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Radio Omnicor

Jun 18, 2021

Episode 41 - Spreading hope, one Friendship Bench at a time

Our guest today is Ruth Verhey, a very special professional, whom we feel is doing incredibly important work, along with the organisation she represents-The Friendship Bench. If you have never heard about the concept you are in for a treat!

Ruth Verhey is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist with a trauma treatment focus who trained in Germany, has lived in Colombia and has been working in Zimbabwe since 2004.She has been working with Friendship Bench (FB) for 13 years co-developing the program and material, designed the group support component of FB and is researching PTSD in people living with HIV. She holds a PhD from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She is an EMDR consultant and runs a private practice. 

The mission of the Friendship Bench is to create safe spaces and a sense of belonging in communities, to enhance mental wellbeing and improve people's’ quality of life. Guided by our values of empathy and connection, and anchored in over a decade of rigorous research (including a RCT published in the Journal of American Medical Association, JAMA) we have re-imagined the delivery of evidence-based mental healthcare.​The Friendship Bench clinical team trains community health workers (also known as lay health workers) to provide basic Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with an emphasis on Problem Solving Therapy, activity scheduling and peer led group support. This task shifting approach means we can deliver an effective, affordable, and sustainable solution to bridge the mental health treatment gap at a primary care level. 

We deliver the talk therapy intervention to people with mild to moderate level common mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, known locally as ‘kufungisisa’- thinking too much. When people visit the Friendship Bench they are screened with a locally validated tool called the Shona Symptom Questionnaire (SSQ-14). If a person scores above the cut-off point, they are suggested to stay and receive the one-on-one problem solving therapy. In practical terms, participants are taught a structured approach to identifying problems and find workable solutions”.




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