University to help fill UAE psychology void with new degree course

As awareness to mental health rises, more professionals trained in psychology are needed, especially those who speak Arabic.

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DUBAI // Despite the need for more psychologists in the UAE, there are just a handful of universities offering degrees in the field – but one institution is about to help to plug the gap.

Amity University, a branch campus of the Indian institution, will launch its undergraduate psychology degree this autumn and the move has been welcomed by experts.

Mariam Shaikh, the university’s vice president of admissions, said: “A quick browse through jobs available showed a lot of vacancies in this area so our graduates will definitely have the opportunity for internships and final placements.

“We are seeing a lot of interest, especially from female students.”

She said many government agencies, such as the Dubai ­Early Childhood Development Centre and Child Early Intervention Medical Centre, would be prime targets for its students.

“There is an increasing ­demand for psychology in schools, NGOs and hospitals, government agencies and corporates,” Ms Shaikh said.

Dr Justin Thomas, psychology lecturer at Zayed University, said the lack of manpower in the UAE must be addressed.

“An obvious first step to gaining the many benefits psychologists can bring to the economy and people’s lives in general is to offer courses at university, so Amity’s offering is good news.

“We really still need high-quality masters and doctoral programmes if we are going to increase the rate of UAE-produced expertise and address the issue of lack of access to child psychologists, cognitive therapists, educational psychologists, aviation psychologists and forensic psychologists.”

Dr Thoraiya Kanafani, clinical director at the Human Relations Institute and Clinic, said locally trained professionals are a vital part of society.

“It’s important to encourage locally trained psychologists because it not only increases the awareness among the local population about mental health difficulties but it also helps to minimise the stigma behind mental health ,” she said.

As awareness to mental health rises, more professionals are needed, said Dr Kanafani, especially those who speak Arabic.

“Psychology is a growing field in the Middle East and its study must be encouraged among the population in order for those in need to acquire the help they ­deserve,” she said.