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Improving Well-Being after TBI through Structured Volunteer Activity

PI(s): Lenore Hawley, LCSW, CBIST; Lisa Payne, PhD; and Don Gerber, PsyD
Funded by: National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research
Dates: 2012-2017
Contact: Clare Morey 303 789 8621

This purpose of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of a novel, replicable, structured intervention facilitating volunteer activity to improve psychological well-being in individuals with TBI.  Individuals who sustain TBI are often unable to return to meaningful productive activity due to the cognitive, emotional and social sequelae of the injury, and experience decreased well-being as measured by satisfaction with life and emotional distress.  Volunteer work has been shown to increase well-being in the general population, but there is little evidence of this effect in individuals with TBI.  Currently, only one percent of those requiring inpatient rehabilitation and not working post-TBI engage in volunteer activity.  The difficulties with executive function experienced by this population would suggest that some level of structure and support may be necessary for such individuals to volunteer effectively.  A pilot study was conducted indicating a positive effect on well-being in this population through engagement in structured volunteer activity.  This randomized controlled trial will further the investigation into this effect, and our goal is to provide a replicable community-based model to facilitate volunteer activity for individuals with TBI.