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A feasibility study of peer befriending for people following brain injury with cognitive-communication disorders


1st supervisor: Prof Katerina Hilari

2nd supervisor: Prof Alan Simpson

3rd supervisor: Dr Nicholas Behn

Research centre

Language and Communication Science

Project description

Cognitive-communication disorders (CCDs) are common in over 75% of people who sustain a brain injury.  These disorders can have a significant effect on a person’s return to work, school, family, community and social participation.  A potentially useful intervention which may help to address some of the issues that arise from cognitive-communication disorders is peer befriending. Peer befriending is social and emotional support provided by people with experience of a condition to others sharing a similar condition.  A recent systematic review found that there is limited high-quality evidence for the effectiveness of peer befriending.  Setting individualised communication goals has often been recommended for the remediation of CCDs following brain injury.  Setting such goals within the context of a peer befriending intervention may prove promising.

The proposed PhD: This study will involve a feasibility trial of peer befriending with individualised communication goal setting for people with brain injury. This study will build on a peer befriending trial already underway at City for people with aphasia post stroke.  Phase 1 of the study will involve a systematic review of peer support interventions in brain injury, adapting an intervention manual for people with brain injury, and developing processes for setting goals, in collaboration with expert clinicians.  Phase 2 will run a feasibility randomised controlled trial (N~30), comparing a peer befriending intervention with a control group.  For ethical reasons, at the end of the project, those in the control group will be offered the intervention. Feasibility outcomes will explore recruitment, willingness to be randomised, compliance with and acceptability of the treatment and of the outcome measures.  This study would aim to improve social participation and wellbeing outcomes, and goal attainment of individualised communication goals. It will lay the foundation for applying for funding for a larger trial at the NIHR.

Supervisory Team: The named team represents expertise in feasibility RCTs, peer befriending, and cognitive-communication disorders after brain injury. The candidate will be able to draw on the wider LCS team involved in the peer befriending trial for people with aphasia post-stroke. Professor Togher (Honorary Professor at City) will also be consulted. No Speech and Language Therapy Department within a UK university has a strong research profile for CCDs so this application aims to establish this profile at City over a few years.

Potential for a field of strong candidates: LCS has a strong track record of recruiting excellent PhD candidates, including PhD students who have undertaken work in the area of CCDs (Behn). This proposal may be of interest to SLT clinicians in the field considering a PhD, recent SLT graduates or students completing related MScs.

If you would like to have an informal discussion please contact K.Hilari@city.ac.uk.