Dr. Anne Justus is the true representation of what Egyptians seeking therapy strive towards: a trained professional that maintains strict confidentiality around her practice.
She was an associate professor at The American University in Cairo’s (AUC) Department of Psychology, and has been living in Egypt since 2007.
Her clinical interests include treatment of depression, anxiety, stress, personality disorders (including cutting and self-injurious behaviors) and expressions of sexuality in the Middle East, among other topics. She also has extensive training in the treatment of neuropsychological disorders, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, psychological problems of refugees in the Middle East and North Africa, and the psychological problems of artists and creative individuals. Her treatment methods include psychodynamic psychotherapy, couples’ therapy, CBT, DBT, and EMDR.
While discussing therapy practices and the stigma around seeking help, Justus mentions how today, “it’s definitely well more accepted [now] than when I came in 2007. Back then, being a professor at the American University in Cairo, I remember how psychology was frowned upon. I remember it being seen like some sort of witchcraft then. We’ve come a long way, today. People are more open minded – more willing to engage in the therapeutic process.”
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What is Mental Health?
Our conversation mainly revolved around the perception of what mental health is seen as and typically understood to be in the Arab world.
“If we’re going to start to address the question of what mental health is here in the Middle East, it’s still a huge undefined area. I mean, where do we start… understanding abuse, empathy, mental disorders etc… The biggest misconception is that people usually relate mental health to severe mental health disorders that require hospitalization and these cases are usually rare,” Justus tells Empower founder, Ally Salama.
Confidentiality Confidentiality Confidentiality
One of the main problems around mental health counseling and therapy in Egypt has definitely got to be the poor standards and regulations around the practice. “When I first started my practice here, I did not expect to be receiving a high influx of Egyptians. My Egyptian clients tell me, a main reason I’m coming to see you is because I know you don’t know my mother,” Dr. Anne Justus exquisitely remarks, almost in shock at the level of poor client confidentiality around therapy in the country.
“Per week, at least four clients walk into my office complaining about how their previous therapist breached their confidentiality. It’s a serious thing. It’s not necessarily true that foreigners work at a higher standard than Egyptians at all; in fact many of my Egyptians colleagues are superb and excel at what they do – the only difference now amongst locals is the assumption that foreigners are practicing with more confidentiality,” says Dr. Anne.
A lack of confidentiality and privacy has wrecked the trust of many seeking help from local professionals. The truth is that foreigners are not more qualified; they just practice strict confidentiality.
The message seems to be clear to all practicing professionals in the mental health services sector in the Middle East, and not just in Egypt: without maintaining strict confidentiality, [without your client’s trust] you are really no good.
It is not okay to call your client’s relatives to discuss their personal matters – those they have personally entrusted you with.
That’s not “what’s best for them”.
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