Western psychotherapy in traditional Arabic societies
Abstract Because psychotherapy has largely been the product of Western culture, it has tended to emphasize individualism in that the self is usually defined as separate from a collective social identity. However, there has been no corresponding development of individualism in traditional Arab society. Psychotherapy has been described as a process in which one becomes aware of, and learns to express feelings and needs that were previously prohibited or unconscious. The generic goal of psychotherapy has often been described as “self-integration” or “self-actualization.” Such goals would be condemned in Arabic society, where collective identity is given precedence over the self. Although Western psychotherapy can help to alleviate internal conflicts within the Arabic client, it will often result in greater conflict between the individual and society. In fact, many of the basic techniques of psychotherapy are at odds with core beliefs of the Arabic culture. This paper presents a conceptualization in which Western psychotherapy can successfully be adapted to current Middle Eastern culture.
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