Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Arabic Psychiatry and Psychology: The Physician Who Is a Philosopher and the Physician Who Is Not a Philosopher: Some Cultural Considerations

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Arabic Psychiatry and Psychology: The Physician Who Is a Philosopher and the Physician Who Is Not a Philosopher: Some Cultural Considerations

Article excerpt

The major focus of this article is to examine the current status of Arab psychiatry as practised today and to provide some historical, theoretical, clinical, and research issues using cross-culrural comparisons as a backdrop to the argument. The paper deals primarily with issues pertinent to the current understanding of cross-cultural phenomena within Arabic societies. It discusses issues relevant to the practices and applications of traditional psychiatric methods and their coexistence with some practices that might appear contradictory to the western notions of psychiatric conceptualization of mental illness. It gives a brief synopsis of the interplay of the traditional healing methods in psychiatric practices as well as the contribution and acceptance of modern psychiatric methods and interventions. The changing demographic features of many Western nations and the resulting challenges faced by mental-health professionals working with diverse populations have only recently begun to bring these ideas to the fore.

Arabic psychiatry has possibly not witnessed the kind of evolution that one would expect in the more than 30 years that have passed since John Racy wrote his famous study and its companion annotated bibliography entitled Psychiatry in The Arab East (Racy, 1970), Fakhr El-Islam, who wrote a similarly comprehensive report, argued for the incorporation of new data from trans-cultural psychiatry that began to emerge (El-Islam, 1982,1998). Indeed, Romano - when writing the Foreword to Racy's article - argued that "tomorrow's historians may look upon the current period as one in which serious attempts were made to understand better the difference as well as the similarities between men throughout the world". (p.5) However, Arabic psychology and psychological services and theory, and their cultural applicability and suitability to the Arabic way of life, have received little attention from either Arabic psychologists or Western theorists.

The lack of attention paid by Arab psychologists to the problems faced by their societies and profession is deeply rooted in the history of psychology, politics, and geography of the Arab world. This apparent laxity has several ramifications for the current status of what could loosely be termed Arabic psychology (for reasons to be elaborated later in this article), and, to some extent, to the developing Arab psychiatry. One could argue that Arabic psychology has not grown deep enough roots to be regarded as a distinctive discipline dealing with the major issues that challenge practitioners in the Arab world today.

One of the most noticeable reasons in this regard is the fact that Arabic psychology has a long history but its followers have a very short working memory. As some have observed, medicine in general, and psychiatry in particular, have a long past but a short history. Unfortunately, this past has comprised notions of health and sickness mainly inherited from, and professed by, some social anthropologists who have portrayed many expressions that are not western in origin or in orientation as "deficient". Therefore, they have failed to incorporate the cultural meaning attached to sickness and health as expressed within nonwestern traditions and value systems. Margaret Mead is a noted exception. Although some remarkable advances have been made and psychological services have become widely accepted, the past and current status of the psychiatric field in the Arab world seems to revolve around itself. Some of the main contributors in this regard stem from cultural barriers that perceive seeking psychological help to be synonymous with "craziness". It does not come as a complete surprise to see the cover of a recent book edited by some distinguished Arab and Islamic writers which reads as Al Junun: Mental illness in the Islamic world. Although the intent of the authors appears not to perpetuate the idea that al jinn possession (craziness) is tantamount to mental illness, it is telling in that the notion that "craziness" comes from being possessed by a jinni still holds ground. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.