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Dependence, Independence, Interdependence after Brain Injury

Brain Injury Blog by Janelle Breese Biagioni

August 8, 2011

Dependence, Independence, Interdependence

 In the contract work that I do in the brain injury field, our goal is always to ‘work ourselves out of a job.’ This means that we strive to help the individual move towards independence and to living a life that is filled with meaningful activity, positive interactions with others, and achievements. 

Immediately following a brain injury, it’s not uncommon to be completely dependent on those around you. It is necessary at that point to rely on someone or a group of people or things (i.e., equipment) for support so you can get through the day. 

Independence, on the other hand, is where the person reaches a place that they no longer rely on someone or something to support them in doing what they need and/or want to do. When we are independent, we are free from the control and influence of others as well. We hold all the power and our behaviours, thoughts and actions are of our choosing and doing. We feel in control of our own destiny, so to speak. 

When striving to achieve independence, it isn’t uncommon for the individual and/or family to overlook the value and role of interdependence. Interdependence is about working with others at some point in life or in certain situations. Interdependence is not a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that you are not independent or that you cannot achieve independence. And truthfully, everyone (regardless of abilities or disabilities) benefits from interdependence in life. We all need support at some time in some way and working in collaboration with others to achieve our goals does not mean we aren’t independent. 

Interdependence does not obliterate self-determination. The individual retains the right to self-advocacy, decision-making and to determine the goals. Interdependence is part of life and sometimes it is key in moving forward.