Speaking of Education
My recent vacation could be considered a "busman's holiday," but it provided an unusual opportunity to reflect on the development of organized psychology, issues of diversity in teaching, research and practice, and models of education and training in an international context.
After a traditional tourist visit to Egypt, where I fulfilled a lifelong dream of visiting creations of an ancient civilization, I spent five days as a visiting scholar at the American University in Beirut (AUB). My invitation came through a former student, Dr. Arwa Aamiry, now a visiting professor at AUB while on leave from her position at the University of Jordan.
Dr. Aamiry was both my hostess and "professor" during a visit in which I learned more than I taught. Her experience in education and training models is extensive, since in addition to her faculty roles in the Middle East, she has two PhDs from American universities--one in experimental psychology from the University of Louisville and one in clinical psychology from the University of Florida.
Lebanese psychology challenges
My visit was sponsored by the AUB department of social and behavioral sciences (chair, Dr. Shahe Kazarian), the Faculty of Health Sciences (dean, Dr. Huda Zurayk) and AUB Medical Center (Dr. Brigitte Khoury). Although I had published a chapter on minority women's health in Dr. Kazarian's book on culture and health, "Handbook of Cultural Health Psychology" (Academic Press, 2001), this was my first opportunity to meet him in person and hear his exciting plans for expanding psychology programs at AUB in collaboration with the Faculty of Health Sciences and AUB Medical Center.
The critical connections between behavior and health are well-recognized by AUB faculty, who are dedicated to research and practice that is grounded in the social context of Lebanon and sensitive to evolving needs of their diverse communities. A challenge in practicum training is that teaching at AUB is in English, but clinical services are provided in Arabic. (At other institutions in Lebanon, teaching is in French.) Translations of English interviewing expressions into Arabic can result in awkward (if not problematic) interactions with patients, and translations of symptoms expressed by Lebanese patients often do not fit Western diagnostic criteria.
Students also work with patients who are very different from themselves in terms of socioeconomic status, religion and ethnicity. Dr. Khoury noted a dearth of writings on teaching and practice in Arab mental health, especially in the Lebanese dialect, and I was reminded of how our efforts to promote cultural competence in psychology education and training are indeed a global issue for our discipline and profession.
A landmark event
I was also privileged to participate in a historic event in Lebanon--the inaugural meeting of the Lebanese Psychological Association (LPA). Leading psychologists from the major academic institutions (where teaching might be in English, French or Arabic, and models of education and training differed) put aside differences to initiate this effort. Dr. Khoury was installed as LPA's first president. The turnout of academics and practitioners was double that expected, and the excitement was palpable. There seemed to be a clear recognition of the need for a communal voice for psychology if the discipline and profession were to prosper.
In preparing for my keynote address, I reviewed articles by Ray Fowler, APA's former CEO, on the evolution of organized psychology in the United States. After 50 years of somewhat steady growth, APA's membership mushroomed by more than 500 percent from 1940 to 1945; by 1970, membership had increased by approximately 4,500 percent over 1940.
This growth has been attributed to psychology's ability to meet societal needs associated with World War II, and the related federal policies that fostered psychology's education and training. Lebanon is still recovering from over 15 years of civil war, and there is little doubt that psychology's research and practice has much to contribute to its needs in health, education and the promotion of public welfare. I will be very interested in tracking psychology's development there, and predict a healthy growth if societal needs are successfully addressed.
I remain indebted to my hosts for this invitation to learn, and to all those I met for such a warm reception. As the first national psychology organization in the world, APA is a respected leader in organized psychology. I trust others will learn from our history. I am also reminded that participants at the Education Directorate's 2001 Education Leadership Conference highlighted increased needs to consider global perspectives in our curricula; some advocated for re-instituting the language requirement in doctoral study in psychology. We do need to support efforts to internationalize the curriculum and promote exchange programs at the graduate level. The trends toward globalization in society, and in education, are not likely to reverse.
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