Expressive Arts Therapy in the Arabian Gulf: History and Future

By Alan S. Weber.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Based on historical research, review of current medical literature, and discussions with practitioners, this contribution looks at the development and future of expressive arts therapy in the Arabian Gulf. Music therapy has been a feature of the Islamic bimaristan since the 10th century: Al-Farabi (873-950) states, “Music promotes good mood, moral education, emotional steadiness and spiritual development. It is useful for physical health.” Recently other therapeutic modalities developed in Europe and the United States, such as Art Therapy and Writing Therapy are being employed on a small scale in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait. The paper looks both at current therapeutic techniques, as well as some of the philosophical, religious, and cultural challenges facing this area of healing. For example, Islam contains a long tradition of support of the arts, and unlike some Protestant Christian sects, does not enforce a polarity and tension between the arts and “productive labor” (work ethic), creating a receptive atmosphere for expressive arts therapy. However, conservative strains of Islam, such as Wahhabism, demonstrate an uneasy relationship with visual representations of humans and animals due to fears of shirk (worship of images or idolatry), manifested in sporadic attempts to ban dolls and stuffed toys in Saudi Arabia.

Keywords: Arabian Gulf, Art Therapy, Expressive Arts Therapy, Mental Health, Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 6, Issue 5, pp.55-66. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 668.157KB).

Dr. Alan S. Weber

Assistant Professor, Premedical, Doha, Qatar

Dr. Alan S. Weber is an Assistant Professor of English who teaches the first-year Writing Seminar in humanities in the Pre-medical Program at WCMC-Q. Dr. Weber previously taught literature, writing, and the history of science and medicine at Cornell University, Ithaca, The Pennsylvania State University, and Elmira College. His research interests include language, history, and the social and cultural dimensions of science and medicine. He is the editor of 19th Century Science (2000), and Because It’s There: A Celebration of Mountaineering Literature (2001), and is the author of specialized publications on Shakespeare, women in medicine, and 17th century medicine.


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