By Tommy Norheim, psychologist on the SINEWS clinical team. Tommy has extensive experience in the field of home care for patients with severe mental illness in his country of origin, Norway, and later during his internship in the Master in General Health Psychology at SINEWS.
In our present, in the age of information, the existing figures in the health area are well known to the entire population, figures such as professionals in medicine, nursing, physiotherapy, psychology, assistants of different types, etc. But even with the enormous amount of information we have about these experts, there are still some that are not as well known, and in this article I will try to shed light on one of them that, in my opinion, is still not completely known, specifically that of the therapeutic companion, the functions it performs and how it is done from the area of psychology.
A therapeutic companion is a health professional who performs the task of assisting a person with health problems, whether physical or mental, in those areas where they cannot cope independently, usually in a field other than the clinical or hospital context such as the family home, school, work, etc. Very often, the cases where these tasks occur are with people suffering from severe mental disorders, developmental disorders, autism spectrum disorders, people disabled by reduced mobility or other problems that limit their ability to cope.
Unlike therapies in clinical or hospital contexts, the main job of a therapeutic companion is, whatever the redundancy, accompanying the person in the areas where they have specific problems, making sure to supervise the activities they can do on their own and helping, in the form of guidance rather than substitution, in activities that are difficult.
Having explained and understood what a therapeutic companion is (in general), it is worth asking what role a profesional in psychology who performs this function can play, what kind of problems can a psychologist solve by accompanying a person during their daily chores that are problematic.
Today there is still a lot of misinformation regarding the role of psychology in society, although in general the public begins to form an idea of what psychological therapy would be, and in summary we could say that it consists of speech therapy, describing in words the different problems that a person has in their daily life (regarding habits, emotional state, thoughts, relationship with other people, etc.) so that the professional may help you find ways to change, improve, or accept the problem with which they come, but all this is done in consultation. In the vast majority of cases, the therapist does not have information with which to work beyond that provided by his client through what has been spoken, which, even though it is of incalculable value, it can sometimes make the task of helping difficult due to lost or omitted relevant information. Below I will roughly expose an example of how a treatment can be improved if the role of companion is performed from the area of psychology, using for this a fairly typical example, depression:
As it may have been observed, in the role of the companion, an incalculable amount of information could be received that in another context could be omitted for various reasons, which shows the value of the role the therapeutic companion plays. As we’ve already mentioned, the role this professional plays is not well known today, both in the general population and by health professionals, which is why a good option for both populations to learn about it, in case this small introduction attracts attention, would be the book by Leonel Dozza de Mendoça entitled 'Therapeutic and clinical accompaniment of everyday life'. In this book, Leonel not only explains the different functions of the companion in a language understandable to all populations, but also describes and bases the reasons why the figure of the therapeutic companion is, and will be, a necessity in our society, the benefits it has and why betting on these professionals is a necessary investment in many current cases.