The meaning of aphasia centres from the perspectives of people with aphasia and their relatives: understanding participation in the Dutch context

Susan Woelders*, Wieke van der Borg, Karen Schipper, Tineke Abma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Aphasia can have major consequences for participation. In line with other initiatives around the world, in the Netherlands aphasia centres provide support to people with aphasia and their relatives in the chronic phase to bridge the gap between therapy, rehabilitation, and participation in daily life. Although there is greater focus on participation in health care, the concept of participation is complex and not well-defined. Aims: The purpose of this paper is to understand the value and meaning of the aphasia centres in the Dutch context. We focus on the emic perspectives of people with aphasia and their relatives: how do aphasia centres contribute to building up a meaningful life with aphasia in the chronic phase and how do the centres support them to participate? Hence, this study also contributes to the understanding of the concept of participation and its meaning. Methods and procedures: This qualitative study used a naturalistic case study design in order to get an rich and multi-layered understanding of the context of aphasia centres. Within this context we focused on the experiences and perspectives of people with aphasia and their relatives. To secure involvement of people with aphasia themselves, research methods were attuned to their abilities to participate, and included participant observations, interviews, focus group meetings, and creative methods. Outcomes and results: Aphasia centres help people with aphasia to overcome isolation. They bring new goals and perspectives and help people find new meaning in life. They are experienced as a safe place to learn, overcome shame, and build self-confidence. Working in groups is a valuable element, providing a mutual sense of belonging. Also, people experience they can have a meaningful contribution by helping others. Relatives underscore these values and also feel supported in building up their life with their partner. Conclusions: Aphasia centres are a first step to overcome isolation and bear a first step towards participation in itself. They contribute to overcome barriers to relate to others by building self-confidence and overcome shame. This is a big step stone towards participation in the context outside the centre. From the perspectives of clients and relatives, participation is linked to the concept of being and belonging. At the same time, clients feel it is hard to meet societal norms of participation, framed as paid work, independency and self-reliance. This makes it harder to overcome shame. In this societal context, aphasia centres become even more relevant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

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