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Making Connections After Brain Injury: Development and Evaluation of a Social Peer-Mentoring Program for Persons With Traumatic Brain Injury

Struchen, Margaret A. PhD; Davis, Lynne Cole PhD; Bogaards, Jay A. MA; Hudler-Hull, Terri MS; Clark, Allison N. PhD; Mazzei, Diana M. MA; Sander, Angelle M. PhD; Caroselli, Jerome S. PhD

The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation: January/February 2011 - Volume 26 - Issue 1 - p 4–19
doi: 10.1097/HTR.0b013e3182048e98
Original Article

Objective: To describe the development and implementation of a social peer-mentoring program for persons with traumaticbrain injury (TBI) and to explore whether this program yielded increased social functioning outcomes compared with wait-list (WL)controls.

Design: Pilot randomized controlled study.

Participants: Community-dwelling individuals with TBI(12 matched with social peer mentors and 18 completing the WL condition).

Intervention: Trained social peer mentors (SPMs)were matched to partners with TBI (peer partners (PP)) to foster skill-building in planning of social activities and improvingsocial communication abilities through phone contacts and joint participation in social events within the community over a 3-monthperiod.

Measures: Social Activity Interview, Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, UCLA Loneliness Scale, Satisfaction with Life Scale, 6-Item Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (baseline and postmentoring); weekly social activity data(1-month baseline, continuously collected during 3-month mentoring or WL period); satisfaction survey.

Results: Both SPMand PP participants reported high satisfaction with the mentoring program. Statistically significant improvements in perceived socialsupport after mentoring were observed for the mentored group than for WL participants; however, an increase in depressive symptoms wasalso observed. While significant improvements in social activity level and social network size were not found, a trend toward increasedsatisfaction with social life was present for mentored participants.

Conclusions: Satisfaction ratings for the SPM programwere uniformly high and selected positive findings encourage further investigation of social mentoring as an intervention to effectimprovements in social integration. Small sample size and reduced “dosage” of mentor interactions were limitations of thispilot study. Benefits of and challenges to implementation of an SPM program are outlined.

Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Baylor College of Medicine (Drs Struchen, Davis, Clark, Sander, and Caroselli and Ms Hudler-Hull); Brain Injury Research Center (Drs Struchen, Davis, Clark, and Sanderi, Mr Bogaards, and Mss Mazzei and Hudler-Hull); Dept. of Neuropsychology (Dr. Caroselli), TIRR Memorial Hermann; and Department of Physical and Rehabilitation, Quentin Mease Community Hospital, Harris County Hospital District (Drs Clark and Sander), Houston, Texas.

Corresponding Author: Margaret A. Struchen, PhD, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030 (

This work was supported by grants from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, US Department of Education (grant H133B031117, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Integration of Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury, and H133B090023, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Developing Strategies to Foster Community Integration and Participation for Individuals With Traumatic Brain Injury). The authors thank members of the Social Peer Mentor Working Committee for contributing to the development of measures, screening procedures, and training of peer mentors: DeLisa West, PhD, Niki Cannon, LaTricia Eckenrode, Patricia Backus, CCC-SLP, Shawn Jaffrey, CTRS, Melissa Gautreau, BS, and Lisa Keenan, PhD; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Houston for assistance with developing mentor screening procedures, Sunil Kothari, MD, for his inspiration in designing this project, and Jason Ferguson for assistance with peer mentor training.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.