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Ask the Rock Doc: 
Sound Advice for a Song 
By psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, Ph.D., 
Aka Dr BLT 

* Details contained in the original correspondence, or inquiry have been omitted or otherwise altered to protect the confidentiality of the inquiring party and to make key spiritual/psychological points. 

Dear Dr BLT: 

My husband, Rafael, and I have been depending on his income to support us, and now that income is in jeopardy.  We are both believers, and so we are aware that we need to trust in our heavenly father to supply our needs.  But that’s hard to do when there is no sign of financial relief in sight. 

My husband was on his way to becoming one of the most respected rock guitarists in the world.  He used to open for other major acts, but he was recently headlining his own shows and his concerts were really beginning to bring in a tidy profit.  Then he was in an automobile accident in which he incurred a severe injury to his head.  Guitar was his passion, and it was our livelihood, so I am very worried that he will never play again.

After several months, the doctors finally decided to give him a battery of tests to determine the extent and nature of his brain damage.  The doctor handed me the results, but did a very poor job of explaining them to me.  I hope you can help.

On the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, his Verbal IQ was 95; with subtest scores ranging from 8-11.  His performance IQ was 59, with subtest scores ranging from 4-5. 

On the Halstead Aphasia Screening Test, his Verbal responses were average to above average, but his drawings were pretty bad.  They gave him an “inferiority” rating on his drawings.

In terms of the Visual Perception, he performed poorly on visual-motor tasks, and his imbedded figures were weak.  He also performed poorly on his nonverbal sound recognition, which has me even more worried about his ability to ever play music again, or even to be able to enjoy listening to it.  His phonetic discrimination was also poor, although his oral repetition of sentences was normal.

His “stereognosis,” whatever that is, was different for his right hand than it was for his left hand.  His right-hand stereognosis was nearly normal, but his left hand sterognosis was inferior. 

In terms of his finger localization (I’m assuming that means his ability to tell which finger was which) he had one error involving his right hand, and three involving his left.

The right hand error involved his middle finger.  I said, jokingly to the doctor that he never uses that finger anyway, because he has always been very even-tempered, has rarely cussed, and never resorts to flipping anybody off when they cut him off on the road.  I’m the one who usually borders on road rage.  He always calmed me down by reminding me that the Lord doesn’t want us to be governed by our instincts, but rather, wants us to always think, take a deep breath, and, calmly, reflect upon his word, before acting. 

His right-left orientation, as reflected on the results of the Halstead Aphasia Screening Test, were rated as “very poor,” with many reversals.  His Finger Tapping was slow on the right hand, and inferior on the left. 

I asked the doctor specific questions about how all of this translated into his ability to function on a daily basis, and the doctor just smiled in a sort of condescending way, told me to be patient, and added, “time will tell.”  I sort of blew up right then and there in his office, and my husband, who was already passive before the accident, just sat there with a blank expression on his face.  The doctor just responded by suggesting that I join 

“Pillow People” a support group for spouses of partners who have suffered head injuries. 

I suppose I’ll join the stupid group, but that’s not going to take away my worries about my husband, and our future together.  I’m 6 months pregnant, which doesn’t help matters much.  What kind of future will our baby girl have with a dad who’s been damaged in this way?  How could he do this to us.  I know the accident wasn’t his fault.  The other driver was drunk, and will probably end up doing time over this, but still, I keep wondering if there’s something he could have done to prevent this.  This sounds terrible, I thank God I wasn’t left a widow, and I really did love my husband, still do, but sometimes I wish he would have died instead of being left like this.  Please help.

Worried, but not Widowed 

Dear “Worried, but not Widowed:” 

Being worried, though it robs us of our peace of mind, is part of being human.  We, as human beings, have a hard time trusting that everything will be alright.

Moreover, after an intensely traumatic event such as this, an emotional storm is to be expected.  Some may doubt the strength of your faith, or your level of sensitivity and compassion towards your husband, but you are in the midst of a grieving period.  Though you did not lose your husband in terms of a death, you lost a big part of him, in terms of his loss of functioning.  Some of it may be permanent, and some of it may return, but either way, things will not be the same as they were, and this is experienced as a profound loss by you, and I’m sure by others who were close to him. 

Anger is a stage in the grieving process, and it comes through in some of your statements.  It is natural, but at some point it will be in your best interest to draw the sort of meaning out of the situation that will assuage your anger, and lead you to the point of acceptance of God’s will.  God’s will may be that your husband return to the level of functioning he once knew, perhaps even to surpass it.  Who am I to place limits on the miraculous power of the living God, when life itself is so full of miracles?  On the other hand, God’s will may be to take whatever level of functioning that remains in your husband, and use that to his glory, and towards shaping you into the person he wants you to be.

In terms of the results you’ve reported to me, your husband’s injury is severe, but I’m sure you didn’t need me to tell you that.

But I also see a silver lining in that black cloud of results you’ve passed on to me.  The fact that he actually scored within the low normal range in spatial inductive and deductive reasoning on the Halsead Category Test appears to me as a light at the end of this dark tunnel.  Furthermore, the fact that he was able to tackle common arithmetic problems within a low normal range and the fact that he also scored within the low average range in the Wechsler similarities category shows that there is reason for hope. 

It appears, based on such results, that rather large areas of healthy cortical tissue were spared.  Since musical ability is so highly dependent on ones ability to integrate, it is also a sign of hope that he scored within the above-average range on the Weschler Comprehension subtest.  This may indicate that he is still able to successfully engage himself in integrative mental functions. 

How much of your husband, as you knew him, will be restored, and how much of the damage will lead to some sort of permanent impairment remains to be seen.  I believe in miracles.  Miracles happen, and I wouldn’t automatically rule out the possibility of a miracle happening, not only in terms of restoring your husband back to his previous level of functioning, but also in terms of ultimately strengthening your faith, and causing your life to become spiritually richer.

To say more would be to go beyond the reach of my level of expertise.  I’m am not a neuropsychologist or a neurosurgeon.  But I do know, as a psychologist, and as a person of faith, that faith represents positive energy, and when positive energy fills a heart, and when it fills a room, miracles are much more likely to take place. 

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your husband as you get beyond this ostensibly devastating disruption in your lives.  May the “devastating disruption” be transformed to a welcome blessing in your lives.

I hope this song reminds you that God is there to meet you in the hour of your greatest need, that he feels your distress, and that he is there with you. The best place to hide is in his comfort:

Your Hiding Place
Practically Poetz
words and music by Dr BLT © 2000, 2010

*If you’re a musician in distress, or a family member or friend of one, contact me, Dr BLT at: drblt@drblt.net


Copyright © 1996 - 2010 The Phantom Tollbooth