By Brigitte Khoury, PhD
During our training as clinical psychologists, we hardly think beyond the population we see in psychotherapy and the community we are working with.
However, in the 21st century, clinicians need to start looking outside their comfort zone and familiar environment to a larger global community that may need their services.
Currently the world is experiencing the largest refugee crisis, as well as the highest number of immigrants seeking a better life for them and their families. Invariably, every clinician psychologist will, at some point, interview, diagnose and offer treatment to a client from outside their own culture. Hence being culturally aware and willing to learn about other countries, religions, traditions, and languages is an essential step in providing appropriate care.
Through my 20+year career as a clinical psychologist in Beirut, Lebanon I have had the opportunity to work with many people from all over the world and all walks of life. Whether in research, teaching, training or clinical work, I have learned a lot from all of them and realized that psychology goes beyond walls, offices, and conventional routes of implementation.
My work with the World Health Organization took me to the four corners of the globe and had me collaborate with colleagues from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and more. Each one of them widened my horizon and made me realize that our work as psychologists can take any shape or form and can happen anywhere.
The Syrian war had me working with refugee families, men and women who were at the worst moment in their lives and needing a reason to continue. Help was offered in tents, under leaking roofs, often in less than desirable conditions. Yet people everywhere were so thankful to be heard, helped and supported.
Psychologists at this day and age are agents of change in society, playing multiple roles beyond the traditional ones. They are mediators, advocates, policy makers, healers, and peers.
One thing remains true though: as long as we can instill hope, the battle is not lost yet.