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|
Assistant Professor, Premedical, Doha, Qatar
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