Counseling Considerations for Middle Easterners
February 10, 2010
by Sarah H. Dolan
People from Middle Eastern and Arabic backgrounds in North America are increasingly becoming more visible, active and influential, according to Clinical and Multicultural Psychologist Dr. Naji Abi-Hashem. And the vast majority of Arab-Americans are citizens in the United States. Abi-Hashem visited Regent University on February 5 to present "Understanding and Counseling Middle Easterners and Arab Americans" as part of the Psy.D. Colloquium series.
Abi-Hashem emphasized the critical need for counselors to respect and understand all clients' cultural backgrounds, which he said is key to successful treatment. He discussed the broad, diverse history of Middle Easterners and Arabs. They are people who, like Americans, represent a variety of religions and lifestyles.
Overall, traditional and nontraditional Arab-Americans share a common value set that highly regards family, heritage, religion, community, dignity and honor. "Relationships and honor are both extremely important," Abi-Hashem said. He provided several examples of how to apply these values to professional counseling practice:
- Instead of using the words "you" and "me" in a counseling session, use "we" language.
- Increase relationship, bonds and trust.
- Build a tolerance for ambiguity, and do not be afraid to relate personal stories to the client.
Abi-Hashem recognized that this type of relational counseling model is atypical to common American practice. But he also challenged the School of Psychology & Counseling (SPC) students to see the counseling field as more than just a by-the-book technique.
Finally, Abi-Hashem provided an insightful list of cultural differences that could help Western counselors in their approach with Middle-Eastern or Arab-American clients. The list of do's and don'ts included body language, gestures, manners, dress and conversation.
The Psy.D. Colloquium series brings outstanding professionals and scientists in psychology and related fields to the campus. The series has featured leading psychological researchers, anthropologists, military psychologists, American Psychological Association representatives and philosophers to give the Regent academic community access to the world of psychological science.