Psychology and Mental Health Care


Dr. Annette Schonder
Psychologist, Sociologist,
American Board
Certified Clinical Counselor
Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist
Phone: 00971-4-4574240

The origins of psychology can be traced back to Aristotle who was born 384 BC in northern Greece. He made first formal studies of everyday actions of living people as they reasoned, remembered, learned, and attempted to persuade one another. Aristotle used the term psyche to refer to the essence of life. This term is usually translated today to mean soul or mind, but it is closely related in meaning to the word breath. The word psychology comes from Aristotle`s word psyche plus the Greek word logos signifying “the study of.” It was not until 1879 that the formal discipline of psychology was launched by Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig, Germany. Some historians feel that William James deserves the honor for a less publicized laboratory at Harvard University which opened in 1875.

Today the discipline of psychology has branched out into many different areas.  The American Psychological Association (APA) defines psychology in the following way:  “Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience — from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every conceivable setting from scientific research centers to mental healthcare services, “the understanding of behavior” is the enterprise of psychologists.”

The focus of this article is on mental health care and the professionals who provide treatments, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and counselors, in the form of anxiety treatment, depression treatment, addiction treatment, bipolar treatment etc. The World Health Organization (WHO) maintains, “mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, or counselors are uniquely educated and qualified to promote this kind of well-being.

Persons wishing to improve their mental and behavioral health, because they are suffering from mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, OCD, or addiction etc., can seek the services of a mental health care professional. Mental health professionals are regulated in most parts of the world, including Dubai, and must meet educational and internship requirements to meet licensing standards to be able to offer their services to the public. This assures that professionals offering such services are well qualified to offer evidenced based treatment methods for any mental health disorder. Mental health care professionals providing psychotherapy or counseling in Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) and greater Dubai,  are required to hold a minimum of a master’s degree, or a doctorate from an accredited Western University in a mental health related major, must show proof of successfully completing a supervised internship, must hold a license in their country of origin, and must have years of experience.  These stringent requirements for licensure assure that a person seeking treatment will be in qualified hands.

Following a list of mental health professionals:

Clinical Counselor
Clinical Social Worker
Psychiatric Nurses
Marriage and Family Counselors

All mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and counselors, are educated in psychology and various therapeutic approaches. They will use their theoretical knowledge of human behavior and treatment methods to provide services for depression treatment, anxiety treatment, OCD treatment, ADD treatment, addiction treatment etc.  The most important distinction among these professionals is that psychiatrists are medical doctors (MDs) with specialization in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders and prescribe medication for a variety of mental health disorders.  They prescribe medications for anxiety treatment, depression treatment, OCD treatment, bipolar disorder treatment etc. Their background in medicine gives them the knowledge to understand the body`s functions and the complex relationship between emotional illness and other medical illness. They are best qualified to distinguish between physical and psychological causes of both mental and physical distress. Psychiatrists have the expertise to prescribe psychoactive medication and appropriate psychotherapy.

People seek counseling and psychotherapy for many different reasons: Life is difficult, and we all encounter challenges on our journey through life. Some challenges are universal to the human experience, and others are unique to our lives and circumstances. Just a few hours of marital counseling can improve communication skills and help a couple move forward in a positive direction. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) addresses symptoms and underlying causes of anxiety and depression. Stressors and triggers can be identified and managed that underlie maladaptive behaviors, such as binge drinking, or anger control problems. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is particularly helpful when people are routinely overwhelmed by strong feelings. Grief counseling can help the bereaved process their loss to be able to move forward with their own lives. Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) helps individuals with Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD). This sample of mentioned treatment methods, CBT, DBT, and ERP are evidence based, which means they have been scientifically studied for their effectiveness. However, the therapeutic relationship between a counselor or psychotherapist is not just about evidence based treatment methods, but also about trust, empathy, and unconditional regard.

It is important to note that some conditions require psychiatric and psychotherapeutic attention. A qualified psychotherapist or counselor knows when to make a referral to a psychiatrist for further evaluation.  Typically, in such cases, medication and psychotherapy combined are the best treatment option (pharmacotherapy). There are clear diagnostic guidelines that are followed in psychiatric evaluations. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders (DSM) is used as a standard for mental health diagnoses. While there are over 200 classified forms of mental illness, the five (5) major categories of mental illness are: (a) anxiety disorders, (b) mood disorders, (c) schizophrenia/psychotic disorders, (d) dementias and (f) eating disorders. In most cases symptoms can be managed with counseling (psychotherapy) and medication.