There is no unique “Companionship Therapy.” It is not a therapeutic orientation in the sense of being a set of techniques; rather the term denotes that process resulting from a specific combination of interpersonal ingredients. The recipe can be stated roughly as: take a nonprofessional or paraprofessional counsellor chosen for his interpersonal competence, orient him toward not giving advice, pair him with a client, structure frequent contact into the relationship that evolves, and have a professional oversee its progress.
The companionship model combines elements of friendship with elements of therapy. Its theoretical basis stresses the value of empathic, nonjudgmental, playful contact for the resolution of emotional difficulties. Therapy is removed from the therapist’s office to the client’s natural surroundings: his home or place of recreation. Client-counsellor contact may cover the full gamut of activities that come under the rubric of companionship, as well as those more traditionally associated with therapy.Thus activities may range from attending sports events or sharing hobbies, on the one hand, to engaging in intimate discussions on the other.
Companionship Therapy places little stress on therapist strategy or technique. It gives counsellors and clients freedom to choose activity for each session, although counsellors are selected for qualities that will foster intimate conversation. The companionship model minimizes the need for extensive training that characterizes the traditional “expert helper” model, and it discourages its counsellors from taking a “professional” stance toward their clients. In other words, the therapy emphasizes selection rather than training, and two-way intimacy rather than patient management.Of course, all is not as simple as the “recipe” given above implies. The choosing, orienting, pairing, structuring, and overseeing all take considerable planning by a given companionship program’s administrators, and, as with traditional therapy, the precise impact of Companionship Therapy for different combinations of clients/counsellors/circumstances is still partly an open question. However, one of the strengths of this approach has been its willingness to evaluate itself, and a substantial body of knowledge about its effects is now beginning to accumulate. The brief description to follow will attempt to introduce those concerned with the problems of running a companionship program to what is known about their solutions.
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