The Cultural Context Of Counseling

Mental health continues to be a daunting subject to talk about in today’s society. We are only beginning to understand how people cope, especially in difficult situations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has even pushed our issues on mental health to the limits. Aside from current events, several other factors also affect how we tackle mental health.

Read on to learn more about the historical and cultural contexts of mental health and coping mechanisms associated with this.

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Historical Context

A deeper dive into our history can help us understand our present-day traditions and beliefs in all fields, including psychotherapy. In this segment, we can see how our understanding of our minds has evolved with time. This way, we can appreciate our current strategies in counseling and how we can improve them further.

Our understanding of the mind goes back to our ancient past. For millennia, Egypt has been the cradle of civilization at the center of three huge continents. Records exist about the brain, mind, and consciousness in ancient Egypt going as far back as 1900 BCE. There is even reference to some mental illnesses such as melancholia, hysteria, and dementia. To treat these illnesses, it is likely priests conduct dream interpretations, hypnotic and religious methods.

Over time, modern Western psychology has swept across the globe. At first, philosophical ideas about how the mind works dominated the field. Eventually, psychotherapists applied these theories in clinical practice to help people with mental illnesses. Further, these mental health practices have also accommodated mainstream people having difficulty coping with their problems. Psychotherapists also practice as counselors to help them with personal struggles.

Sociocultural Contexts

Culture has also significantly influenced how we engage with other people and see ourselves in the world. It guides us on how people expect us to interact and behave in a particular setting. Moreover, our culture can define how much we value our health and which curative practice we need to seek. In particular, there may be certain stigma left about some mental illnesses and even towards the field of psychology itself. 

As transportation and communication keep people more connected now than ever, it is inevitable for cultures to clash. Differences in cultural expectations stand out when viewed from a different angle. For example, expectations for people from an Arab world such as Egypt are different from Western countries. To make the counseling more effective, the counselor must understand the differences between these cultural norms.

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Economic Contexts

An individual’s socioeconomic status can give us information on their health and educational background. Simply put, people with higher socioeconomic status are healthier and better informed about their mental health options. They are also financially capable of any form of counseling and psychotherapy should they need that kind of help.

On the other hand, people with lower socioeconomic status may have many apprehensions about mental health programs such as counseling. For one, it is not as high on their priority list as food and shelter. Because of this, they might have difficulty seeing the value of counseling. Their financial resources are limited, and paying for consultation fees or even just going to a counseling facility can be too big of an extra cost.

There are many ways to help everyone achieve optimum mental health, regardless of socioeconomic status. Even simple education and advocacy drives about mental health and counseling can go a long way. Likewise, a universal mental health care system can help rich or poor people have accessible treatment options and counseling.

Religious Contexts

Religious beliefs greatly impact the social, political, cultural, familial, and gender-based ways of life. Any culture following a single dominant religion seems to have a more cohesive and unified worldview. In some cases, they can even affect the laws and way of life of an entire nation. With their considerable impact on our world, we cannot deny that some aspects of our religions have affected our understanding of the mind.

Some religions use faith-based counseling to help their followers enlighten themselves. They might conduct prayers, meditation, or other forms of rituals. Current psychology does not discriminate against any form of religious belief. Some counselors might even consider religion to be a great source of motivation and support for their clients.

There is no exclusive or one best way in treatment for counseling. We all have different coping methods; what is effective for you may not be effective for me. Current practices combine both medical and spiritual perspectives to achieve better well-being and mental health.

Gender-Based Contexts

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Men and women differ in two aspects: sex and gender. While sex refers to the biological and physical aspects, gender focuses on social norms, roles, and expectations. For example, in traditional cultures, women are expected to care for the family. Moreover, especially in the Arab world, women are expected to keep their bodies covered and submit to their husbands.

Gender contexts also tell us how we should behave and act on a more personal scale. For instance, traditional cultures typically expect men to keep to themselves and refrain from showing emotion. Because of this, they might be reluctant to participate in counseling, where they need to share their thoughts and feelings.

Likewise, gender contexts are present in a larger community setting. For instance, in a patriarchal society, the views and opinions of men may be perceived as more valuable than those of women. In these circumstances, women might undervalue their own experiences and worldviews. Because of these, women might need a little push to encourage them to talk and participate in group counseling.

The Current State Of Mental Health

While we are more conscious of mental health now, not everyone can access resources helpful to them. There are still limits in diagnosis and access to mental healthcare. There is a need to expand mental health awareness even further and provide better services. Without these, mental health issues might continue to be pushed aside as a non-important matter.  

Our health care system has yet to address the growing need for mental health care. It is necessary to train more mental healthcare professionals, build facilities, and allocate a budget, especially in these trying times. We must start to take mental health more seriously and eliminate the stigmas associated with it. Mental health issues should no longer be taboo for people to seek help when they need it.

How Pharaohs Used Counselors To Rule

As one of the ancient civilizations in the world, Egypt has provided mankind with pyramids and other architectural infrastructures. As a country, Egypt sustained its beautiful historical landmarks and offered some vacation spots. But have you ever wondered how this great civilization was able to maintain itself for thousands of years?

Numerous Egyptian emperors or pharaohs emerged from the Nile Valley three thousand years ago. Pharaohs became the rulers of the people as well as religious leaders. Being a religious figure is acting as a divine mediator between their gods and the Egyptian people. As politicians, pharaohs are involved in making laws, collecting tasks, and waging war. They are also in charge of managing all of the lands that Egypt owns.

Yet, they are not entirely alone in ruling this vast and bountiful land. Pharaohs have counselors or advisors called a vizier who serves them. 

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What Was A Vizier’s Role And Responsibilities

The vizier was the highest official in ancient Egypt. Viziers held the second most powerful position after the king. In the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, viziers were often appointed by the pharaohs. During the Egyptian dynasty’s 4th and 5th centuries, viziers often hailed from the royal family.

A vizier’s primary responsibility is similar to that of a prime minister: to oversee the country’s administration. It can be as simple as ensuring that the city has enough water supply. Viziers were also responsible for almost every aspect of government operations. Some research also suggests that viziers were not merely counselors but rather administrative heads. They implemented policies made by the pharaoh.

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Religious Roles

Viziers helped the pharaoh to carry out their religious and traditional practices. For instance, they supervised the execution of rituals and ensured that they were carried out correctly. Viziers were also responsible for appointing high priests, as well as other people in religious positions.

Financial Roles

These counselors supervised taxation implementation. Viziers ensured that taxes were applied fairly and correctly to both the wealthy and the poor. Viziers were also in charge of treasury and wealth management. Other lesser officials, such as scribes and tax collectors, reported to the vizier.

Judicial Roles

Since viziers sat in the High Court, they were also responsible for appointing judges. If there were issues concerning injustices, they served as the Chief Counselor and provided resolutions. The viziers also appointed the Chief of Police.

Agricultural Roles

When there were any land disputes, the vizier was responsible for overseeing agricultural procedures. They were in charge of deciding how Egyptian land will be used. Lands may be used for business or exclusively for farming. Viziers also oversaw the fair use of agricultural lands. They needed to ensure that there was enough food for the whole city.

Military Roles

As the right hand of the pharaoh, viziers were responsible for appointing generals. They were also involved in planning military strategies and tactics. All military choices made by their subordinates were reported to them, and in turn, they reported directly to the pharaoh about the situation of warfare. Viziers had an enormous role in keeping the military intact and united.

Architectural And Interior Construction Roles

Another role of viziers involves planning and building monuments. They may serve as the Chief Architect responsible for building the pharaoh’s tomb and other infrastructures. Aside from this, viziers also supervise the construction and reparation of roads, dikes, and canals.  

Most Important Egyptian Counselors

For viziers to have performed all of their designated duties, they needed to be highly knowledgeable about these different professions and highly educated on how these government agencies function. Viziers received training as scribes to be literate. They also had to master being a lawyer, farmer, judge, historian, architect, and a priest. The following people are some of the most important viziers in Egyptian history:

Imhotep

Imhotep of the third Dynasty is probably the most famous vizier. He was a counselor to the pharaoh, Djoser, and serves as the high priest at Heliopolis. Imhotep is also an architect, engineer, and doctor. During his time, he was given the divine status and called the real father of medicine.

Rekhmire

Rekhmire served the king, Thutmose III, during the 18th dynasty. This vizier rose to fame when his tomb was discovered to contain a detailed depiction of his daily life in the New Kingdom of Egypt. Although Rekhmire served various pharaohs for more than 50 years, he was relieved from duty when he was already in his seventies.

Ankhu

As the son of a vizier, Ankhu served the pharaohs Sobekhotep II and Khendjer during the 13th dynasty. Scholars suggest that he served around five kings for only short periods. As a vizier, Ankhu strived to maintain continuity of rule. This was when several kings were deposed, and the country may have been subjected to chaos.

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Pharaohs knew what it took to run a government. They knew that the position required a significant amount of knowledge, responsibility, and accountability. They appointed a vizier to oversee the kingdom in their name. This position was a highly coveted one during the Pharaonic period. Ancient Egyptian viziers were expected to be impartial, law-abiding, and level-headed citizens. As a counselor, viziers play various roles to maintain the reign of an Egyptian king. 

Take A Virtual Tour Of Egypt While On COVID-19 Quarantine

With the recent coronavirus outbreak, many of us have cancelled our travel plans for the year. However, we can turn our time in isolation into a period of exploration. Harvard has teamed up with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to bring us five new virtual experiences. Each is a detailed 3D map that we can explore similar to Google Maps on street view.

Let’s take a look at what gems of Egypt we can explore right from the comfort of our home.

The Tomb Of Queen Meresankh III

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Almost everyone is familiar with the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. However, there’s another Egyptian treasure waiting for you to explore nearby. The mastaba tomb of Queen Meresankh III is an overlooked piece of history you don’t want to miss.

Of our virtual tours in this list, this site is the oldest of them all. Harvard archaeologist George Andrew Reisner had initially discovered the tomb in 1927.

The virtual tour takes us inside to enjoy hieroglyphic inscriptions on walls as old as 5,000 years old. What’s impressive is that the carvings and paintings have stayed well-preserved. You can still see the remains of their original coloring and etching.

The first floor features ten statues of women, representing Meresankh III’s queenly relatives. As we go down to her sarcophagus on the first floor, we pass by statues depicting the queen and her mother. We see a reconstruction of the ancient coffin, as the real thing is at Cairo’s Egyptian Antiquities Museum.

Ben Ezra Synagogue

In Old Cairo stands the Ben Ezra synagogue. The site is famous as folklore says that it is here that the Pharaoh’s daughter discovered baby Moses. This site was originally a Coptic church, but the patriarch later sold it to a group of Jews.

No longer an official place of worship today, the synagogue now serves as a museum. The area has undergone several renovations to look like what it does now. Ten tall marble pillars hold the synagogue structure, which features a gold and blue interior.

Mosque-Madrassa Of Sultan Barquq

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Another more colorful site to visit is the mosque-madrassa of Sultan Barquq. The site is a well-visited location due to its massive size and Islamic style of architecture. The structure dates back to the medieval period when Cairo was a center of trade.

The architectural design of the old school is one good reason to explore it. The intricate structure of the mosque stands on the site of an extravagant palace. You’ll be able to explore and appreciate these intricacies in the virtual tour.

The Red Monastery

To further showcase the religious diversity of Egypt is the Red Monastery near Souhag. The Coptic Orthodox site gets its name from the red bricks that form its exterior. We have yet to discover the history of the monastery, with experts only estimating it to be built by Saint Pishay in the fourth century AD. Inside, colorful frescos stand over the monastery’s white walls.

The Tomb Of Menna

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Rounding out our virtual tours is the Tomb of Menna, dating back to the 18th dynasty of Egypt. It is a popular site that officials consider to be one of the “most visited” tombs of the era.

Compared to pharaohs, we know little about the ancient official. However, we can stand to discover what information there is by exploring his tomb. For instance, the site records all the titles he held, including Scribe of the Lord of the Two Lands. He was also Overseer of Fields of Amun. Menna’s position was unique as he held positions in both palace administration and temple.

The tomb showcases well-preserved paintings that depict Menna’s life. What’s interesting to note is that all depictions of the official are damaged, with the face scratched out. Ancient Egyptians believed that a person’s soul inhabited images such as these. Damage to these paintings would mean someone wanted to erase Menna from history.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 outbreak has thrown off many of our plans. “You probably won’t be going on vacation next month, but someday this will end — and eventually, this cabin fever will become a distant memory,” says Scott Bea, PsyD.

Until then, you can use up some of that free time to discover the beauty and wonder of Ancient Egypt. Five virtual tours await you. Discover the Tombs of Queen Meresankh III and Menna, the Ben Ezra synagogue, the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Barquq, and the Red Monastery.

This ancient world’s diverse and rich culture is sure to keep you sane and in awe during this quarantine. Experience Egypt while still staying safe at home.

Faith And Society: How Religious Beliefs Shape The Modern Day Egypt

The Golden Rule can be found in religions and philosophies all over the world. It was first written down in ancient Egypt. —

When it comes to famous tourist destinations, Egypt has always been on the top of lists since the time of enlightenment. But what made these tourist destinations different from other countries is its correlation with the ancient civilization and the religious beliefs that every Egyptian family still carries until now.

Since the early 1300s, Egypt has been practicing their religious beliefs as the basis for making laws of the state. The legislative branch of the Egyptian government sees the predominant religion like Islam as a primary pillar that can shape society for the future generation. However, let us also tackle and look at the relationship of other minor religious beliefs like Christianity and Judaism to modern Egyptian society.

Islam As The Predominant Religion

Egypt’s population consists of roughly 94 percent of Muslim believers. A large part of this population considers themselves as the follower of Sunni Islam in which they recognize the four caliphs as the rightful leaders of the state. Meanwhile, there is also a small portion of this population that faithfully believes in Mu’tazila, Shia Twelvers, and Ismailism. Apart from that, the renowned principal and long-standing Islamic university ever recorded in the world is in Egypt.

Al-Azhar University offers Islamic studies that enhance the Muslim believer’s principles, convictions, and practices in which it can foster a beneficial impact on all sectors of the Egyptian community. After graduation, the majority of the students from the university pursue working in the government where they can facilitate legislative decisions that follow the Islamic rules. It is also to support the propagation of Islamic faith which citizens believe to be an effective political system and the only way they can afford the preservation of order.

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Although Islam and its rules have contributed a positive impact to the community as the official state religion of Egypt, flaws continue to emerge such as denial of religious freedom. The government is firm with the decision of not recognizing non-Muslim individuals because they believe that it is in contradiction with national peace. So for citizens who have converted and practiced other religious belief, they are arrested and subjected to penalization.

It is an old truth but a frequently forgotten one: there are no leaders without followers. If followers decide to take a different route then the individual at the front ceases to be the leader. — Mark Van Vugt Ph.D.

Christianity As The Second Religion

The Christian religion in Egypt still exists to around five percent of the population despite the prominence of Islamic faith in the country. A large portion of the Christian community in Egypt belongs to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria where the Bible is the basis of services and lessons.

Because of the presence of Christianity, the government has adopted a more democratic way of leadership in the country. The 12 diocesan bishops serve as the authorities or councils in the community, where they handle the finances of the Christian churches in the area. They are authorized to administer rules in regards to education, heritage, and marriage.

Just like Islam, the leaders of the Christian church in Egypt have established primary schools, secondary schools, and colleges that hone children to the teachings of the gospel. Aside from that, a strong foundation of Sunday-school movement has been visible for years to offer religious education, good ethics, and manners to incapable children who cannot go to Coptic schools.

Judaism: The Lowest In Number Among The Recognized Religions

Although Judaism is considered one of the oldest broad evangelical religions present in the world, it is still one of the lowest in terms of the number recognized in Egypt. Records estimate that less than one percent of present-day Egypt’s population practices Judaism. The 40 Jews remaining in the country is a representation of the ones who left after the massive migration to Israel in 1948. 

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A lot of Jewish religious practices are very much family-oriented. For example, they never forget the tradition of doing Sabbath meal where relatives unite in one table to honor the sacred day. Since the religion of Judaism is a faith of action, believers tend to seek both obedience to the law of the land and obedience to the law of the spirits which contribute to the holiness of the world. The remaining population of Egypt who believes in Judaism follows rules that help with keeping a group of individuals together for the betterment of the future generation.

Unrecognized Religions

The remaining percentage of the entire population of Egypt belongs to the unrecognized religions such as Atheism, Hinduism, Baha’I Faith, and Agnosticism. The religions mentioned are the religious beliefs that were not able to register their customs and traditions to the Department of Religious Affairs. The lack of state recognition of the religions is an indication of a more complex processing system in the country. For example, an individual who has Baha’I faith that is residing in Egypt may have a hard time registering for bank accounts, educational institutions, and businesses.

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Since the early times, faith and society were never separate. They always come hand in hand because religion is instituted to regulate society. There is a strong potential for religious beliefs and practices to enormously address social issues. That is why it has taken up accountability to improve the shape of society in all aspects.

We don’t control other people, the weather, the economy, our bodies and health, our reputation, or things in the past and future. The only thing we have complete control over is our beliefs—if we choose to exercise this control. — Susan K Perry Ph.D.

3 Unique Ways Egyptians Handle Stress 

Egypt is more than just the tombs and mummies. It is a nation located where Africa and Asia meet. Moreover, it is a country surrounded by deserts, pyramids, and rivers. With its rich culture and history masked with mystery, it is a fascinating place to visit.

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Egyptian Hieroglyphs: An Iconic Writing System 

Of all the ancient scripts in the world, perhaps one of the most well-known is Egyptian hieroglyphs. Whenever people see the distinctive symbols, many of them remember the old adventure movies they grew up with, the ones where the hero explores long-lost tombs of ancient pharaohs, seeking danger and thrill.  

 

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5 Unique Egyptian Traditions

The population of Egypt, the earliest civilization, was maintained by beer which was consumed by every person – man, woman, and child – at every meal. — Stanton Peele Ph.D.

Egypt is a magnificent country. It has impressed tourists and the rest of the world with its unique and breathtaking attractions. This country also has a rich culture dating from three eras – the Pharaonic era, the Christianity era, and the Islam era. Egypt has exciting and unique traditions as well, dating back to thousands of years ago but are still practiced up to today. Let us explore and understand some of these traditions.  

 

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