Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is well-established as a treatment for depression, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders, and also plays an important role in the clinical management of a broad range of other disorders. Moreover, the findings of intensive empirical studies support the effectiveness of CBT in the counseling of individuals from Western cultural contexts. However, the collection of extant conceptual and empirical studies of CBT in non-Western cultures is quite limited.
The main aim of this talk is to examine the compatibility of CBT with Arab culture. The use of CBT in counseling individuals from Arab cultural contexts will be discussed and analyzed. This discussion will include the presentation of characteristics of Arab culture related to values and belief systems, social roles, communication, socialization, coping styles, concepts of the self, and worldview. Furthermore, the general elements of CBT (collaborative empiricism, a problem-oriented focus, short-term treatment, structured methods, and psychoeducation) and cognitive methods (examining advantages and disadvantages, identifying cognitive errors, generating rational alternatives, and imagery), as well as behavioral methods (activity and pleasant-event scheduling, graded task assignments, assertion training, modeling, and relaxation and breathing training) will be discussed in the context of Arab culture. This analysis will include a discussion of the potential strengths and weaknesses of using CBT in the treatment of Arab clients.
The discussion will reveal that several characteristics of Arab culture fit nicely with the principles and methods of CBT. However, other cultural characteristics are not congruent with this approach. Thus, therapists need to carefully modify CBT, in order use it effectively in Arab cultural contexts.
To conclude, with a few modifications, CBT can be used more effectively in non-Western cultural contexts, in general, and Arab cultural contexts, in particular.
Dr. Abu-Kaf is currently lecturer in cross-cultural psychology in Conflict Management and Resolution Program in BGU. She earned her MA in Clinical Psychology and PhD at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev. She spent her post- doc studies in the Medical Anthropology program at Harvard University. She specializes in areas of personality, psychopathology, and psychotherapy in different Cultural Contexts. By working at the edges between theory and practice as well as Western and non-Western cultural contexts, she hopes to make significant contribution to both understanding mental health problems and the development of culturally competent interventions.