies and all of that can feel that anger because this has befallen me. Someone must pay. And that’s part of that process.

Sometimes the anchor can feel personal. So I think it was Kimberly that said, I’m not great with anger. I think one thing that helps is understanding. They’re not really angry at you, even though you may really feel like you’re the target. They’re angry at the world. They’re angry at the situation and it’s something that they’ve got to work through.

And so we’ll hopefully talk about some tools that might be helpful in working through that, but you never want to minimize it. You never want to say oh, you know, gosh, it’ll get better. You know, put a smile on your face. You know, look on the bright side, it could be worse.

I mean, there’s so many things that I think we as humans sometimes, and as helpers and clinicians, we think we have to have an answer when somebody is really angry. And sometimes the only answer is, you know, I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I just want you to know that I’m here for you. And let him be angry. I think somebody said that.

And I think we don’t always have to have a rebuttal to the pain that somebody is in from an emotional standpoint. And I know, I have to check that myself that I want to, you know, and I think guys are the worst at this. I know, my girlfriend says this a lot. I don’t, I don’t want a solution. Right? I just want you to listen. And so for me, that’s a good reminder, because I want to fix it. Right? You’re in pain, I have an idea. How about this.

And sometimes people just aren’t ready for that, you know, those solutions, and you didn’t just let them know you’re here for him. That’s really what empathy and compassion is all about.

So it is a process, you don’t want to jump the gun. You do want to listen, but at some point, if you have some tools, or tips, or ideas, or techniques or strategies that might help people navigate this water, I think we also need to be again, building those relationships and maybe softly sometimes, at least when you’re introducing it to say, hey, I’ve had an idea. I want to get your thoughts on this. And then that’s a way that we could help folks too.

So I was a couple more here too.

Tim Benak – 31:27

Yeah, one of them more just talking about if someone’s going through an injury…This one seems to be more COVID related. But after having COVID diagnosed with PTSD, staying maybe away from work until the pandemic is over. Any suggestions there?

I think maybe we can touch base with that one offline. So Ronnie, we’ll have Jon, maybe I’ll connect you with Jon after the fact on that one.

And then someone mentioned connecting new QLI patients with past QLI patients that have experienced the same things and having them be the living example that you can see be successful. Maybe more of like Rachel being a mentor. It is definitely hearing from somebody who’s worn the same shoes and gone through the same journey definitely seems to get that help.

Jon Pearson – 32:16

That’s really good. And then I’m reading, Ronnie, reading yours, too. And there’s a lot to digest. I mean, you know, boy, if that’s not a 2020 situation too, so I would like to have some time to just look at that and not just give you an offhand comment on that.

And then regarding Jacqueline’s too, absolutely the credibility of someone like Rachel, connecting with someone is so much more powerful than any credibility that I have. So I think that the mentoring program has been really, really powerful for us.

But even a caveat that I’ve suggested for the mentors, is just because you’ve had a spinal cord injury, you can’t say I know what it’s like to someone else with a spinal cord injury. Because you’re closer than I am. But these are two unique people that have had different upbringings and have different belief systems, and there’s so many things that they just may be processing it differently.

So you always have to be careful when you say, I know how you feel. Because, we oftentimes don’t even know how we feel in our in our own internal mechanisms, let alone to understand how someone else is feeling too.

But having said that, the credibility and the power of connecting people that have been through this journey is really, really powerful. important one.

It was a really good, I love that.

Okay, so this one, I’ll just go really quick on because I know we’re gonna run out of time.

Obviously, when we’re talking about workers compensation, I think this one’s really fascinating in terms of life path, right? So when we talk about life path, it’s really where are you spending your time, where you deriving your purpose, your social circle, and all of that.

And I think it’s been so fascinating. When I think about work. And it’s like, this is just that this is going to be just a personal rant on my part.

Before COVID, when you meet somebody, let’s say you’re at a dinner party or something, and you meet someone for the very first time, and you shake hands and exchange names, and the question is almost always the same. So what do you do for a living? It’s like the first question out of the gate.

And we could talk about like, why is that? Why? Why is that the first question that we we ask people, but I think I think what we’re trying to do is, get a sense of someone’s identity, right? We link what they do for their profession to their identity, and it tells us a lot about that person.

And that’s really not the rant. The rant to me is if I follow that question, I’m just generally speaking out in the world when I meet somebody, and I say, what do you do for a living? And it doesn’t matter what they say. They could say, I work at Walgreens or I’m an insurance agent, it doesn’t matter.

If I follow it up with, so how do you like your job? I would say a good eight or nine out of 10 times. I hear something like this, yeah. It’s okay. It’s all right. It’s a paycheck. Yeah, it’s a living. Yeah, it’s a lot better than my last job. It’s not really what I went to school for. But it’s okay for now.

This is what I hear when I ask people, what do you do for a living and do you enjoy it? And it’s something that is just remarkable to me because we spend…This is an old graph and I think it’s still accurate…The amount of time that we spend at work is massive.

You’re talking about a massive chunk of your life. And if you’re spending it at something that you say, It’s okay, it’s okay. That’s really a shame.

But the truth is, I think we value it more than that. I think that’s just kind of a, I don’t know, this weird kind of social reaction that we have. Because what I see with people when I’m doing that life path assessment, and we’re talking about this recovery, and I ask people, what is it that you want to get back to, certainly, they’ll mention their roles and responsibilities as a human, in their family and their friends. But a lot of times, most of the time, they’ll say they want to get back to work.

Now, these were the same people at the dinner party, when you ask them how they like their work. There’s a It’s okay, it’s a living. They miss that sense of purpose that work provided for them, they missed that social, that social connection, they miss the income, they miss a lot of things with that.

Now, another thing that I you know, I wasn’t born yesterday, I also know in the world of worker’s comp, there are people who maybe aren’t as motivated to get back to work. I understand that that exists as well, too. So there is a variety of people out there.

But the slide that I had is, there’s no blues song called, “You don’t miss your water until your well runs dry”. And that’s so true with so many things with emotional recovery.

I think we’re all gonna realize this after 2020, there were a lot of things in life that we took for granted until they were gone. You don’t miss the water until your well runs dry, until you’ve lost your ability to work, you don’t really miss it.

You could say the same thing about walking, you could say the same thing about a lot of things when it comes to this topic.

Tim Benak – 37:55

Is that a stock photo? Those are some strapping young men…

Jon Pearson – 38:01

Those are guys on our facilities team. So yeah, that was taken a couple months ago, just walking around seeing what’s going on. But yeah, two guys that love their job. So they really do.

And a huge reason that they love their job is because of this right? And we could we could spend the rest of the time talking about the importance of work culture. And it is so very important.

So yeah, that last photo was Brad and Tim. And they certainly get a lot of purpose out of their job. But they love the team that they work on. And they love the broader team that they get to work with at QLI. And so this is a place where they come in, and it’s vibrant, and it’s positive. And it’s healthy. And it’s strong. And you’re surrounded by mentors, and most importantly, you’re surrounded by people who are genuinely invested in your success. And that’s culture, right?

And so there’s so many things with that. And I get I’m kind of venturing into the leadership side. And you may say, well how does this relate to the medical side? Or if you’re looking at a provider? I don’t think it’s a throw away, if you’re shopping around looking at a provider to ask them, Hey, what’s the work culture like at your place? Tell me what you value. What are your cultural values?

Because if they don’t value work culture, and people don’t want to work there, why would anyone want to receive services from that place? This is the palette in which the clinical program is painted upon. This culture has got to be strong. Absolutely.

So just another side element that I believe the work culture in medical facilities is a huge deal. It is a big deal. Sometimes the only thing that will get somebody who’s struggling with emotional recovery, out of bed is that smiling, encouraging face, who says Come on, you can do it.

Tim Benak – 40:01

I think, you know, just back to your slide with Brad and, Tim, I think it’s important to, you know, segue the culture with them and how we have incorporated those smiling faces and individuals that are truly committed to their career and love what they do. And motivating individuals who may, you know, be wanting to give back to the tasks such as lawn maintenance, you know, household cares, doing things like that, you know, we connect them with our maintenance and facilities teams.

Our therapists, our clinical program is such that the culture of our maintenance team combines to make this therapy program really good for back to work, getting them motivated for those types of things.

Jon Pearson – 40:52

I mean, our facilities crew is amazing. They are a part of the clinical team. You’re absolutely right.

I can think of one of our guys who’s got a spinal cord injury, and he’s got a mild brain injury, too. It’s been a struggle for him. He’s been angry, you know, you mentioned that earlier.

I’ve walked by and heard him on the phone. And I’m not exactly sure who he was venting to, but he is not happy, understandably. And he has now been, he’s a woodworker and so he paired up with one of our facilities guys, and this has kind of blossomed into a side business. He’s building these beautiful wood planters, that he’s now work that into his program. And he hangs out in their shop all the time, and he’s working on these projects. And now this has become a huge part of his program. And, his mood has increased incredibly, because of that.

So I think that’s the creativity too, right? I mean, we are the place where he would say his most important clinician is Bob down in the facilities team, maintenance guys. Right. And he is. He right now is the most important clinician on his team. And his physical therapist, his occupational therapist would tell you the same thing. So that’s that creativity and broadening. Who can be involved in a program?

Jon Pearson – 42:27

Looks like I’m not able to advance the slide. So keep asking questions, Tim.

Tim Benak – 42:36

Anyone have any examples? There it is…I’ll just say one more thing in the chat and keep rolling Jon and we can touch on this in the question and answer at the end. But I’d love for you guys that are attending to share some creative examples of how you’ve incorporated other unique solutions into someone’s therapy program. Or if you’ve had an example or an experience with a provider using, you know, woodworking as a motivator, things like that. So if you type that into the chat, and we’ll touch on it with the question answer towards the end.

Jon Pearson – 43:10

Yeah, that’d be great. And Tim, for whatever reason, I’m having a hard time seeing the chat. So feel free to just chime in. I’ll keep that off, too. So this one’s just really quick and I won’t spend a lot of time on it because time does go by quickly, and we will run out of time.

Difficulties with Emotional Recovery

So often, the emotional recovery component is overlooked and this is just some thoughts of Gosh, why is this not addressed as often as it should? Or, everywhere?

Difficult to Observe/Measure, Predict, Plan and it’s Complex

It is much more abstract, it is really difficult to measure. With traditional physical therapy, if I walked 50 feet last week, and I walk 75 feet this week, maybe it makes sense to shoot for 100 the following week, right? It’s much easier to see and to measure and to predict and plan for.

When you’re talking about the emotional recovery. It’s a roller coaster, and it’s really hard to anticipate and predict. And so that’s one of the reasons for sure.

Expert Model Limitations

Again, we just mentioned, if we had an expert model, that had limitations, there’s no way that that young man I was mentioning with would work with Bob in maintenance, right? They would say, Well, he needs to be working with the psychologist if he’s angry, and he’s struggling. And he certainly has that as a resource. But it’s through Bob in the maintenance team.

So we’re trying to shatter this expert model that the only person that can work with somebody who’s struggling with emotional issues, or the only person that can work with him to work on his physical ability is the physical therapist.

We need to broaden that. Those folks are great, but we need a whole army that is helping people.

Time Constraints in Rehab

And obviously there’s time constraints in terms of how long someone’s here, so we’ve got to just set the stage for the future.

The Search for the Magic Bullet

And I know you guys know this one, the search for the magic bullet, right? Especially, our folks with chronic pain, this is a really common one. There has to be a medication, there has to be a doctor, there has to be a surgeon, an implant, a device, something that will take this pain away. And the more they search for that, the more pain they end up being in.

And really, you know, as cliche as it sounds, there is no magic bullet, but the answer is within themselves. And it goes back to, what do you value, what’s most important in your world. And if you can get reimbursed in that, it’s amazing that that pain may not go away, but it goes to the backseat.

We’ve seen that time and time again, with our with our chronic pain program. The first thing we want to do is get you off those medications as fast as we can and safely as we can. And we want to get you back into life. And it’s not, again, rocket science, but it works.

And so, you know, Tim and I also were talking this morning, that there’s a wide spectrum on how people are feeling about the vaccine in the general population. Certainly some people are trepidatious or skeptical. But what I’ve seen, especially around here is the other end of the spectrum, almost to the point where I’m a little concerned that people are seeing it as a magic bullet. I can’t wait for that shot. I can’t wait for that vaccine. As if you’re going to get the vaccine and everything is going to go back to normal, everything is going to go back to the way it was.

What I’m finding myself doing is inoculating some folks about the inoculation. We call that a psychological inoculation when somebody says, I can’t wait to get that shot, to talk about how that’s going to be a process of things getting back to the way they were.

You know, Tim and I were talking the analogy. It felt like COVID-19 was a light switch. It just happened so fast, it came on. I feel like it’s going to be a slow dimmer switch to go away.

And so for people to understand that that’s not a magic bullet. It is a huge stride, in my opinion, of moving forward, but to prepare people that oftentimes in life, there isn’t there isn’t a magic solution.

Not Understanding How to Teach the Skills

So and then we talked about the skills, not understanding really, what are the skills involved with teaching emotional recovery.

For those of you who are aware of cognitive behavioral therapy, this is a huge component of how we address emotional recovery. And it’s really taking a look at individual core beliefs and then taking a look at how these beliefs shape our emotions, our thoughts, judgments, and how we behave. And then coming up with strategies to challenges this.

It’s a silly example, but it’s one that I’ve used in the past, is my brother, Rick. My brother Rick, this is years ago, my brother is much better at this than he used to be. But I remember I was visiting him in Dallas, Texas, and he had a new home in Allen, Texas, just outside of Dallas. And he was driving, it was a Sunday morning. We had gone to get coffee. And he said let me just drive around the area.

Sunday morning. There’s nobody on the road. We have nowhere to be, we have all day. And he’s driving me to show me around the area. And he’s racing. Like I mean, he’s driving fast. And every light we come to, every red light, he goes, Oh, come on, come on. Right.

The stimulus for Rick is a red light. His core belief. You gotta be kidding me again? His core belief is I hit more red lights than anybody I know. Right? It’s an irrational belief. Bad things happen to me. And his response is, he’s frustrated, his blood pressure is rising, my blood pressure is rising as a result. And I remember saying, Rick, are we late? Are we supposed to be somewhere? What is going on?

This was just conditioned. This was a conditioned response for him.

And, you know, I say my brother’s better at it now. Well, he’s got five stints in his heart. He had to get better at this, this this was causing major problems. And this was a small example of how he was dealing with stress.

Now if we were going to we were going to intervene with Rick. And again, this is a small example. But we can extrapolate this to bigger things of life.

You know, my brother, as we were driving around, we had plenty of green lights. It wasn’t like when he hit a green light, he went, whoo, green light. Right? He didn’t do that. He didn’t see the green lights, he only saw the red lights.

So if we were going to work with him, the first thing we would have to make sure is that he has an awareness that this is happening. But more importantly than that, he would, he would have to have a motivation to change. If he doesn’t have that motivation, I’m not exactly sure how we could help him.

But if he said, Yep, I do do this. In’t, it’s not healthy, it sets the tone for my whole day, it does impact everybody in the car, I do want to change this. Then what we need to do, and again, it comes to creativity, how can we help because awareness isn’t enough, awareness is not going to change it.

So what we might do is to say, we’re going to teach you to start to notice the green lights. So you’re going to be aware of all lights. And when you hit a green light, whether you do it outside, externally, or just the inside, you’re going to say, Alright, green light, and you’re going to smile, and you’re going to feel good about that green light.

The other thing you’re going to do is, the reason these red lights are probably so stressful is that they cause you to be late for work. So you’re going to leave 15 minutes early every day. And when you encounter a red light, you’re going to say, Yep, there’s another red light. But I’m glad I left 15 minutes early, because it’s not going to cause me to be late. Or you’re just going to recognize the red light and you’re going to focus on your breath. And you’re going to do deep breathing until it turns green. And then you’re going to move forward.

So small example. But we can help other folks, the folks that we serve, start to challenge these irrational beliefs.

Common Irrational Beliefs

These are some, these are some common ones. You know, I mentioned that one for my brother, bad things always happen to me, we could we could add that one to the list.

I Must Be Approved of by Everyone. They Are All Thinking of Me

I’ve seen this one with folks. You know, we get folks out of the hospital, and maybe they’re going out for the first time, again, pre COVID, post COVID in public, and they really believe that every everyone’s going to be staring at them in this wheelchair.

And the truth is that people are more concerned with where they’re going. And then looking at somebody in a wheelchair. I mean, it’s an irrational belief that they’re all thinking of me, they’re all looking at me.

I must be perfect

Perfectionism is one in rehab, we see this one a lot.

If I Avoid It, It Will Go Away

If I avoid it, it will go away. It doesn’t exist. I’ll worry about that when I move home. And temporarily that can ease some stress, but it’s only going to cause a major stressor down the road.


And catastrophizing is simply taking a stressful event and making it into a catastrophe. We obviously have to be careful, because we’re dealing with folks with catastrophic injuries, they have had something that we’re labeling as catastrophic.

But beyond that, that doesn’t mean that every stressful event leads to another catastrophe.

Resilience. It’s a Skill!

So how can you help people with these irrational beliefs? So through that is resilience and resilience is definitely a skill. It is something that is learned. And these are some of the components. And we have Dr. Snell here who does an amazing job.

I help. Well, I don’t know if I help, but I chime in occasionally. So we do this presentation on resilience, maybe some of you have heard that. But these are some of the takeaways from that presentation on resilience.

And I won’t go through all of those, but maybe just give you a second to take a look at those and if any of those jump out. But these are the keys to being resilient. And that’s a huge component, obviously, of emotional recovery.

Purpose is so important, being mindful of what’s happening now and what you can control, gratitude, optimism are all so very important. Maintaining hope, calm, gaining confidence. Very, very important.

These are the characteristics that we see with resilient people.

Passing the Torch

And then again, this is one of my favorite stories, or one of my favorite photos. This is Emily and her team cheering behind her. And she gets to leave the gates of QLI and be reunited with her family.

And so the passing of the torch really is recognizing that to help people with this process isn’t to just help them and serve them individually. It’s also to take a look at their families and make sure that they’re equipped with strategies to help continue that process of recovery. So making sure the family is involved, making sure the workplace is involved is very, very important with all these elements.

So with that, real quick, I’ll just show you a few other photos.

And so my own kind of COVID journey and lack of resilience that I felt when I first came to QLI. QLI historically, has been such an open place, we have an open door policy, office doors are open, you can go into anybody’s office, the gates are never closed.

And then all of a sudden, like I said, that light switch switched, and we had to, to keep people face safe. We had to have rules, and we had to have signs and we had to close gates and screenings and, and temperature checks. And people were wearing masks. And I remember those first days, it was just a whirlwind. And I just wanted to find a bunker and hide in it until it all went away.

And the images that I was seeing as a photojournalist were images of, you know, images like this, right? People being tested, and they were stark, and they were, they were gritty, and they just showed the problem. And that’s certainly part of telling a story. But the story isn’t the struggle, the story is rebounding from a struggle.

And so again, my boss caught me, and I think she could tell what was going on with me. And she said, I hope you’re documenting all of this. Because when we get through this, we’re going to want to look back. And this is the most historic thing that’s ever happened here. And we’re going to get through this. And we’re going to learn a lot from it.

So she wasn’t just giving me permission, she was encouraging me to get out and to take photos and to see people being resilient.

Tim Benak – 56:40

I’m gonna launch a poll question on the screen. Keep going though you can keep rolling. Everyone just a heads up watching the poll question. If you’re looking to receive a certificate of completion, make sure you do answer that. That should be on your screen now. And I think you should be able to keep going down on your end.

Jon Pearson – 57:05

So this helped me with my own personal resilience is just walking around, and seeing people improvise, and being creative and innovative and responding. Still having finding a way to have parties, celebrating a 50th birthday, finding a way to have pets and families visit, connecting with family. Competing.

This is a jet trip back home with one of our guys who was injured in the line of duty as a police officer. His family surprising him on the jet. This is a million steps in our xo. Whoo. Yeah. And then, and then the next week he walks on his own.

Tim Benak – 58:15

We have a few people that said they did not see the poll question. It could be possible on your on the pop up. So if you don’t see it, please email me at And just say Hey, didn’t see the poll question. We’ll make sure to get you on the list of people. Jon do I got you for a few for a few minutes?

Jon Pearson – 58:39


Tim Benak – 58:42

As always, please ask questions. We’ve got a few moments with Jon here. If there’s any questions that you guys have, we appreciate you attending. We’ve got a full calendar for 2021 coming up. So I hope that everyone that attends these has grown to love our webinars. I know we love giving them. I know Jon and all of our presenters really enjoy connecting with you guys over this hour.

So I do hope that you guys plan to attend our webinars in 2021 we always do ask that you check us out on social social media.

Jon puts a lot of time and effort into it. As you can tell, he’s very passionate about photos and storytelling and making sure that the individuals we’re serving are more than just a resident here on campus, but that they can impact individuals through their stories and their recovery journeys.

And so we do a lot of blog posts as well as a lot of posts on social media. So please check us out there at as well as

And then, as far as the CTU it will be later this afternoon, you should receive something from us with a evaluation. So please fill that out. And then we have a few folks asking for the email. Again, it’s So please, if you have any questions there reach out, as well as questions for Jon after this, but we are going to be hanging out for a few more moments.

So if you have any questions, go ahead and put them in the chat, or the question and answer. And then, it does look like we’ve had just a lot of comments. Thank you for the stories, beautiful photos. Jon, do you have your email on that slide at all? If you could go to that email? Or can I put it in the message here? We’ve had a few people asking for that, too.

Jon Pearson – 1:00:50

It’s j.pearson@QLI

Tim Benak – 1:00:57


Jon Pearson – 1:01:00

And I don’t know if it’s the Mac update or what but I can’t see my arrow on the screen. Try to find a little box when you can’t see the arrow.

Tim Benak – 1:01:12

Okay. Let’s see here.

Jon Pearson – 1:01:17

Yeah, so again, it’s j.pearson@QLI

Tim Benak – 1:01:27

So you can see one of our one of our colleagues, Terry’s on and he went ahead and put that information in there for you.

Jon Pearson – 1:01:39

I appreciate the feedback. And there were some questions just still about you guys working with people who, you know, you’ve done a lot of adaptations.

There was one about somebody a spinal cord injury who liked to hunt, maybe paralysis and TBI modified his home, but still angry, has a hard time dealing with his injury.

You know, it is a process and I wish that everybody I wouldn’t…I don’t think I personally would be able to pivot the way Rachel did. Right. So I’m using an extreme example of somebody that was just so beautiful and how she did it.

That still didn’t mean that she didn’t have loss and have anger and dark days. She’d be the first one to tell you she did. But, you know, I read in a book once and I love this. It’s stuck with me. And I use it personally. How do you go from a mindset of “I can’t because…” to “I could if…”

So for Rachel…Well, I can’t be a nurse because I’ve got this injury. And she broadened and said, Well, I could still really help people even more than ever, if I did this.

And so I think that seems so simple to put it in those terms. But that’s what we’re trying to get with folks is to start to see, maybe the possibility.

And everybody’s just so different. I mean, the number one predictor is how did they deal with adversity before their injury? That’s going to be a big predictor on how they’re dealing with this biggest adversity of their life now.

We all need help. So making sure they’re surrounded by people who are actually helping instead of hindering is obviously important, but obviously, beyond our control sometimes.

Tim Benak – 1:03:26

I agree. Jon, as always, we appreciate you taking the time to put this together for us.

Jon Pearson – 1:03:31

Thank you guys. That’s great input. It was fun to see all that.

Tim Benak – 1:03:34

Yeah. And don’t ever hesitate. If anyone has any questions, reach out to us, either, like I said, through or Jon directly if you have any questions directly for him.

So Happy Holidays to everyone. And we hope to see you back on our webinars in 2021.

Jon Pearson – 1:03:49

Absolutely. Yes. Thank you guys. Appreciate it.

Tim Benak – 1:03:52

Take care everyone.