Date: Monday, October 22, 2018
Session Type: ARHP Concurrent Abstract Session
Session Time: 4:30PM-6:00PM
Background/Purpose: Studies have demonstrated the value of peer volunteers providing psychosocial support to people living with rheumatic & other chronic conditions. An evaluation was conducted with counselors of a national toll-free phone peer counseling service to assess how their role as helpers affects their psychosocial coping with SLE. Ongoing since 1988, this service provides emotional support for people with SLE & their loved ones. The program has been presented at prior ACR/ARHP, including program users’ satisfaction & the impact of a revised curriculum on counselors.
Methods: A 43-item survey with Likert scale & open-ended questions was administered to 11 active peer counselors. The survey captured demographics, satisfaction with their role & examined SLE coping & actions taken since becoming a peer counselor. Surveys were completed electronically.
Results: All (100%) peer counselors completed the survey, with a reach of 44 callers matched from 2017-2018. All respondents were female, 50% identified as White, 30% Black/African-American, 20% Hispanic & 30% other race. Counselors’ ages ranged from 30-79, with 30% ages 60-69. Half (50%) were either employed full time/part time, 40% retired & 10% unemployed/receiving disability. Almost half (40%) were single, 91% have SLE & have been a counselor for an average of 12 years.
When asked about satisfaction in their role, 91% indicated being very satisfied. Top reasons for becoming a counselor included an opportunity to help others affected by SLE (100%) & enhancing personal growth/ development (73%). When asked their reasons for continuing as a counselor, 82% identified to meet others impacted by SLE & 73% identified for the support of program staff.
In relation to coping, 64% indicated that they have coped better with SLE since becoming a counselor. Most (73%) reported that they had a better understanding of SLE since becoming a counselor, with 38% very much attributing this to the program. Almost half (46%) reported feeling less depressed since becoming a peer counselor with 60% very much & 40% somewhat crediting their role for this change. Counselors also reported feeling less alone (73%) with 43% very much attributing this to their peer role.
When asked what they find most useful from monthly training seminars, 89% identified group discussion & 78% indicated educational games. When asked if monthly seminars help them to better cope with SLE, 78% agreed & 89% of counselors reported that seminars provide a space for them to reflect on their SLE. Counselors shared the most rewarding part of their role is “educational information that helps me understand SLE better” & “the opportunity to be outside of my own illness & connect with others.”
Conclusion: Despite limitations due to a small sample size, results reinforce the two-way flow of psychosocial support received by counselors through their support of callers, ongoing connections with peers & program staff via monthly seminars. Similar to program callers, the counselor role positively impacts volunteers’ ability to better cope with SLE & reduces isolation. Findings also highlight the continued relevance of a phone support service to people with SLE and opportunities for further research on volunteer impact of peer-staffed programs.
To cite this abstract in AMA style:Toral P, Flores MT, Horton R, Rose J. The Effect and Psychosocial Impact of a Longstanding Telephone Peer Counseling Service on Volunteers with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus [abstract]. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2018; 70 (suppl 10). https://acrabstracts.org/abstract/the-effect-and-psychosocial-impact-of-a-longstanding-telephone-peer-counseling-service-on-volunteers-with-systemic-lupus-erythematosus/. Accessed August 23, 2019.
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