If you encounter a client who just recently sustained injury to the head, neck, or face or has been shaken violently and is exhibiting red flag signs and symptoms (see Brain Injury Basics > Signs and Symptoms), it is imperative that they receive immediate medical attention. Call 911 or get them to the nearest emergency department.

Photo: How You Can Help

How You Can Help

3 Things In 3 Minutes: What You Can Do Immediately1

Note: You should not discuss brain injury assessments with your client until you are familiar with the assessment process in your community. Know how to refer a client to appropriate supports before you talk to them about brain injury.

1) Environment:

  • Minimize distractions
  • Make sure the room is quiet and that there are no interruptions
  • Make sure the lighting is not bothersome to the client

2) Communication and Structure:

  • Plan ahead what you wish to accomplish
  • Keep meetings short
  • Incorporate breaks
  • Focus on one task at a time
  • Check her understanding, repeat if needed
  • Remind her she is not at fault
  • Listen and validate her feelings
  • Avoid arguments and emotional undertones

3) Planning and Confidentiality:

  • Explore options with her
  • Explain to her how police/courts can help her
  • Help her mobilize a support system
  • Advocate for her
  • Support her right to make her own decisions as far as possible
  • Follow her lead when it comes to what kind of help she wants
  • Do not try to take control and tell her what to do
  • Be careful with written information, which can compromise safety if found at home
  • Protect her confidentiality, do not do anything that will endanger her

Making A Difference2

  • Learn about brain health and the impact of brain injury; share this information with your clients
  • Learn about available resources in your community
  • If you know or suspect that a woman you are working with has experienced IPV, ask them if they have had blows to the head, been strangled, or been unconscious
  • If they have experienced these kinds of assaults, discuss the importance of assessment for brain injury
  • When mapping out a safety plan, always cover brain safety (e.g., covering head with arms, running away, calling police, etc.)
  • Advocate for more and improved access to brain assessment, accurate diagnosis, medical care, rehabilitation


1New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, “Traumatic Brain Injury and Domestic Violence,” Albany, NY.

2K. Monahan, “Intimate Partner Violence, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Social Work: Moving Forward.,” Soc. Work, vol. 63, no. 2, pp. 179–181, 2018.