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Making Meaning in a Burn Peer Support Group: Qualitative Analysis of Attendee Interviews

Davis, Trevor PsyD*†; Gorgens, Kim PhD, ABRP*; Shriberg, Janet EdD*; Godleski, Matthew MD; Meyer, Laura PhD*

doi: 10.1097/BCR.0000000000000011
Original Articles

There is a paucity of literature on the personal experiences of burn support group members, the members’ perceived benefits of group participation, and the meaning the survivors make of the support they receive. In order to provide effective psychosocial rehabilitation services and to meet the needs of burn survivors, it is important to understand the influence a support group has on its members as well as the personal experiences of those individuals who attend these groups. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of burn survivors in a burn survivor support group. Six self-identified burn survivors were interviewed by using a guided in-depth interview technique to explore their experiences in the support group. Key informant interviews and group observations served to triangulate the findings from the individual interviews. The experiences of the group members coalesced around four main themes: acceptance of self, perspective change, value of community, and reciprocity. The findings demonstrated the overall perceived positive impact the support group had on psychosocial recovery. For these members, the group aided the process of adjustment through the encouragement of adaptive coping strategies and the facilitation of community and relationships. Their experiences mirrored much of the literature on psychological growth from adversity. Burn survivors reported unique opportunities that allowed them to integrate their injury into their identity within an encouraging and safe environment. Using these accounts, the authors generated clinical suggestions that may encourage similar growth in other support group settings.

From the *Graduate School of Professional Psychology, University of Denver, Colorado; Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle; and Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Colorado, Denver.

Address correspondence to Trevor Davis, PsyD, Harborview Medical Center, Box 359740, 325 9th Ave, Seattle, Washington 98104.

© 2014 The American Burn Association