2-Day workshop on applying mental practice in stroke rehabilitation is available

Treating patients after stroke is very challenging: patients are often vulnerable, especially in the (sub) acute phase of recovery, and stroke is a complex pathology which can lead to a variety  of symptoms. While it is reasonably established that the overall process of neurological rehabilitation is effective, there is little evidence to support many specific rehabilitation therapeutic techniques. Currently it seems that task orientated practice (i.e. practising an activity of relevance) is the most effective single therapeutic technique. This is similar to the situation in sport where practice is the bedrock of improving skills. Indeed improving any skilled motor activity seems to depend upon continuing practice.

Mental practice of tasks is a relatively new therapy that is receiving increasing attention within rehabilitation research. Practising a skill mentally is potentially a method to increase the amount of therapy during rehabilitation in a safe way with relatively low costs. Mental practice can be defined as a training or therapy form in which an internal representation of the movement is activated and the execution of the movement repeatedly simulated, without physical activity, within a chosen context.

There is conflicting evidence that mental practice in stroke rehabilitation works on a group level. At present we do not know how to identify people who will benefit most from mental practice.  In every day practice however, we observe that on an individual level there can be substantial effects of mental practice in some patients with regard to physical improvements, emotional/cognitive changes and/or increase in motivation for therapy. Patients also report an increased feeling of autonomy over their rehabilitation process. These findings are reasons to explore the field of mental practice both in daily practice and research.

In this 2-day course, attendees will not only work with different mental practice intervention protocols and screening tests, but will also get ideas on how to teach and monitor mental practice in patients. The lecturers will use up-to-date evidence and will discuss with the attendees the implication of research studies on practice. Affinity not only with the target group, but also with research methodology are a must for this course. A critical mind is a pro.

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