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The modern world society struggles to perceive psychology as a distinct science due to the multiple differences in attitudes toward human behavior laws in diverse cultures. The relation of psychology to health issues, the laws of human behavior, as well as the overall importance of mental health interventions undergo critical discussion and are differently perceived by people in particular sociocultural contexts.
This paper will concentrate on the Afghan background with its specific socio-cultural system of beliefs and tendencies affecting the perception of psychology as a science. The role of psychologists and the scope of their work is analyzed in the paper concerning historical and contemporary state events, cultural particularities, and religious beliefs. The modern Afghan patriarchal community is characterized by the diminished role of women and the influence of traditions and religion on people’s beliefs, communication styles, and behavior. The society in Afghanistan does not fully accept psychological science as the one capable of addressing people’s issues in isolation from religion, community, and culture which have a strong effect on the daily lives of Afghan people.
The Scientific Status of Psychology
The scientific status of psychology encounters public skepticism in many countries with diverse socio-cultural backgrounds. Fundamental reasons for such an attitude towards the science of human behavior lie in the “popularity of psychological myths,” the presence of “therapeutic techniques with poor empirical support” and the advancement in the field of pop-psychology (Ferguson, 2015, p. 527).
Some perception challenges are related to the ethical issues of psychological studies which require minimal disclosure of data within the research processes (Ferguson, 2015). However, the attitude toward science depends not only on the global trends but also on the specific features of particular societies. The Afghan context presents the culture, military conflicts, religious beliefs, and community-based patriarchal society as the most important issues affecting the perception of psychological science.
A serious challenge that psychology faces in Afghanistan are directly connected with the war conflicts that the country has been involved in for many years. Such a state of affairs imposes a variety of severe mental issues among the majority of the population in the country which need to have qualified help of professionals (Bragin et al., 2018). On the one hand, there is an urgent need for conflict-related psychological issues to be resolved with an application of scientifically-based interventions.
However, on the other hand, the government of the country that directs all its efforts to the military sphere fails to address the issue of psychological help for people. These complicated historical events cause a lot of problems for both individuals who inhabit the country and the specialists who need to be flexible in their skills and knowledge to address the issues accurately and professionally.
The Role of a Psychologist in the Afghan Context
The role of a psychologist in the Afghan context implies the professional’s inclusion in the cultural, religious, and social spheres of life where communities dominate over individualistic approaches. The challenges of basic methodologies utilized by the professionals in the psychological field are caused by the social structure of the Afghan society. According to the study conducted by Bragin et al. (2018), Afghan psychologists from different regions of the country who participated in the study claimed the importance of confidentiality in counseling only in those cases that don engage family-related issues or the ones that might be harmful to some outside parties.
The participants working in the sector of women care “community engagement as an essential part of the solution to any individual and family problem,” regardless of their specialty (Bragin et al., 2018, p. 237). Besides, there exist many requirements for the interventions and the need for combining them with social and healthcare services.
Moreover, society seems to be very demanding toward psychologists and the methods they utilize. As the participants of the study conducted by Bragin et al. (2018) stated, there existed some strict requirements concerning the professional’s qualification, style of behavior. In their work, psychologists have to demonstrate kindness and compassion, as well as thoroughly apply their knowledge “within the confines of accepted Afghan cultural norms of behavior” (Bragin et al., 2018, p. 235).
It is challenging to apply an individual approach in counseling and in the work of a psychologist in general in a society where the level of poverty and the lack of first educational and healthcare opportunities for a large part of the country’s population imposes an array of collective issues (Bragin et al., 2018). Therefore, psychology in the Afghan social context faces the challenge of being broader than just a science. In the circumstances of multiple primary needs, most people have considering illiteracy, safety issues, gender inequality, and other crucial aspects of daily life in this country.
The Ways Psychological Institutions Manage Research Ethics
Since the cultural paradigm has a strong influence on the work of a psychologist in Afghanistan, it is essential to manage ethical issues related to research and therapy. Ethics in the analyzed context has a close connection to the cultural particularities that the Afghan society embodies. It triggers the long-established structure of a society that diminishes the role of women and utilizes a patriarchal form (Bragin et al., 2018). Moreover, constant wars take the lives of many men causing harm for widowed women who have specific needs in counseling. The psychological institutions maintain this ethical issue requiring specific knowledge from the specialist to be able to navigate the problems a female might have.
Also, the Afghan culture grounds on a solid religious basis. People live according to the Quran, bear talismans, and believe in the power of religion to cure all the problems of humans (Bragin et al., 2018). Thus, a professional working with diverse groups of people might utilize the scope of their religious views as a tool capable of helping them overcome some difficulties remaining within the ethical framework. The utilization of customs and traditions in psychological therapy is regarded as a decisive element in the work of a psychologist in Afghanistan (Bragin et al., 2018). The professionals have to take these issues into account when implementing some therapeutic interventions or to present guidance in treatment.
Concluding the critical discussion, the role of psychology as a science in the life of people is yet to be proven significant. It faces many challenges, especially when viewed from the perspective of a particular socio-cultural context. The role of psychology in Afghan society is defined by the presence of severe military conflicts, the strong influence of religion, and cultural traditions that impact people’s everyday lives, as well as the structure of the patriarchal society.
These issues force psychologists to implement specifically developed methodologies based on the beliefs and cultural views of the individuals. The community-based vision of the nation requires collective inclusion of outsiders in the family or individual issues that also demand professional flexibility of psychologists.
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Bragin, M., Akesson, A., Ahmady, M., Akbari, S., Ayubi, B., Faqiri, R.,… Seddiqi, S. (2018). Developing a culturally relevant counselling psychology degree programme in Afghanistan: Results from a DACUM study. Intervention, Journal of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Conflict Affected Areas, 16(3), 231-242.
Ferguson, C. J. (2015). Everybody knows psychology is not a real science: Public perceptions of psychology and how we can improve our relationship with policymakers, the scientific community, and the general public. American Psychologist, 70(6), 527-542.