the friendship bench 

The Friendship Bench has been developed over a 20 year period from community research. It was piloted in Mbare, Harare, ZImbabwe, and has since become a national and international mental health intervention. 

The intervention is based on problem-solving therapy, in which the patient identifies a problem, rather than a diagnosis, symptom or label.

The psychological approach of problem solving therapy works through enabling a more positive orientation toward resolving problems and empowering people to have a sense of greater coping and control over their lives.

The Friendship Bench Project aims to reduce the mental health treatment gap by using a cognitive behavioural therapy based approach at primary care level to address mild to moderate mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Patients visiting the primary care clinics are being screened with a locally validated tool called the Shona Symptom Questionnaire (SSQ). When scoring above the cut off score, they are being referred to the friendship bench where they will receive individual problem solving therapy from a specifically trained lay health worker.

In practical terms, participants are taught a structured approach to identifying problems and find workable solutions. Lay health workers follow a detailed script contained in a manual to conduct 6 sessions on a bench located in a discreet area outside the clinic.

CREDIT: Rainer Kwiotek

The Scale up of the Friendship Bench intervention after a successful trial was planned in various stages

as outlined below.


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Milton Park

Harare, Zimbabwe

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