Promoting psychological health in women with SCI: Development of an online self-esteem intervention

Susan Robinson-Whelen, Rosemary B. Hughes, Heather B. Taylor, Rachel Markley, José C. Vega, Thomas M. Nosek, Margaret A. Nosek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: There are no known interventions addressing self-esteem in women following spinal cord injury (SCI). Objectives: To test the feasibility of an online self-esteem intervention for women with disabilities, as modified for women with SCI. Method: We conducted a randomized, controlled feasibility test of a self-esteem intervention (N = 21). Participants were randomly assigned to the intervention or control group that received intervention materials at the end of the study. Intervention participants met as avatars for 7 weekly real-time group sessions in Second Life (SL), a free online virtual world. Feasibility indicators were study engagement, acceptability of SL and the intervention, and improvements on measures of psychological health promoting behaviors, social support, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and depression. Results: Intervention participants (n = 10) were highly engaged, and most described the SL program as more enjoyable and more convenient than in-person programs. All rated the intervention as “good” (n = 4) or “very good” (n = 6), and all 10 rated themselves has having made positive life changes as a result of the program. Intervention participants experienced significantly greater change than controls on two measures of health-promoting behavior (Health Promoting Lifestyle Profile-II Spiritual Growth/Self-actualization; Interpersonal Relations). Examining change in the intervention group using regression analyses, we found medium-to-large effects of the intervention on these behaviors and measures of depression (CESD-10, PHQ-9). The intervention had small effects on remaining measures. Conclusion: We found preliminary support for the feasibility of this modified self-esteem intervention offered in SL. Such programming may help circumvent barriers to community-based psychological services and may improve psychological health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100867
JournalDisability and Health Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2020


This project was funded by TIRR Memorial Hermann (Houston, Texas) . The intervention was implemented and data were collected in the fall of 2016 at TIRR Memorial Hermann.

FundersFunder number
TIRR Memorial Hermann


    • Psychosocial intervention
    • Self-esteem
    • Spinal cord injury
    • Virtual reality
    • Women


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