Funded by TIRR Memorial Hermann 2015

Susan Robinson-Whelen, Ph.D., Principal Investigator
Heather B. Taylor, Ph.D., Co-Investigator
Margaret A. Nosek, Ph.D., Co-Investigator

Collaborating Investigators:
Rosemary B. Hughes, Ph.D., Rural Institute, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana
Thomas M. Nosek, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University Medical School, Cleveland, Ohio

Research Assistants:
José Vega
Rachel Markley, MPH

Description of the Workshop

This seven session psycho-educational peer-led workshop is designed to assist women with spinal cord injury to improve their level of self-esteem and self-efficacy, and learn new skills for establishing satisfying relationships and expanding their network of social support. Topics covered include: 1) Introduction to Second Life and Skill Building, 2) Concept of Self-Esteem, 3) Connecting to Self, 4) Caring for Self, 5) Connections, 6) Communication, and 7) Planning. The curriculum, which has been adapted for delivery in the immersive virtual environment of Second Life, consists of a leader's manual, PowerPoint presentation, and exercise materials for each of the seven sessions. The design of each session includes instructional material, small group discussion guide, assignments for skill building and introspection about personal self-esteem, goal setting and action planning, group debriefing of assignments and progress on action plans, and a practice and learning "PAL" exercise. In the PAL exercises, participants are given an assignment to explore another location on our island or on another island in Second Life and participate in an activity there. These adventures often involve interacting with other people (avatars) at that location.

The Self-Esteem in Second Life for Women with SCI workshop is a groundbreaking and innovative program that will benefit women with SCI in many ways. It offers instruction, advice, and support in seriously neglected aspects of living with SCI for women -- low levels of self-esteem, low motivation, unsatisfactory or abusive relationships, social isolation, and secondary condition. It taps into the power of peer role modeling and peer support. It uses the state-of-the-art immersive virtual environment of Second Life to transcend barriers resulting from inaccessible environments, inhospitable weather, lack of transportation, lack of attendant care, and the debilitating effects of pain and fatigue that often prevent participation in face-to-face workshops. It offers women with SCI a new venue for expanding their social contacts and breaking the cycle of social isolation.