To evaluate the current evidence on communication partner training and its effectiveness on outcomes for people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or their communication partners.
Information sources: Systematic searches of 9 databases (AMED, CINAHL, EMBASE, Medline/EBSCOHOST, PsycINFO, PsycBITE, PsycARTICLES, PubMed, and Scopus) from database inception to February 2019. Eligibility criteria: Empirical studies on interventions for adult communication partners where the primary focus of the program (>50%) was on improving communication skills of people with TBI and/or communication partners. Data: Participants, characteristics of the training, outcome measures, and findings. Risk of bias: Standard checklists were used for methodological quality (PEDro, ROBiN-T) and intervention description (TIDieR). Synthesis: Narrative synthesis and effect sizes (Cohen's d) for group-level studies.
Ten articles (describing 8 studies) met eligibility criteria: 3 randomized controlled trials, 2 nonrandomized controlled trials, and 3 single-case experimental designs. Studies included a total of 258 people with TBI and 328 communication partners; however, all but one study had fewer than 65 participants. Methodological quality varied and intervention description was poor. Three studies in the final synthesis (n = 41 communication partners, n = 36 people with TBI) reported positive intervention effects. Effect sizes in group studies were d = 0.80 to 1.13 for TBI and d = 1.16 to 2.09 for communication partners.
The articles provided encouraging, though limited, evidence for training communication partners. Greater methodological rigor, more clearly described interventions, and consistent use of outcome measures and follow-up after treatment are needed. Further research on this topic is warranted.