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First intellectual output. Loyola Andalucia University

First intellectual output. Loyola Andalucia University

4.    Determining factors in psychosocial intervention10

4.1.     The methodology of accompaniment as an axis in work with migrants and refugees11

From the permanent dialogue with reality and from our practices, we know that the approach of a phenomenon such as immigration requires a combination of resources and interventions that can affect the different branches and manifestations of this phenomenon. Experience shows us that economic benefits or administrative regularization, although necessary, are sufficient for us to deal with this type of situation. Other types of aid, supports and benefits are necessary.

On the other hand, migration is a phenomenon that has many forms of manifestation and encompasses a multiplicity of different situations defined by how this phenomenon manifests itself or becomes present in individual trajectories. This makes it necessary for diagnoses and interventions to be individualized and adapted to each reality.

To this, it is added that the migrants who arrive at the receiving country have gone through vital itineraries of deterioration that are very continuous and extended over time as a result of the migratory route, therefore, the processes of helping their situation will also have to be long and intense, as well as requiring long-term or long-term interventions.

Experience has shown that the way to articulate these three elements of the approach to social intervention in these situations (multidimensional approach, with diagnoses and individualized interventions, through long and continuous processes over time) is through accompaniment.

Following the definition of Begoña Pérez (2003), we understand the accompaniment as:

"The social work that establishes a continuous personal relationship, that is relatively long-lasting for the person or home in difficulty that characterises its situation, proposes resources, motivates, implies, centralizes and manages the interventions. But it also involves understanding people to help them begin to control their situation and the keys to their difficulties in activating and mobilizing the capacities and potentials of both people and their environment. It is about supporting the people themselves to start their process of social incorporation." (Pérez, B. 2003: 437)

Accompaniment requires certain conditions to be applied, such as having the same person as a reference, professionals being focused on few cases, having temporary availability, the flexibility to adapt resources... This makes accompaniment a complex task that in many cases exceeds the straight-jacketing and excessive bureaucratization of the intervention that is carried out from the public administration. It is here, therefore, that a central role of social entities appears. With this we do not mean that from the public administration the accompaniment can not be carried out or it is not being carried out already, but the experience shows that this type of methodology is being able to be carried out more easily from the social entities, among other things, due to the availability of a volunteer service, which can meet those demands that we mentioned before, which requires effective accompaniment (in coordination and complementarity with professionals in the field of social intervention).

But not all accompaniment is useful in working with these groups. Accompanying means being next to people, walking by their side towards the same destination, giving support, getting involved in a process with commitments, always watching the limits of the companion and accompanied. In short, an accompaniment from the anthropological value, from the person, as it is proposed by Sebastián Mora (2008), which is specified from three values:

  1. The value of proximity: first of all, close presence. Close presence in the humility of small things, in the everyday, in the useless, in the unproductive ... We must be in those invisible spaces of the cities, in the outer walls, listening to the stories full of dramas, of pain, without disguising them, without blurring them. It is a presence "that knows how to practice solidarity in its daily life and not only in exceptional moments" (Mora, 2008: 29).
  2. The value of the human embrace: in globalized societies people end up enduring innumerable blows from structural processes. In this context, migrants receive these blows with fewer defenses (family, economic, social...), to the point that they end up entering and assuming an ideology of the inevitable ("it is normal that I cannot find work", "it is normal that my partner leaves me","it is normal that my family does not want to see me"). Given this, "people demand proximity and company, affection and understanding" (Mora, 2008: 31).

    But giving way to that human embrace supposes feeling and being affected by other person, discovering a person with their dignity despite the difficulties. Accompaniment reveals that "we are not the ones who change the other, but we change in a reciprocal interaction". (Mora, 2008: 32). Often, we find ourselves to be problem solvers: the other is the problem and I am their solution because I teach them to write, I teach my language, I arrange documentation... But the accompaniment has to show us that it is a mutual learning, that we both teach each other in that process that we are sharing.

  3. The value of the meeting: one of the characteristics shared by all citizens of large cities is to develop our daily life being "nobodies". We continually go through "non-places" in terms of Augé (1994); spaces of anonymity, without human relations, or shared experiences, "with co-existence, but without coexistence" (Mora, 2008: 34). Migrants are not alien to this, and if the situation of transit in their lives is more acute, few things remain. We are called to generate places from the permanence, from the patient, stable, and free encounter. It is in that encounter where there is man, the personalization, the affectation by the other, the loss of anonymity, there is an encounter with the person as a whole and not with partial aspects of their being (which is characteristic of social intervention spaces, the fragmentation of people into "sick", "addicted", "reclusive", "homeless", "immigrant"...). It is from there that we must build our particular spaces, our centers. And, above all, look after time, as meetings require time, not haste.

4.2.    Professional attitudes that enable quality intervention12

As it has been said, work in the field of psychosocial intervention is based on the relational. The space that is in the relationship is created by the people who participate in it and is left to be modulated by the context in which it takes place. From a systemic perspective, it is understood that, given this interdependence, if changes are made in one of the elements of the system, it is easier for all of this to change. That is, a professional's work on himself or herself can cause changes to occur both in the user and in the context. Self-knowledge, self-observation, openness and humility are essential skills in a quality intervention (Qureshi and Revollo, 2010).

Competent, or resilient, professionals, as Barudy (2006) would say, are those who propose their support in all or some of the following aspects:

  • Offer healthy, committed and permanent attachment relationships over time.
  • Facilitate and participate in the processes of awareness and symbolization of the family and social reality.
  • Be able to propose social support.
  • Participate in social processes aimed at improving the distribution of goods and wealth to alleviate situations of poverty.
  • Be involved in the fight against situations of violence and the belief systems that sustain them.
  • Promote and participate in educational processes that develop respect for human rights.
  • Promote the participation of people in activities that allow them to have access to a social and political commitment, in a way that produces more just, supportive and non-violent societies.

To understand and care for the person who is in a situation of vulnerability, a series of general actions are recommended, among which are:

  1. Welcome and the establishment of a good relationship.
  2. Active listening and focusing of the interventions in the current situation of vulnerability, in the adaptation process and possible migratory grief.
  3. Facilitate communication: wait and be patient.
  4. Provide explanations, information, guidance, suggestions and indications.
  5. Normalize emotions, that is, clarify that the feelings and emotions that you present are totally healthy and normal in your stressful situation.
  6. Take into account and identify, as much as possible, potential stressors.
  7. Carry out a diagnosis of the socio-familiar, labour and administrative context.
  8. Use social resources and support groups and self-help.
  9. Take into account the expectations of the person, the degree of success / failure in the migratory project from their current social situation.
  10. Collect information about the values that a person possesses, both general and about health and care, in a way that allows us to better interpret their messages and demands, thus increasing our capacity for intervention.
  11. Adapt our techniques, interventions and schedules, etc., as far as possible, to the needs of people.
  12. Avoid the tendency to pathologize the culture and culture the pathology.

The intercultural encounter is a moment in which everything is open and undefined, there are prejudices, rejections, fears and illusions. In this space everything is decided, all the options are valid, and the quality of interaction and intervention is defined, precisely here, in the concretion of this interaction, where "professional competence" is constituted (Onnis, 1996). This is also a moment that generates stress, anxieties, misunderstandings and tensions. For the correct intercultural action, it is necessary to have some basic notions of the culture of a certain group or subject, but it is more elementary to have empathy and cultural sensitivity, that is, the ability to understand psychology and behaviour at an emotional level in a culturally relevant way. In every process of professional relationship, demand and response are not given a priori, but both are defined as the result of a reciprocal interaction.

It should be noted that migrants do not immediately or completely change their old habits, take them with them to the new society and continue them, as if they wanted to cling to everything they had lost: the new medium is not lived as indifferent but as contradictory to the original environment, and this causes them to be experienced, sometimes, as hostile, even if they are not in reality. Keeping all these factors in mind, could help professionals to readjust, re-formulate and present these plans better to achieve acceptance by immigrants13.

10 To read further on this topic, refer to: Cuadros, A. (2010). Factores determinantes en la intervención psicosocial. En: Melero, L. (coord.). La persona más allá de la migración. Manual de intervención psicosocial con personas migrantes. p297-334. CeiMigra: Valencia. Available online at:

11 This section has been extracted from: González, A (2011): El papel del voluntariado en la lucha contra la exclusión social: el valor del acompañamiento. Documentación Social, 160. p171-188. Madrid.

12 This section has been extracted from: Sayed-Ahmad, N. (2010). Experiencia de migración y salud mental. Hacia un nuevo modelo de salud. En: Melero, L. (coord.). La persona más allá de la migración. Manual de intervención psicosocial con personas migrantes. p259-296. CeiMigra: Valencia. Available online at:


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