This exploratory study examined the nature of therapeutic conversation between helping professionals and homeless persons as an intervention to optimize health. Meaningful conversation occurred in relationships where there was a sense of connection and the presence of rapport. Emergent facilitators of therapeutic conversation included respectful engagement, casual nature of conversation, alternative settings for therapeutic conversation, effective listening, and establishing trust. Barriers included prejudging homeless persons, fear of punishment and authority, and academic and professional intimidation. Central to the study findings was the acknowledgement of the client's personhood. Acknowledgement of personhood is a critical element in engagement between homeless persons and helping professionals.


Therapeutic Conversation, Meaningful Conversation, Homeless, Helping Professionals, and Personhood


We would like to thank the clients, residents, and staff from The Salvation Army Centre of Hope (TSA) who graciously participated in this study. We also express appreciation to the members of the Downtown Community Initiative for their valuable contribution to the study and review of the manuscript including: John Rook, PhD, CEO Community Services (Calgary), Liz Rutherford, RSW, Manager, Community Access Programming, and University of Calgary Faculty members Roxie Thompson-Isherwood PhD(c), Assistant Professor, Faculty of Nursing and Jackie Sieppert, PhD, Professor, Faculty of Social Work.

Funding for the study was provided by the DCI and the research assistants, Kristina Ahosaari and Sabine Sellmer, were funded through University of Calgary Undergraduate Research Awards.

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