Cognitive Therapy and Saudi Culture

Leslie Sokol, Ph.D., Director of EducationRecently, Leslie Sokol, Ph.D., our Director of Education, traveled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to provide a five-day training program to psychiatrists.  “One of the most rewarding parts of my training was weaving their culture into the work I was presenting on Cognitive Therapy.  It was really enriching, for example, to address the cultural tradition of prayer in my lectures on stress and anger management.  For instance, imagine walking down the street, and all of a sudden it’s time for the call to prayer.  The streets are quiet, and the world has stopped to pray for fifteen or twenty minutes.  What could be a better way to incorporate stress management into your life?  It forces you, five times a day, to stop what you’re doing.  For people in Saudi Arabia, it helps them to get in touch with their religion and their spirituality.  But for all of us, can you imagine taking five times a day to allow our frantic, hectic life to be put aside?  We talked about how, for everyone, adding time out during the day would be a good thing.”

Dr. Sokol also described the Muslim call to prayer as an excellent tool for anger management.  “It allows people to take time to reflect on the reasons why they are angry, and to evaluate those reasons to see if they are valid.  Much of the time, after reflection, people realize that the meaning they are ascribing to a given event is inaccurate – that there are alternative explanations for what has happened and that an event wasn’t as catastrophic or upsetting as it seemed.  By having a more reasonable perspective on things, people can behave in more peaceful and productive ways.”

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