The Community Bridges Project: Accompaniment in Rebuilding Connectedness and Citizenship from Colombia to Vermont
Alexander “Sandy” Smith, MA & Alberto Fergusson, MD
ISPS-US 18th Annual Meeting
Nov. 1-3, 2019, New Haven, CT
This presentation describes the work of the Community Bridges Project in Addison County, Vermont done in collaboration Dr. Alberto Fergusson of Bogota, Colombia. The project is inspired by Dr. Fergusson’s experiences from the process of Sopo’, Colombia deciding to become a “therapeutic town” as he closed his nearby therapeutic community and helped establish meaningful roles of citizenship for the former therapeutic community residents. These efforts included mutual support parings with elderly community residents who needed help and connection, and also with people settling in the town following displacement due to political violence. Dr. Fergusson found the “meaningfulness” of these roles and responsibilities had a notable positive impact on individual paths of recovery. The community mental health team in Addison County has been working with Open Dialogue for the past several years as a way to prioritize connection with personal networks, and has been looking for additional ways beyond current treatment frameworks to help restore community connectedness for people coping with isolation and disconnection as a result of long term mental health challenges. In addition to the inspiring experiences from Sopo’, Dr. Fergusson’s articulation of the helping stance of “accompaniment” has resonated with the CSAC team as a conceptualization of a way of “being with” while also valuing the “leadership” of the client in their process of recovery and reconnection. The Community Bridges Project is working with both client and community outreach to seek to form new possibilities for individual mutual support connection and for involvement in projects that meaningfully address community needs.
The presentation describes: principles from Accompanied Self Rehabilitation and Open Dialogue with a particular focus on the role of “accompaniment”; findings from the experiences of Sopo’; will also describe the collaborative process for the Community Bridges Project getting started, and report on initial experiences and findings.