Campus Directory

University of South Florida · College of Behavioral & Community Sciences · Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling

Dillahunt-Aspillaga, Tina J., Ph.D., CRC, CVE, CLCP

Dillahunt-Aspillaga, Tina J., Ph.D., CRC, CVE, CLCP

The rehabilitation process following a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is unique to each person’s circumstances requiring individualized approaches to treatment and interventions. In addition to motor or sensory deficits, individuals may experience cognitive, emotional, and personality changes that can affect their ability to return to work or engage in other social activities.  Sustaining a TBI also may result in familial strain, as the roles and functions of individuals and their families change as they address the physical, financial, and psychosocial changes which result from such injuries.  Hence, rehabilitation after TBI is often a complex process for individuals, families, and caregivers.  For Dr. Dillahunt-Aspillaga the rehabilitation and community reintegration of civilians, service members, and veterans with TBI is the focal area of her research.

Previously the Director of Family Programs & Services for the Brain Injury Association of Florida, Dr. Christina Dillahunt-Aspillaga focuses on the reintegration of veterans with TBI into their communities, improving patient and caregiver quality of life.  Dr. Dillahunt-Aspillaga carries a number of specialty certifications to work effectively with individuals with TBI and their families/caregivers.  Certified as a Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC), a Vocational Evaluator (CVE), a Life Care Planner (CLCP), and as a Brain Injury Specialist Trainer (CBIST), she is knowledgeable about the immediate, as well as short and long-term, needs of persons with TBI and their families/caregivers.

Her study, published in PLoS One, examined the use of the empirically supported Stress Process Model of Caregiving to assess caregiver needs to cope with stressors during and post-rehabilitation. Dr. Dillahunt-Aspillaga and colleagues found a link between challenging survivor injuries, the amount of time spent caregiving and increased caregiver emotional and physical distress.  In addition, findings in this study also identified changes in survivor and caregiver characteristics which occurred during specific stages of caregiving.  This study illuminates the importance of caregiver knowledge and understanding of available benefits and services that can assist with long-term physical, emotional, financial, social, and informational support needs.

Return-to-work for persons with TBI is complex and challenging for individuals and the vocational rehabilitation professionals who facilitate reintegration. By examining current vocational evaluation practices in the State of Florida, Dr. Dillahunt-Aspillaga and colleagues sought to improve their understanding of the knowledge base of vocational evaluators and associated work-related outcomes for individuals with TBI. They found that rehabilitation providers varied in their understanding of TBI and use of tools, assessments, and techniques used during the vocational evaluation process.  Certified rehabilitation counselors (CRC’s) favored learning style preference assessments and the use of neuropsychological reports as standard tools in addition to qualitative interviews with the client, which differed significantly from non-certified vocational evaluators, who favored client interviews.  

Current Projects

  • Employment and Vocational Rehabilitation of Veterans with Deployment- Related Stress
  • Action Ethnography of Community Reintegration for Veterans with TBI
  • Measuring Quality of Life in Veterans with Deployment Related PTSD (DR-PTSD)
  • Community-Based Agricultural Initiatives for Transitioning Veterans

Recent Publications

Dillahunt-Aspillaga, C., Finch, D., Massengale, J., Kretzmer, T., Luther, S. L., & McCart, J. A. (2014). Using information from the electronic health record to improve measurement of unemployment in service members and veterans with mTBI and post-deployment stress. PLoS One, 9(12), e115873.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115873 ONLINE

Frain, J., Dillahunt-Aspillaga, C., Frain, M. & Ehlke, S. (2014). Family resiliency, family needs, and community re-integration in persons with brain injury. Rehabilitation Research, Policy, and Education, 28(2), 91-110. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/2168-6653.28.2.91

Dillahunt-Aspillaga, C., Agonis-Frain, J.A., Hanson, A., Frain, M., Sosinski, M., & Ehlke, S. (2014). Applying a resiliency model to community re -integration and needs in families with traumatic brain injury: Implications for rehabilitation counselors. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 45(1), 25-36.

Dillahunt-Aspillaga, C., Jorgensen-Smith, T., Ehlke, S., Sosinski, M., et al. (2013). Traumatic brain injury: Unmet support needs of caregivers and families in Florida.PLoS ONE, 8(12): e82896. doi:10.1371/journal.pone. 0082896. ONLINE

Reid, J. A., Haskell, R., Dillahunt-Aspillaga, C., & Thor, J. (2013). Contemporary review of the empirical and clinical studies of trauma bonding in violent or exploitative relationships.  International Journal of Psychology Research, 8(1), 37-73.

Book Chapters

Martinez, K., Mann, K., Dillahunt-Aspillaga, C., Jasiewicz, J., Rugs, D., Wilks, Y., & Scott, S. (in press). VA SmartHome for veterans with TBI: Implementation for community settings. Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) series. New York, NY: Springer.

Reid, J. A., Haskell, R., Dillahunt-Aspillaga, C., & Thor, J. (2013). Trauma bonding an interpersonal violence. In T. Van Leeuwen, & M. Brouwer (Eds.), Psychology of trauma (pp. 35-62). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Technical Reports

Bruce, T., Menchetti, B., & Dillahunt-Aspillaga, C. (2014). Project RESULTS: A tool kit for project leaders. Tallahassee, FL; West Orange, NJ: Brain Injury Association of Florida, Inc.; Kessler Foundation. ONLINE