A preliminary report on a skills-based telephone-administered peer support programme for patients with multiple sclerosis.

OBJECTIVE: Peer-support interventions have shown no statistically significant or clinically meaningful effect on quality of life (QOL) or depressive symptoms for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. Peer-support interventions for MS generally provide support but no skills training. The aim of this study was to evaluate a brief telephone-administered skills-training model of peer-support for patients with MS.

METHODS: Sixteen patients with MS showing signs of moderate distress received eight sessions of telephone-administered peer support (TAPS). TAPS is a manualized programme administered by peer-support counsellors diagnosed with MS. Using a workbook, peer-support counsellors teach skills to manage distress and MS symptoms. Subjective depression was assessed using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale while objective depression was rated using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. QOL was measured pre- and post-treatment using the SF-36. RESULTS: The participants showed significant improvements on both the CESD (p = 0.04) and the HRSD (p = 0.01). Overall QOL improved significantly (p = 0.045), however this was not reflected in either the Physical Health composite score or the Mental Health Composite Scale (p > 0.17).

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that TAPS may prove to be an efficacious peer-support model for patients with MS.