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A critical evaluation of the impact coaching and mentoring has on the walking spinal community's behavioural change and motivations to being physically active.

Fowler, Gillian


Gillian Fowler


Neil Connon


This study explores the impact coaching and mentoring have on the Walking Spinal Community's (WSC) behavioural change and motivations to being physically active. A sub-set of the spinal community, this specific population is partly overlooked due to the less likelihood of visible disability, yet sustaining such an injury can be debilitating and even life-changing, with numbers expected to increase. Existing literature within the realms of spinal community are extensive, with focus given to spinal cord injury (SCI) where paralysis has occurred, and interest shown in rehabilitation, pain and wellbeing. However, there is limited literature in relation to the WSC in general, or otherwise referred to as SCI individuals who ambulate. This research, therefore, examines the WSC and their support needs, and the underlying barriers, motivators and influencers to activity, and what can potentially aid recovery and better manage their condition. To help achieve this, the study gives a voice to this community and explores relevant lived experiences. This study applies an interpretative, qualitative approach, using semi-structured interviews over two phases, to which Mentees, Coachees and Neutral groupings were created to give greater depth of data, depending on talking support program and experiences. The findings of this study provide an in-depth understanding of the physical and psychological challenges faced by the WSC, as well as the importance of four constructs (capability, opportunity, motivation and support) for determining behavioural change with regards to being active. Coaching and mentoring were proven to be purposeful, measurable forms of talking support, providing depth of support, including: being listened to, learning tools and techniques, assisting to improve motivation levels and promoting action, and improving overall mental health. Wellbeing and pain management were both negatively impacted as a result of sustaining a walking spinal injury, with the need for clear, consistent professional and social support established for hospital phase and beyond. By understanding the capability, opportunity, motivation, and support of a WSC individual, behaviour can be changed for the better, with influencing factors being addressed, barriers overcome and a greater engagement in physical activity achieved. Furthermore, this study also contributes to knowledge by the development of a new conceptual behavioural change model, namely Behavioural COMS model, and the Positive Behavioural Change Framework, which encompasses the new model and Transtheoretical model (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1986). This conceptual framework aids understanding of behaviour in relation to the stage of readiness of change, and helps in promoting progression to maintenance phase. It essentially contributes to knowledge of behavioural change, adding to academia as well as having potential for far-reaching practical use.


FOWLER, G. 2023. A critical evaluation of the impact coaching and mentoring has on the walking spinal community's behavioural change and motivations to being physically active. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis. Hosted on OpenAIR [online]. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Mar 12, 2024
Publicly Available Date Mar 12, 2024
Keywords Spinal injury patients; Spinal cord injury (SCI); Walking spinal community; SCI Ambulate; Behavioural psychology; Physical activity; Behavioural change
Public URL
Award Date Sep 30, 2023


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