Psychosocial Accompaniment


  • Mary Watkins


This essay advocates for a paradigm shift in psychology toward the activity and ethics of accompaniment. Accompaniment requires a reorientation of the subjectivity, interpersonal practices, and critical understanding of the accompanier so that (s)he can stand alongside others who desire listening, witnessing, advocacy, space to develop critical inquiry and research, and joint imagination and action to address desired and needed changes. The idea of “accompaniment” emerged in liberation theology in Latin America, and migrated into liberatory forms of psychology as “psychosocial accompaniment.” This essay explores accompaniment and its ethics from a phenomenological perspective, highlighting differences from mainstream stances in psychology. Attention is also given to the effects of accompaniment on the accompanier. Efforts to decolonize psychology require careful attention to the psychic decolonization of its practitioners and to the cultivation of decolonizing interpersonal practices that provide a relational and ethical foundation for joint research, restorative healing, and transformative action. Such practices endeavor through dialogue to build mutual respect and understanding, promote effective solidarity, and contribute to the empowerment of those marginalized. The decolonization of psychology should enable practitioners to be more effective in working for increased social, economic, and environmental justice; peace building and reconciliation; and local and global ecological sustainability.