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Egypt Dissemination Activities 2021

Mohamed Abdelalem Aziz Ahmed, Egypt

Hi, I am Mohamed Abdelalem Aziz, Psychiatrist, Cognitive behavioral therapist (CBT), Dialectical Behavior therapist (DBT), and ACT therapist (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) from Egypt. A country located in the north of mother AFRICA. 

When I started my career as a psychiatry resident in 2015, I did not believe in the efficacy of psychotherapy, may be due to the lack of training of psychotherapy in Egypt. After some time I started noticing that some of my clients do not need medications but they have problems and also prescribing medications does not change thoughts nor the feelings. I got confused and my thoughts take me to change my specialty but something inside me was curious about psychotherapy. I registered for my first CBT course here in Egypt, it was quite expensive but I was very curious if there is something will help the clients to deal with things that medications can not deal with such as thoughts, feelings, traumatic memories and Grief.

After finishing my first CBT course, I was fascinated with theoretical background of this model and started reading more and more about it. I started working with my clients using it, it was good but I have always had the feeling that there is something missing and that I am pushing the patient towards the positive attitude. I used CBT on myself and I got the same feelings and my mind started questioning me – where do these negative thoughts and feelings come from? And why do they keep coming? - I became obsessed searching for every negative thought and challenging it and sometimes the thoughts came without feelings and sometimes feelings came without thoughts.

One of my clients who was struggling with anxiety related problems told me that he sometimes woke up in the morning and had a bad mood and I kept asking him – what did you have in mind when you woke up? And he kept answering me that he had nothing in his mind (his mind was blank). I noticed something after this client session, I am facing the same problem - sometimes I wake up with a bad mood and I did not know why. Another thing, the CBT was not effective at all with borderline personality disorder clients. All these situations left me with many questions about CBT, its theory, and effectiveness. 

One day, after a very difficult session with one of my clients who was struggling with chronic depression, I came back home disappointed and started revising the great CBT course of Beck Institute. I noticed a word called (ACT) was mentioned by one of the instructors of the course about the new waves of cognitive behavior therapy models and how this model is gaining evidence. I started searching about ACT books where I found Dr. Russ Harris great book (ACT made simple, 1st edition). I just finished the first chapter which explains the (caveman mind theory) and I started dancing- yes, yes, I was literally dancing shouting that’s amazing, amazing. I started reading about ACT with a great motivation and watching Russ Harris and Prof. Steven C. Hayes videos.

Acceptance and Commitment therapy not only changed my way of practicing psychotherapy but also, changed my whole life. Two concepts make me realize how ACT is so amazing. The first one was (the misery of human kind) - I was shocked that the main feelings for humans were the feeling which we were calling negative feelings such as fear, anxiety, panic, etc. not happiness and they are all normal feelings. I read Prof. Steven books and realized that he was searching for the source of humankind suffering even in religions. And since I am a Muslim, I did the same thing looking in my religion if there is something telling me and giving me evidence about human suffering. Guess what, I found many things in the holy book of Islam telling the same things Prof. Hayes told us. The second concept was Psychological Flexibility which gave me ways how to deal with all these difficult situations, thoughts, and feelings.

I finished all Dr. Harris and Prof. Hayes courses also read almost every book they wrote and many other authors. 2018, I started to introduce ACT to my clients and I was fascinated by the effectiveness and flexibility of this model. I started integrating other modalities to ACT especially Compassion Focused therapy and Self-Compassion exercises develop by Dr. Kristen Kneff.

I joined ACBS community which opened a huge door with its marvelous members, professionals, and resources. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to travel to any world ACBS conference but I attended two virtual conferences. They were amazing, with many professionals introducing the most recent research studies and with plenty of wonderful workshops which helped me to advance in my ACT practice. 

Now and after more than four years of practicing ACT myself and with different problems facing clients, I am writing my first ACT book which is in ARABIC language and also making my final touches in a series of ACT courses for Egyptians and Arabic therapists, all in Arabic language. My most important goal is to develop an ACBS community (Egypt branch).

Finally, from all my heart, thank you ACBS community for all the support and guidance you are giving to therapists in every country around the world especially developing countries. And I am looking forward to meeting you again in the next world ACBS conference. Thanks. 

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