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Peer Support in the Community: Initial Findings of a Mentoring Program for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury and Their Families

Hibbard, Mary R. PhD*; Cantor, Joshua PhD*; Charatz, Heather BA*; Rosenthal, Robin PhD*; Ashman, Teresa PhD*; Gundersen, Nancy BA; Ireland-Knight, Lynne BA; Gordon, Wayne PhD*; Avner, Judith JD; Gartner, Audrey MA

Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation: April 2002 - Volume 17 - Issue 2 - p 112–131
Original Article

Objectives: To evaluate the impact of a community-based peer support program for individuals and their family members following traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Settings: Community-based sample of family members and individuals with traumatic brain injury.

Participants: Twenty individuals who had participated in the peer support program (11 individuals with TBI and 9 family members).

Main Outcome Measures: Quantitative and qualitative approaches were used: a retrospective structured interview assessing self-reported impacts of peer support on empowerment, quality of life, mood, skills and knowledge, and social supports; an in-depth qualitative interview with a subgroup of family members focused on the specific benefits/limitations of the peer support program.

Results: Participants in the peer support program reported positive impacts of peer support on increasing their knowledge of TBI, enhancing their overall quality of life, improving their general outlook, and enhancing their ability to cope with depression post TBI. The peer support program was reported to have had a minimal impact on enhancing social support from families, friends, and the community, with varying impacts noted on levels of happiness, coping with anger and anxiety, communication with professionals, and control over one's life. Qualitative analysis suggests the merits of this type of community-based support and areas of improvement for the peer support program itself.

Conclusions: Preliminary data suggest that peer support is a promising approach to enhancing coping for both individuals and their family members after TBI.

* Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York.

Brain Injury Association of New York State, Albany, New York.

National Self Help Clearing House, New York, New York.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Mary Hibbard, PhD, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Box 1240, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, One Gustave L. Levy Place, New York, NY 10029. Telephone: 212-659-9374. Fax: 212-348-5901. E-mail: mary.hibbard@mssm.edu.

The preparation of this article was supported by Grant #H133B30038 from the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research, US Department of Education, to the Mount Sinai Medical Center, Wayne Gordon, PhD, Project Director.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.