Egyptian behavioral health or Egyptian psychology started in the 19th century. Psychology according to Islam was the study of the human behavior and the human mind – the mind specifically referring to human consciousness or intellect. Hence, the old Islamic psychology did not only focus on the mind. It included the soul, which represented human personality and nature. It also included the heart and the spirit, as evidenced by the extensive writings of the medieval Arab scholars. Islamic behavioral health or Islamic psychology as a whole encompassed the study of the self (or the ‘Nafs’) and was associated with psychiatry, psychology, and the sciences.
An Egyptian king did the first documented psychological experiment in the 7th century. It concluded that if children from Egypt were separated when they were infants without exposure to any type of communication, they would instinctively speak their original language – Egyptian – further supporting the idea that language comes from the mind. Eventually, psychology was introduced and practiced by all Arab regions, and several Arab scholars made history in contributing to the discipline. These include Ibn-Khaldoun, Al-Farabi, Ibn-Sina, and Ibn-al-Heitham.
The practice flourished even more with the opening of the first university in Egypt in 1908. Subsequently, the first behavioral health lecture was held there in 1911, which was a discussion of the psychology of women. During this time, French teachers taught psychology in Egypt. However, in 1940, the Egyptian psychologists were given the responsibility, and since then they taught psychology. The best teacher ever known in Egypt was Y. Mourad, who studied and earned his Psychology degree in France. After him, several others got qualified to teach the discipline in Egypt and surrounding Arab countries, although organizations established associated with psychology were short-lived due to financial reasons.
Undeniably, Egypt became the primary doorway of modern psychology to the rest of the Arab nations. Consequently, most of these nations share equal strengths and weaknesses with Egypt when it comes to the behavioral health discipline. Perhaps this is because Egypt and the Arab nations share the same language, religion, history, and political issues. Some of the trials and challenges of Egyptian psychology include:
- Universities in Egypt have had financial issues, just as other sectors in Egypt did. This affected academic outcomes, including psychology.
- The Psychology Department is still part of the Arts Department in Egypt instead of being a separate one. This is why the discipline is torn between the scientific and the literary disciplines. As a result, there is also a conflict between two classifications of psychologists – the teachers from graduate school and those from the medical group.
- Animal psychology has not been receiving attention in the Egyptian psychological institutes.
- The presence of misconceptions surrounding psychology, including the belief that mental illness is a sign of weak faith, that those who are inflicted with a mental disorder should not be given high-level type jobs, and that mentally ill individuals should not be allowed to wander freely but should be locked away in mental care institutions.
The Future Of Egyptian Behavioral Health
In spite of the many trials, even until today, Egyptian psychologists have reached up to 70% of the entire Arab psychologist population, and Egyptian research and studies make up approximately 70% of the entire Arabic outcomes. These committed psychologists who are sincere in their practice hope to be involved in more collaboration with funded trials with colleagues from across the world. They want to establish a standard database for different psychological tests that are useful especially for their people. It is also their biggest hope that one day, professional meetings and conferences of psychological societies will be held in the Arab regions to help them in developing behavioral health and psychology as a whole in their part of the world.
Indeed, there have been, and still, there are challenges that face Egyptian psychology, which includes finances to support and perform research activities. Unfortunately, there is also a lack of an appropriate system of communication among Egyptian and Arab psychologists, plus a vague and problematic identity of the standing of psychology. The further development of this experimental but major branch of science in Egypt will not be a walk in the park, but it certainly has to be done.