Exploring the Peer Mentorship Experiences of Adults With Spinal Cord Injury

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Abstract

Purpose/Objective: The purpose of this study was to understand the peer mentorship experiences of adults with spinal cord injury (SCI) through a self-determination theory (SDT) lens. Research Method/Design: Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 13 adults with SCI who received mentorship (i.e., mentees) from fellow adults with SCI (i.e., mentors) as part of an existing provincial peer mentorship program. There were two analyses conducted in this study. The first was deductive, which involved organizing relevant data as per the three basic psychological needs of self-determination theory (i.e., autonomy, competence, and relatedness). The second analysis was inductive and focused on the participants’ descriptions of their experiences. Results: For the SDT analysis, and concerning autonomy, mentees expressed they were able to make their own decisions and their mentors’ personalized their sessions. Specific to relatedness, the mentees discussed that their mentors cared and empathized with them, which helped them connect with their mentor. In terms of competence, mentees explained that their mentors provided verbal encouragement and helped them realize they were capable of successfully completing tasks. Some mentees also highlighted how the mentors did not listen to their needs, indicating need thwarting behaviors. For the inductive analysis, mentees expressed the importance of their SCI community organization, the impact of mentoring on their families, and the positive outcomes they associated with peer mentorship, such as participation in daily and social activities. Conclusion/Implications: The present findings extend our understanding of SCI peer mentorship from the perspective of the mentee and particularly from an SDT angle.

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