Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS)

Use the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support to determine if your patient has a support system and is getting support from said system.

By Matt Olivares on Jul 05, 2024.

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Fact Checked by Nate Lacson.

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Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) PDF Example
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What is social support?

Before we discuss the and how it’s used, let’s briefly discuss social support.

When we speak of social support, we speak of the kind of support a person can get, such as love, care, comfort, and assistance from other people, mainly family, friends, a significant other, a mentor, etc. This kind of support can take numerous forms, such as empathy, sympathy, acceptance, acknowledgment, and understanding from someone they can lean on. The people they rely on will listen to their woes and reassure them.

Social support can also come through guidance or advice through feedback and directives. It can also be tangible, including material resources, financial aid, medicinal aid, and other things that can make everyday living easier.

Because we as humans are, by nature, social beings, getting social support is an integral part of our lives (even if some of us don’t want to admit it). It’s necessary to ensure we have a healthy well-being, both physical and mental, and emotional resilience. Having no social support makes us more susceptible to the potential devastation of certain problems, and we might be unable to cope or work through things healthily. The lack of such support might make us feel more distressed and give us unwanted feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) Template

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Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) Example

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How to use the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support

The Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) is a useful assessment tool that can help mental healthcare professionals and similar practitioners assess their clients’ social support.

It comes in the form of a twelve-item scale with the following statements:

  1. There is a special person who is around when I am in need.
  2. There is a special person with whom I can share my joys and sorrows.
  3. My family really tries to help me.
  4. I get the emotional help and support I need from my family.
  5. I have a special person who is a real source of comfort to me.
  6. My friends really try to help me.
  7. I can count on my friends when things go wrong.
  8. I can talk about my problems with my family.
  9. I have friends with whom I can share my joys and sorrows.
  10. There is a special person in my life who cares about my feelings.
  11. My family is willing to help me make decisions.
  12. I can talk about my problems with my friends.

Items 1, 2, 5, and 7 are statements about getting social support from a significant other.

Items 3, 4, 8, and 11 are statements about getting social support from family.

Items 6, 7, 9, and 12 are statements about getting social support from friends.

Those engaging with the sheet will only have to rate themselves based on the level of social support they believe they’re getting from these people. Here are the rating choices:

  • 1 = Very strongly disagree
  • 2 = Strongly disagree
  • 3 = Mildly disagree
  • 4 = Neutral
  • 5 = Mildly agree
  • 6 = Strongly agree
  • 7 = Very strongly disagree

After receiving a fully-accomplished copy of the scale, you just need to add up the scores and see which designation they fall on:

  • 12 to 35 = Low perceived support
  • 36 to 60 = Medium perceived support
  • 61 to 84 = High perceived support

Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support Example

Now that you know the basic gist of social support, the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, the statements the scale contains, and how to score it, it’s time for you to see what it looks like. For our template, we adapted the entire scale created by Zimet GD, Dahlem NW, Zimet SG, and Farley GK. We added radio buttons so people can tick them with a pen (if they’re answering a physical copy) or just click on the buttons (if they’re engaging with a digital copy).

If you like what you see and believe it’ll help you gauge your patients in terms of their social support, feel free to download our free Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support PDF template!

Download this Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) Example:

Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support Example

When is it best to use the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support?

Based on what the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support is, it’s a type of tool that healthcare professionals use to gauge the perceived presence of social support that their patients are getting. If you’re assessing a patient for this, you’re likely covering several bases, one of which is if they have support systems they can rely on.

Given this, it’s best that you administer the scale after the early stages of your therapy or counseling programs. This is because you need to have established a safe and non-judgmental space as well as enough rapport and trust to get them to share. Some patients might find this a difficult topic to discuss. It’s hard enough to admit that the people you love the most are not giving you the support you believe you should be getting from them, so don’t be surprised if this is a topic they have difficulty discussing.

It’s also good to use this before creating intervention, treatment and/or action plans for your patient. Having information about your patient receiving social support or not, plus how satisfied they are with their social support, will be helpful to you because you’ll have an idea as to what bases you should cover when creating a personalized plan for them.

What are the benefits of using the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support?

The scale will help inform professionals if their patients/clients are getting support or not.

When gauging a patient’s mental health problems, it’s always good to find out whether they’re getting social support. Using the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support can help by checking if they have family, friends, and/or a significant other that can provide them with social support when the going gets tough.

The scale’s results can help professionals determine what to do for their patients/clients.

Speaking of knowing about the presence of social support in patients' lives, the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support can help professionals when creating a plan for the patient. If their perceived social support is low, the professional can ask the patient to expound on their answers so they have a better idea why the patient rated each item the way they did. That way, the professional can get a clearer picture of the patient. Who knows? By having them expound their answers, the professional will identify certain things, like a potential communication problem on the part of their patient. If that’s the case, perhaps helping them improve their communication should be included in the plan so they can learn how to properly ask for support from the important people in their life.

The scale can be used as a monitoring tool later on.

Let’s say your patient gets social support, which you determined based on the results of using the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, other similar assessments, and through conversation with them. You can reissue this scale occasionally to track changes in their perceived social support. Just because they rated each statement high back then doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way forever. That goes for the opposite as well. Checking on their perceived social support every now and then can help you adjust your care plan to take into account the changes in their perception.

How can Carepatron help with mental health-related work?

If you’re a mental healthcare professional who normally gauges if your patients have a social support system, we hope this guide served as a good introduction or refresher to the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS). We also hope the template tied to the guide helps you with your work!

Now, while we still have you, we’d like to request that you take a little bit of your time to check out more of the Carepatron platform. We have a lot of features that will surely catch your eye, and we believe these features can help you streamline your workflows and improve your efficiency, including the overall quality of your output. As much as we’d like to get into each feature, it’s best that you check them out on your own and see if they’re great for you, but we would like to highlight one: our resource library.

Our resource library houses a wide range of clinical resources, from worksheets to assessment tools such as the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support. It also covers numerous healthcare fields, practices, and topics, especially mental health. The worksheets we have can help you get to know your patients better and help them apply anything you’ve taught them as part of your counseling or therapy program. We also have assessments similar to the MSPSS, like the Social Support Questionnaire, which also gauges patients and their social support systems. 

What’s great about these resources is that they’re all free, so download as much as you want and need! We hope they help you cover more ground with your work!

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How long does it take to finish answering this scale?
How long does it take to finish answering this scale?

Commonly asked questions

How long does it take to finish answering this scale?

The Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) only has twelve items and the person engaging with it only needs to rate each item between 1 to 7. It shouldn’t take longer than five minutes.

How do you calculate the scores?

You simply need to add up all scores. You can calculate for the subscales if you wish (SO = significant other, Fri = friends, Fam = family). To do so, just add up the scores for a subscale and then divide it by 4.

What if I’m not a professional? Can I use this?

You may, but it’s best if a professional issues this. That way, they can discuss how the potential lack of social support can impact your well-being and determine what can be done to establish and maintain a healthy support system.

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