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Family Therapy in India and Egypt

August 06, 2008

Last winter and spring, several graduate students in Lewis & Clark’s counseling psychology department journeyed to India and Egypt to gain valuable intercultural experience for their future work as family therapists, school psychologists, and community counselors.

“Our goal was to challenge students’ cultural perceptions and help them develop a bigger repertoire of solutions for families,” says Teresa McDowell, associate professor of counseling psychology and coordinator of the Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapy program.

In December, McDowell and 10 graduate students traveled to Mumbai, India. Their educational program was facilitated by Sebastian Perumbilly and the faculty at Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work.

“Students were able to develop conceptual frameworks during lectures and then apply what they were learning to understanding the experience of Indian families through experiential activities in communities,” says McDowell.

In March, McDowell and eight graduate students traveled to Menoufiya University (MU) in Shebin El-Kom, Egypt. Lewis & Clark and MU students participated in intensive learning experiences in and out of the classroom.

“There was an important emphasis on clarifying and attempting to correct common misconceptions between people in the Middle East and the United States,” says McDowell. “Many people we met believe what they see in the media–that all Americans are rich, have extreme sexual freedom, and don’t cook because they consume so much fast food.”

The groups also worked closely together to study the status of women in Egypt, the rights of Muslim women, and family life in rural and urban Egypt. “Egyptian women wanted us to get it through our heads that they are no more oppressed than women in any other country,” says McDowell. “Just because a woman wears a veil doesn’t mean she’s lost her voice.”

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