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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding the experience of paraprofessional support in the Veterans Transition Network : what helped and hindered Lapsley, Sara E.


Paraprofessional support is a widely used intervention with military populations, although the mechanisms underlying its effectiveness are not fully understood. The Veterans Transition Network (VTN) offers group programming for military veterans experiencing challenges transitioning back to civilian life. Initial research has suggested it has beneficial outcomes for participants. Former participants of the VTN are trained as paraprofessionals and help deliver the program. The involvement of paraprofessionals is considered integral to the VTN, although little is known about how their role impacts the group participants. This study uses the Enhanced Critical Incident Technique (ECIT) method to understand how participants in the VTN experienced paraprofessional support and identify what helped and hindered this process. Eight graduates of the VTN were interviewed using an interview protocol that elicited helpful and hindering aspects of the paraprofessional role, and they were asked to suggest resources or process (i.e. Wish List items) that they might have liked to see in regards to the role of the paraprofessionals. Data analysis resulted in 19 categories, comprised of 182 Helpful, 37 Hindering, and 18 Wish List incidents. Helping categories highlighted the importance of shared experience and the role the paraprofessionals played in quickly building trust, supporting and coaching, and bridging differences between the clinicians and the group members. The paraprofessionals were integral to the group process in that they set norms for group behaviour, and modelled the group processes by going first in group activities. Hindering incidents related to lack of training, the perception that paraprofessionals were caught between the clinicians and the group members, issues of rank, and social distance between paraprofessionals and group members. Wish List items included training initiatives, matching paraprofessionals with group members based on common factors such as age and military experience, more social time with paraprofessionals, meeting the paraprofessionals beforehand, and better follow-up. The findings are congruent with previous literature on paraprofessional support and shed light on additional mechanisms that are the result of the unique nature of the VTN therapeutic intervention. Recommendations for training are made that may contribute to the effectiveness of paraprofessional support in the VTN.

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