SEED PROJECT - Supporting Friendships and Social Connections for People with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and Acquired Brain Injury (ABI): Real Strategies for Sustainable Change.

About the Project

About the Project

Chief Investigator: Associate Professor Melissa Kendall

Project Title: Supporting Friendships and Social Connections for People with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and Acquired Brain Injury (ABI): Real Strategies for Sustainable Change 

Project TeamClare Morgan, Shannon Gellatly, Dr Emily Bray, Ronelle Hewetson, Dr Delena Amsters, Kate Martin, Suzanne Wright, Sharon Mortensen, Sally Wooler, Prof. Tamara Ownsworth and Sherridan Pratley.


Friendships are a basic human right and a significant part of peoples’ lives. Social connections are integral to social and community participation as well as identity reconstruction following spinal cord injury (SCI) and for psychological well-being and identity after acquired brain injury (ABI). Yet, social connections may be compromised following injury through a loss of old friends and the challenge of making new friends. Friendships have not been addressed broadly in rehabilitation practice and evidence-informed rehabilitation interventions have been limited or focused primarily on peer support.

Grounded theory studies in both SCI and ABI have identified the role of both injury-related and social environmental factors in friendships. Further, the importance of understanding temporal processes of maintaining and rebuilding friendships have been highlighted, suggesting interventions consider the entire rehabilitation continuum. Further work is needed to develop rehabilitation approaches to facilitating friendship and social connection across the continuum and improve social participation and psychological outcomes after injury.

Project Summary:

This project aims to maintain and build friendships and social connections throughout rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury (SCI) and acquired brain injury (ABI). Previous research suggests that friendships are challenged early following injury and often lost over time. Friendships have received little attention within the rehabilitation setting, yet service users and healthcare professionals alike recognise their importance for improving quality of life following injury. This study will occur in 3 phases. 

Phase 1

Researchers will use focus groups and interviews to identify factors that enable and challenge friendships as perceived by clinicians, people with SCI/ABI, friends, and families.


Project Flyer

Click here to view the project flyer for Phase 1.

Phase 1 update

Phase 1 focus groups and interviews are complete.

  • A total of 50 participants (n=50) were involved in this phase of the research.
  • Analysis for this phase is continuing.


Phase 2

The information will be used to conduct an e-Delphi survey with all stakeholders to identify feasible and sustainable strategies that support friendships and social connections across inpatient and community rehabilitation.


Phase 2 update

  • The research team have submitted ethics approval (HREC) to Metro South Health for Phase 2
  • The research team have submitted SSA for Phase 2.
  • Data collection for this phase is scheduled to occur in April, 2024


Phase 3

Working alongside rehabilitation practitioners and researchers, lived experience experts and service users will offer the opportunity to provide direct input into feasible and sustainable strategies to support friendships and social connections across the continuum of care from inpatient to community rehabilitation settings.  This phase will include small trials of strategies with:

  • 1 x person with SCI and
  • 1 x person with ABI. 


Expected outcomes will assist to improve rehabilitation services in supporting individuals to maintain and build friendships and social connections. The research will also be used to inform a larger project exploring these strategies in a wider group of people with SCI & ABI.


We look forward to sharing more about this research and how it progresses research objectives and agenda in The Hopkins Centre Evidence-Based Practice and Community Supports Program.

This is a joint initiative of the Department of Rehabilitation, Metro South Health and Griffith University.

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