An Interview with Craig J. Phillips MRC, BA: Second Chance to Live

Oct 31, 2013 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –


1) Craig- first of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your life and the challenges that you have faced?


My name is Craig and I am 56 years old. I grew up in New Jersey; however I have lived in Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Florida and now in North Carolina. I am a traumatic brain injury survivor and a master’s level certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC). My traumatic brain injury occurred in 1967 when I was ten years old. I sustained an open skull fracture. I then remained in a coma for three weeks with right frontal lobe damage and a severe brain bruise which involved the brain stem.


In follow up to my open skull fracture, two EEG’s were done, as well as, cognitive/ psychosocial testing. The results were shared with my parents, but not with me. I taught myself how to walk, talk, read, write and speak in complete sentences with hard work, determination, encouragement and most of all, the grace of God. I was tutored at home in the fifth grade and mainstreamed back into elementary school in the sixth grade.


I graduated on time with my high school class in 1975. Once my external wounds healed, the impact of my traumatic brain injury and invisible disability was never again factored into the difficulties that I experienced during the next 39 years of my life socially, and vocationally.


Educational Pieces


I attended the following Universities and Colleges: The University of Arizona, Pima Community College, Oral Roberts University, Asbury Theological Seminary and the University of Kentucky.


These are some of difficulties I came up against during my educational pursuits:


I was asked to withdraw from the Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program at the community college because I had difficulty following instructions. While at Oral Roberts University, my parents were asked to meet with the department chair do discuss possibly being put on probation. In my first year at Asbury Theological Seminar, I worked as a student chaplain and I received a poor evaluation from my supervisor. I was not allowed to return for the second year at the seminary.


While attending the University of Kentucky master’s program in rehabilitation counseling, I failed my first practicum. I also received a poor evaluation at the end of my internship. Consequently, the director of the graduate program in rehabilitation told me that he did not know if he would allow me to graduate. He told me that I could come to the per-graduation coffee and he would let me know of his decision, an hour before graduation. At the coffee the director told me that he would allow me to graduate. I obtained my Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling in December of 1990.


I sat for and passed my Certification exam and obtained my certification as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC).


It took me ten years to obtain my undergraduate degree.


It took three and a half years to obtain my graduate degree.


Work Life Pieces


I had a long history of getting and losing jobs over a 25 + year period in both non-professional and professional jobs


Because of my ongoing difficulties in maintaining employment, I decided to apply for SSDI through the Social Security Administration. In Florida, I submitted applications 2 different time. I was denied both times because I made more than $500 a month.


My Own Brain Injury Awareness Pieces


On the day of graduation from the University of Kentucky, I called my Mom to tell her that I would be allowed to graduate from the graduate program. My Mom told me some of the results from the testing done in1968. The EEG’s and battery of psychosocial testing showed that I was not expected to succeed beyond high school academically.


While working for the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) in Florida, I was made a client while also working as a counselor. I underwent an EEG and a Neuropsychological examination. The results from the neuropsych exam showed that I was succeeding far beyond all reasonable expectations. I shared the results with my family. My Dad told me, “The Doctor does not know what he was talking about.” I tended to agree, as I how could someone who sustained a severe brain injury obtain a master’s degree. Consequently, I stayed in denial and confused and frustrated.


My involvement with the DVR in Florida did not result in a permanent job placement. After several more job firings, I was recruited to North Carolina to fill a position as a CRC in workers compensation. I was fired four months later. After an unsuccessful job search, I reapplied for SSDI for the third time. I also was evaluated at the DVR in Charlotte. I went through the evaluation and testing process and was subsequently deemed to be unemployable.


Soon thereafter, my third application was approved for SSDI by the Social Security Administration.


2) What is this “Second Chance to Live all about?

Second Chance to Live Pieces


For many years, I felt like someone all dressed up with nowhere to go. I wrote poems, articles – got a computer – wrote an autobiography, and a book. Then at the encouragement of a friend, I started Second Chance to Live on February 6, 2007.


I created Second Chance to Live to share what I discovered through my process of living with a traumatic brain injury and an invisible disability for the past 46 years. I have since written 1140 articles and created 175 video presentations that I have uploaded to You Tube for people who learn better through watching and listening. I believe in the power of identification. Everything that I share on Second Chance to Live is shared from my experience, strength and hope.


My articles from Second Chance to Live have been published in professional journals in the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom and throughout Australia. Second Chance to Live is being used as resource by many organizations and websites both nationally and internationally.


I have also created a tool to translate Second Chance to Live into languages other than English. I call this tool Easy Translator into Your Language. Here are languages represented:


Albanian Arabic Bulgarian Catalan Chinese Simplified Chinese Traditional Croatian Czech Danish Dutch Estonian Filipino Finnish French Galician German Greek Hebrew Hindi Hungarian Indonesian Italian Japanese Korean Latvian Lithuanian Maltese Norwegian Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Serbian Slovak Slovenian Spanish Swedish Thai Turkish Ukrainian Vietnamese


Here is a link to my tool:


Easy Translator into Your Language


To see a list of these publications, please visit my website at:

Publication and Honors Page


To see a list of the organizations and websites using Second Chance to Live as a Resource, please visit my website at:

Several Organizations – Past and Present — Using Second Chance to Live as a Resource


To read some of the endorsements and testimonials written for Second Chance to Live, please click on the following link:


Testimonials / Endorsements


3) You recently did a key note presentation at a major conference- tell us about it!


Yes. I was honored to be asked by Dr. Anthony Cahill to give a keynote presentation at the Southwest Conference on Disability 2013. I spoke for 30 minutes on October 9th and shared from my presentation entitled: Making Sense of Life after Brain Injury – One Piece at a Time.


During our brief time together I discussed a little from each piece of my experiences which I briefly articulated in the aforementioned question/answers. I also wrote an article before the conference to share the details which you can read by clicking on this link – More Detail


During my keynote presentation, I shared from each of these pieces to encourage those in attendance to not give up on their process, a loving God or themselves, as more will be revealed in time. The pieces of the puzzle of our experiences will come together at the right time, and in the right order. Do not give up on hope.


4) What were the lessons that you tried to communicate or convey to the audience?


Some of the lessons I learned through my process are as follows:


In my experience, the pain of not accepting my reality had to exceed my need to deny my reality before I could begin healing.


I needed to grieve my reality so that I could begin to accept myself as an individual living with a brain injury and an invisible disability. I needed to realize that I am not my brain injury or my invisible disability. I needed to stop fighting against myself because of what I could not do because of my traumatic brain injury and invisible disability.


I discovered through lots of trial and error that I was meant to use my gifts, talents and abilities in ways that would work for me. I discovered that I did not have to limit myself based on societal stigmatization or stereotyping.


Through my process, I began to realize that I am not my traumatic brain injury or my invisible disability. Each piece of my experience was necessary to guide me, including the disappointments, discouragement and disillusionment. What I thought was meant for my harm, I came to realize was meant for my good.


I believe a traumatic brain injury or any disability/adversity is merely a switch on the railroad of life that points us in a direction that we would not have otherwise gone.


The pieces of our experience are leading us to our destiny. Our circumstances are not meant to keep us down, but to build us up. Our job is to find ways to use our gifts, talents and abilities in ways that work for us. One need’s to do the foot work and trust the process. More will be revealed to us in time.


In my experience, I have discovered that I needed to be healed in my mind, body and spirit apart from the impact of the traumatic brain injury that I experienced when I was ten years old. Throughout Second Chance to Live, I share my healing process.


During the keynote presentation, I also shared with the audience a brief video presentation to illustrate what I have learned through pursuing neuroplasticity. I have trained in various martial art disciplines to help to develop skills and abilities that I never dreamed that I could execute. I have been training in martial arts fairly consistently for the past 15 -16 years. It has been a slow and arduous process, but I am glad I stuck with the process.


I have been training and drilling on my own for the past three to four years at the YMCA. Let me explain some specifics regarding my Martial Arts Pieces:


Martial arts have been one of the ways that has been used to bring about healing in my mind, body and spirit. Several lessons that I learned through my training in the Martial Arts has actually changed the way in which I see life. First, the process or journey is more important than the destination – ranking or belt color. Second, my Sensei told me, “What I do is give you ingredients, what you do is put those ingredients together and in the process bake your own specific cake, and thus become a better martial artist.” As a result, I learned that it is OK to be my own individual.


I believe all learning involves a process and there is no such thing as failure. The principle of process not destination helps me to learn through each ingredient that my circumstances, lessons, experiences and opportunities provides. Each circumstance, lesson, experience and opportunity provides a growth opportunity. I have found that experiencing life is about gathering and combining ingredients.


My martial arts training has also helped to develop skills and abilities that empower me to gather and combine ingredients on other fronts of my life. Consequently, my training in the martial arts has given me the ability to accomplish things physically, mentally and emotionally that I never dreamed possible. Additionally, my training and drilling in the martial arts have helped me to develop self-confidence, self-esteem and self-value as an individual.


I train in different disciplines: muay Thai kickboxing, components of western boxing, wing chun, kali and modern arnis.


These disciplines have helped to improve my motor and fine motor skills. I wrote an article for Second Chance to Live to introduce the video presentation that I showed during my keynote presentation. To read the article, please click on the following link:

Brain Injury, Neuroplasticity, Healing and Martial Art Disciplines


Please let me share a short video with you that a friend helped me to create. In the video presentation you will see me training in different motor skills.


To watch the video presentation please click on the following link:


5) Craig- some people endure physical challenges, some endure psychological challenges. How can these individuals be helped?


That is a great question. I believe that each of us is on our own journey. I believe that I do not have the big picture. I believe that I get to live life one day at a time. I believe that more will be revealed in time. I believe that the pieces of the puzzle will fit together at the right time and in the right order.

I do not have a crystal ball, but I have come to realize through my process and my journey that what I thought was meant for my harm – when nothing seemed to make sense as shared in my pieces – was in actuality meant for my good. I was being set up, not set back.


My encouragement to individuals with various physical, mental, emotional, psychological, cognitive or any other condition / situation / circumstance or adversity is TO NOT GIVE UP. More will be revealed in time. This too is a process. I have discovered through my process that I can trust the process, a loving God and myself. I do the footwork – as I feel led – and then trust the outcomes and timing to a loving God – who alone has the BIG picture.


I believe in the power of identification. To read more about my understanding, please read my 2 part article entitled Living with Adversity and The Power of Identification. Here are the links to the 2 parts of the article Mike.

Living with Adversity and The Power of Identification Part 1

Living with Adversity and the Power of Identification Part 2


6) Do you have a web site? And what would one find there?


Yes as I shared previously it is entitled Second Chance to Live.


Specifically, I have 2 different Site Maps on Second Chance to Live. One Site Map for my articles and one Site Map for my Video presentations uploaded to You Tube. Below are the links to those 2 Site Maps. I share on a wide variety of topics – in a holistic manner — through my articles and video presentations, as I believe healing needs to occur on a body, soul and spirit level. The message that I share is universal and is for anyone facing trauma, abuse or adversity.


Here are links to my Site Maps Mike.

Site Map for my Articles

Site Map for My You Tube Video Presentations


For your information, each Site Map has a list of the article titles and a list of video presentations. By clicking on the title of the article in my Site, the article will open on Second Chance to Live. By clicking on the video presentation title in my Site Map for my Video Presentations the video presentation will open on my You Tube channel.

My articles and video presentations can be used in support groups to generate discussion. My only requirement – if the articles are copied and passed out to participants – is that my Resource Box is included at the bottom of each article that is handed out. Here is a copy of my Resource Box:


Resource Box


Craig J. Phillips MRC, BA is the creator and author of Second Chance to Live. Second Chance to Live presents topics to encourage, motivate, empower and provide hope to the reader to live life on life’s terms. Our circumstances are not meant to keep us down, but they are meant to build us up! Please visit Mr. Phillips’ web address at For an in-depth view of his process, please read his About Page. All material presented on Second Chance to Live is copyright and cannot be, copied, reproduced, or distributed in any way without the express, written consent of Craig J. Phillips, MRC, BA Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND


7) Craig- some are born with challenges and some are involved in events (such as a car crash) that result in major challenges. What do you see as the differences between the two?


Life is interesting. Many things are out of our control; however in my experience as a master’s level rehabilitation counselor and through my personal experience, I believe events occur to teach us lessons that we would not otherwise be able to learn. I believe that any event that occurred or occurs in our lives is merely a switch on the railroad of life. The event or switch, points us off into a direction that we may not otherwise travel.


I believe that regardless of how our bodies, minds or environments may change I believe our passions do not change. The way in which we may use our passions may change, but our gifts; talents and abilities do not change. As in my experience, I discovered that I could not do some things, but I am learning how to use my gifts, talents and abilities in ways that work for me. With that being said, I would encourage anyone facing challenges to not give up. Learn how to grow where you are planted.


Learn how to use your passions – through your gifts, talents and abilities –in ways that work for you. They will lead you in the direction of your destiny, one ingredient and one piece at a time. I wrote an article in 2007, in which I share this thinking. Here is the link to the article

  1. Following your bliss…regardless


8) What have I neglected to ask?


In April 2013, I presented at a workshop in Anchorage, Alaska with the Alaskan Peer Support Consortium Alaska Peer Partnership Conference and then in May 2013 in a workshop at conference, Embracing Life and Living Well after Traumatic Brain Injury Conference in Seattle, Washington with the University of Washington


I believe that the message that I share with in Second Chance to Liveis universal – one of hope. I believe the information and message that I share can benefit anyone – regardless of the type of adversity that they may be experiencing in their lives.


What I seek to share is hope in the face of any adversity – regardless of the cause and effect of that adversity. I have learned what I have as a result of living with a traumatic brain injury and an invisible disability for the past 46 years. I believe what I have learned can be applied universally.


I look forward to being of service through Second Chance to Live. Please let me know how I may be of service to you. Here is my email address:

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