Narrative Discourse Intervention After Traumatic Brain Injury: A Systematic Review of the Literature : Topics in Language Disorders

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Narrative Discourse Intervention After Traumatic Brain Injury

A Systematic Review of the Literature

Steel, Joanne; Elbourn, Elise; Togher, Leanne

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Topics in Language Disorders 41(1):p 47-72, January/March 2021. | DOI: 10.1097/TLD.0000000000000241



Narrative discourse (e.g., telling anecdotes or relating personal events) comprises a key part of social interaction and is commonly affected after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Research over the past decades has enabled improved characterization of discourse impairment after TBI, but a critical lack of research into discourse intervention approaches remains.


This systematic review examined empirical research on narrative discourse intervention after TBI. Searches were conducted on EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and PubMed for original research on spoken narrative discourse treatment, where at least 50% of the study participants were adults with TBI.


Of 519 screened articles, six studies met criteria: three single case studies and three case series studies. Interventions incorporated metacognitive and metalinguistic theoretic principles, with a focus on understanding the structure and elements of narratives. Active components of treatments are discussed and compared in relation to existing narrative discourse treatment programs for other neurological communication disorders.


Although all studies reported gains on some measures for treated narratives following intervention, there were mixed results for effect generalization and/or maintenance. The INCOG guidelines recommend that interventions after TBI should be contextualized and involve personally relevant materials, and this was not evident in the reviewed intervention approaches. Directions are suggested for clinical practice and future research in treating narratives.

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