Friday, March 18, 2011

Mental Health Specialists Interview Series: Dr. Dane Ver Merris, Rehabilitation Psychology


Dane Ver Merris, Ed.D. is a psychologist with many specializations. Currently he is working for the Traumatic Brain Injury Program of Hope Network Rehabilitation Services as a rehabilitation psychologist. He also is an adjunct facility member at Western Michigan University and Calvin College, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses. He has had years of both inpatient and outpatient clinical experience and currently chairs the State of Michigan Board of Psychology.

Kerry: Dr. Ver Merris, briefly tell me about your specialty.

Dr. Ver Merris:
Rehabilitation psychology is an area of treatment that helps people adapt to the effects of severe—often catastrophic—injury or illness, such as brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury, or loss of limb. The person’s impairments might be physical, cognitive, emotional, or sensory. Because the impairments are usually permanent, this kind of treatment often involves aiding people to rebuild their lives with these persisting disabilities.

Kerry: When does a person need rehabilitation?

Dr. Ver Merris:
Individuals generally need this kind of clinical intervention after a severe injury or illness. Some injuries, for example, are sustained from a motor vehicle crash, workplace accident, military combat, athletic injury, or assault. Other causes of impairment might include cerebral vascular accident (stroke), anoxia after a heart attack, drowning, or drug overdose, tumors, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, or vision or hearing loss. Usually some type of catastrophic event has occurred which has resulted in a person suffering from severe psychological or physical losses.

Kerry: What is involved with this kind of treatment?

Dr. Ver Merris:
After a disabling injury or illness, people sometimes need help in accepting the reality of living with persisting impairments. The treatment focuses on helping each person accept a new definition of himself or herself as an individual with impairment. Rehabilitation psychologists help individuals learn to maximize their functioning and lifestyle despite this drastic loss or change. Psychologists offer testing (for example, of mood or cognitive function after a brain injury), psychotherapy, compensatory strategies, behavior analysis, pain management, education, and support.

Kerry: Are other types of specialists a part of the treatment process?

Dr. Ver Merris:
Yes, a team of specialists are often involved in the injured person’s recovery process. The specialists might include physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physiatrists, psychiatrists, social workers, recreational therapists, and vocational rehabilitation specialists.

Kerry: Is this care covered by insurance?

Dr. Ver Merris:
Generally, yes. It may be auto insurance, worker’s compensation insurance, or health insurance, depending on the source of the disability.

Kerry: Do rehabilitation psychologists have any kind of special kind of training or experience to be qualified to provide this type of care?

Dr. Ver Merris:
There are graduate study programs that have a specialization in rehabilitation psychology. There is also additional clinical training, such as conferences that keep clinicians current in the latest treatments. Some psychologists are “board certified” through the American Board of Rehabilitation Psychology.

Kerry: If someone would like to seek this kind of treatment and they don’t live in the greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area, how do they go about finding a specialist in their area?

Dr. Ver Merris:
Most metropolitan areas have rehabilitation psychologists who work in rehabilitation facilities or private practice. APA Division 22, Rehabilitation Psychology would be another source of information.

Thank you, Dr. Ver Merris, for informing us about this important clinical work.

If you would like to contact Dr. Ver Merris, he can be reached at the following address:

Dane Ver Merris, Ed.D.
Hope Network Rehabilitation Services
1490 East Beltline SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

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