Plenary Lecture

Plenary Lecture

From Psycho-Analysis to Culture-Analysis: A Culturally Sensitive Revision of Psychology

Professor Marwan Dwairy
Clinical, Medical, Educational, and Developmental Psychologist
Medical, Educational, and Developmental Supervisor
Researcher in Cross-Cultural Psychology
Ora st. 3b, P.O.Box 14710
Nazerat Ellit, 17000, Israel

Abstract: This lecture re-examines the application of psychodynamic approach to collective cultures such as the Arab/Muslim one. Unlike the rooted idea of separation-individuation process that ends in possessing an autonomous identity or self, individuals from collective cultures maintain their collective identity and self. Adaptation to the interdependent collective system, rather than to independence, is the ultimate goal of healthy development in these societies. The main drama of collective people's life takes place within the intra-familial domain rather than the intra-psychic one. The self is not differentiated from the family’s identity, and the internal constructs of control such as ego, self, or super-ego are therefore not autonomous. External pressures are the main source of control, and familial approval is the main source of esteem and joy. Social norms and values explain the consistency in peoples’ behavior; individuation and social status explain the individual differences. To deal with threat and shame Arab/Muslims, for example, need social mechanisms to manipulate the external oppressor, such as Mosayara, Istighaba and identification with the oppressor, rather than unconscious defense mechanisms.
To deal with psychological disorders, psychotherapy is applied to restore the intra-psychic order. During therapy, revealing unconscious drives or promoting self actualization may lead to confrontations with the family and the social environment. In these confrontations typically the client is the weakest and therefore the looser. Therapy should not be a tool to change the client’s culture. Culture should rather be exploited to bring about therapeutic change. Metaphor therapy and culture-analysis are suggested to help clients who adopt a collective identity or self. In metaphor therapy the inner world is addressed and dealt indirectly and symbolically without bringing unconscious content to the consciousness, thus avoiding guilt or confrontation with the family. In culture-analysis therapist identifies subtle contradictions within the belief system of the client and employ cultural aspects that may facilitate change. Similarly to how a psychoanalyst analyses the psychological domain and brings conflicting aspects to the consciousness (e.g. aggression and guilt) in order to mobilize change, a culturanalyst analyses the client’s belief system and brings contradicting aspects to the consciousness in order to mobilize revision in attitudes and behavior. The assumption that underlies culturanalysis is that culture influences people’s lives unconsciously. When therapists inquire into and learn about the client’s culture, they may find some unconscious aspects that are in conflict with the conscious attitudes of the client. Once the therapist brings these aspects to the awareness of the client, a significant change may be effected. Unlike the unconscious drives which are revealed through psychoanalysis, these intra-culture conflicts are not supposed to be threatening because all aspects revealed are culturally and morally legitimized. This process can be described in humanistic terms too. In much the same way that a Rogerian therapist establishes an unconditional positive regard and empathy to facilitate the coming forward of the real authentic self, a culturanalyst establishes positive regard and empathy to the culture and facilitates the coming forward of more and more aspects of the culture that were denied and that may be employed to effect change. Alternatively, one can understand this process in terms of generating cognitive dissonance within the client’s belief system that necessitates change. Regardless of the theoretical explanation, in order to conduct a “within-culture therapy,” therapists need to be open and incorporate several aspects of the culture in the therapy in order to create a new dynamic within the client’s culture. Beside empathy, a thorough inquiry into the client’s culture in order to identify the cultural aspects that may be employed in therapy is needed. Some examples of within-culture therapy will be presented.

Brief Biography of the Speaker:
Marwan Dwairy, D.Sc., is associated professor of psychology in Oranim academic college, Israel. He is a licensed expert and supervisor in three areas: educational, medical, and developmental psychology. In addition, he is a licensed clinical psychologist. In 1978, he established the first psychological services center for Arabs in Nazareth, Israel. He continues to serve in his capacity as a supervisor in different psychological centers. He received his doctorate from the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion in 1991. Professor Dwairy have developed and standardized several psychological tests for Arabs. He served as a professor in several universities: Graduate program at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, Haifa University, Israel, and Technion, Israel. He has done many cross-cultural researches on identity, individuation, parenting, and mental health. He is a reviewer for several journals and served on the editorial board of Clinical Psychology Review, and edited a special issue (December, 1999) for that journal devoted to “cross-cultural psychotherapy in the Middle-East.” He has published several books, book chapters, and articles in cross-cultural psychology and mental health among Arabs in which he presented his models and theories concerning culturally sensitive psychology. His recent book was:
Dwairy, M. (2006). Counseling and Psychotherapy with Arabs and Muslims: A Culturally Sensitive Approach. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

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