Category Archives: Iranian Psychology

One day we learn to define our own take of psychology.

About the Report on Censorship in Iran

Searching twitter, I came about to see a twitt and then report that startled me for a moment.
Not that there was anything wrong with this report: no, it was painfully true. Who does not know about the ugly reality of censorship in our home country? Who does not know about our young people doing anything to have access to internet or to find little information on the internet? Who does not know how many brilliant Iranian people are trying to use all the anti filtering systems they can in order for themselves to check their facebooks, see their emails, and surf the internet?
This wonderfully written report opened up a different view on how our Iranian life is changing. “Cultural Censorship in Iran – Iranian Culture in a State of Emergency” is a must read report by writers from Small Media Foundation, July 2011. Find the report through this link:

Past 32 years of our Iranian life, we have been hearing and witnessing the worst unbelievable stories of censorship, harsh punishments, human rights violations, and life worsening conditions that are everyday life in our home land. Now, reading this report on censorship, you get a holistic perspective on the unimaginable impact of these censorship on people’s mind-body-soul, while our future generations are at risk of not learning anything about politics, history, science, and so on.
Hope there would be more research and reports on the psychological impact on the trauma of not having rights to access information. Human rights include having access to information about our world, besides internet and access to computer is today on new aspect of our human life. So what is going on in Iran and the scope of censorship is truly beyond conceptualizations.
The extremists, who are able to censor people in large back home, are trying to poison people’s mind here in our town like everywhere else Iranians have fled to. Have you noticed the number of places being opened so called mosques or more fashionable names such as cultural centers? Well, god knows how much the filtering and suppression, and false information is being shared in these places, just because the regime of Iran has only one commitment which is border less: censoring our culture and heritage. And guess what, without culture and heritage, we have no identity, and without identity, we lose our minds.
Read the report and find it yourself.

Reference: Khalaji, M., Robertson, B. $ Aghdami ,M.(2011). Cultural Censorhip in Iran, Iranian Culture in a State of Emergency.


Present Yourself With Dignity

There are many people who either exaggerate in presenting the self or at times mislead people in creating an image that may be their ideal yet not the reality. This is an existing problem in our community and at times concerning. In our filed: There are some people who walk around and call the self “counsellor” without having proper education or training in that area. There are those who call the self as a “psychologist” just because the person has a BA in psychology or any other subject, and so on. This illness of calling the self as something different or bigger, or using fake verbal presentations on the self, is widespread in our community. The problem is that big that at some point you want to puke when seeing people who really got the delusion of being whatever they call themselves as. In the line of our work as clinical counsellours, I recognize these fake identities all the time just because we tend to know one another in our community, besides, as soon as someone opens their mouth, they show their level of professionalism. Unfortunately we have those individuals in our communities who present themselves as mental health professionals while really they do not have those qualifications. Who get’s hurt here? For sure those “clients’ who go to see the promised “psychologist” who indeed has a BA in something. What happens to the clinical treatment on that person? Well, clients report to us how they are mistreated by these so called doctors or psychologists who enjoy finding the respect that our community has for those professions, misrepresent themselves. This is a nasty heritage we have in our culture, all those fake people who pretend being leaders in one or another way. Who can stop them? Well, i hope that the professional boards would recognize these misrepresentations by fake people and stop our clients being hurt more.


Psychology For Us Iranians

Psychology is a subsystem within a larger socially, politically and historically constructed reality. This is at least my understanding of psychology.

In my mind we need a psychology for us Iranian that enables us comprehend our everyday life, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. Every culture has their own cultural psychology to define the most significant aspect of mental health within their communities.

I appreciate Western psychology and the mainstream psychology for their hard work in generating knowledge about human mind. Adding the cultural, social, political, and spiritual realities that every community deal with, we may try to understand our multicultural and multifaceted human mind.

Mainstream psychology has found a variety of tools in measuring and explaining human mind; still, this umbrella does not cover all of our heads.

I suggest that in our Iranian way of understanding psychology, we have failed at least in our early attempts up to now, to understand our own mind. To be brief, we do not talk about the obvious reasons, the forces behind this huge wall where knowing the self can become dangerous for those who oppress us.

First of all historically, we have been dealing with external factors that are prohibiting us to enjoy our peace of mind, not talking about the hardships in our mind. Psychology was never explained to us properly. Now it is time. The heavy Freudian language can not capture the reality of our life back in Iran or assist us in understanding our own mind. As much as we Iranian used to study Freud (those of us who studied psychology), we never knew about Adler.

The Adlerian Individual psychology explains neurosis pertinent to the sense of not belonging and not being accounted for in our ecological world.

We Iranian know how it feels to not belong, at least not be part of what we wish to be, the development of our own home country. We Iranian know how it is to not really feel the sense of belonging, because we have been forced to live with the concept of dislocation, a constant battle that we can not win. This is what most Iranian talk about, day after day.

In my work as a counsellor, I meet people who feel they are isolated and unloved. We continue to immigrate as a group of people, however silently, without any noise. We lack resources to help mental health issues that many of us carry with us. Psychology is still not there for us, very distant, very hard to grasp. Or maybe our psychologists in this filed fail to explain the concepts to the public.

The specialized, complicated, and discursive language that is used in psychology does maintain a privileged power position for the professional psychology without being any help for our people to discover the self and the world. For decades, masses have been left out in my mind and still today, psychology only appeals to the intellectual, rational, and upper social class groups.

Today, however, we Iranian have come to a point that we realize the urgency of finding the truth about who we are and how we do what we do. Reason being could be the huge pressure that many of us feel. The stress of losing our homes due to the forced migration, the Diaspora, the separation, and the nostalgia we deal with every single day.

We need to learn how to tackle all the pressure at once. Mental health and emotion regulation issues among us most certainly are pertinent to our living conditions. We just need to have proper tools to find out. We need an all-included psychology that is easy to understand.

Psychology as a medical model is used within the status quo of our Iranian life; however we learn to appreciate and to comprehend a scientific model of body-mind-soul. Using my own critical eyes, I will argue that critical psychology is missing to explain and explore the hard concepts of psychology within the framework of people’s everyday life.

Individuals and families around the world should be able to view the functions of psychology and to be able to utilize the information to the bettering of their lives. When it comes to us, the Iranian population, we could acknowledge that; the established objective and scientific models in Europe also arrived at the door of the institutionalized form of diagnosis and treatment for mental dysfunction in our home country.

We Iranian remember that “crazy” people would get into mental hospital and they would receive electric shock and medications to become “normal” again. Many of those experiences left scars in our collective embodied soul, to not trust psychologists. If we ask most Iranians what they think of psychologists, you will hear this answer: they are crazy themselves!

This answer does not come out of a vacuum and it has a rationale. People have been mistreated by psychologists who have perpetuated the status quo; meaning oppression. We move around and we carry our superstitious beliefs with us. People need explanations, explorations, and healthy talk about psychology.

If you are a mental health worker in Iran or anywhere working with this population, try to break down the concepts into tangible and useful ideas people can take home. Psychology should become culturally adjusted and personally suitable for each one of our needs.

Note: This article was originally published in EzineArticles May 29th, 2010 by this author.


Mental Health and Oppression

How do we therapists see the conditions our clients live with? In our daily contacts with people, it is important to have a clear understanding of why people suffer from what they report being challenging for them.

For me, health and dysfunction are discourses that are intertwined with the politics by which human life is defined.  In order to identify my core beliefs, I had to look at the forces that have changed and shifted our Iranian life. The politics that contributed to the failure of establishment of democracy in my home country have only reinforced neuroticism and despair. How can we not recognize the politics around which our lives are constantly changing?

Mental health among people of my community is greatly defined by the forces of oppression and segregation. My definition of mental health is definitely impacted by how I view the historical impact of vigorous political views interfering in and violating the lives of people of my home country.  It is important to remember how over the centuries, abuse of power and abuse of politics have contributed to systematic human rights violations, war zones, and financial exploitation that have only made human conditions worse. I believe that mental health issues are largely due to the politics ruling human life in every community. This is why I cannot ignore factors impacting human life anywhere in the world.

Over the years, through my own personal and professional experiences, I became aware of the influence of socio-political reality of authoritarian governments and oppression on mental health issues.   I guess I was born in a time where I had to make a conscious choice, namely to look beyond a divided, polarized world.  I sensed that oppression was a poison for our minds that made us believe how racism, gender segregation, and sexism are part of life. I refused to accept that life had one single color.  I could see the danger of a cultural dichotomy between good and bad, black and white, less and more.

I have learned that oppression requires systematic subjugation. People who are shouting that they have the only answer to every aspect of human life are forcing systematic submission and conformity.  My life experiences have helped me realize that some people fall for this system and lose their integrity. I can connect the internalized sense of shame and guilt to the explicit rules of oppressive systems, where the only mission is to destroy life and happiness.

I was trained in this humanistic school of thought in a very simple and natural way:  by observation.  I was living in a world of many contrasts, polarities, and contradictions. I do believe that social inequality and oppression are blocking people from gaining self-respect and dignity.

In search for the real truth, I realized that there is no such thing, and we all have our own individual truths. I came to trust my instincts and to believe that even those who oppress us are in need of respect, because they are blindly perpetuating the notion of conformity.    In that path, I was able to externalize the reasons for mental health issues and neurotic responses to many areas of life.

Many Iranians now question the traditional notion of sex, race, ethnicity, culture, and gender.   In working toward change, we can not ignore social injustice as the main reason for human pain and suffering.  Where gender, race, culture, religion, and ethnicity intersect, there is only one regulation that can help peace and order, and that is respect and acceptance.

For me, mental health and mental illness are constantly jeopardized by the underlying forces of submission and subjugation. Oppression is one nasty and dark wall, cluttered with faulty beliefs, stigma, hatred, racism, extremism, and sexism.

This is how I believe psychotherapy and psychology have a main duty on both a personal and a societal level.  This is where psychotherapy could have an impact on how people try to challenge the status quo.

With regard to theoretical orientation, I cannot ignore the views on women conditions in our home country, a complex issue that impacts health and dysfunction.

Change is possible once our clients are able to see their position in the realm of reality and conditions of existence.

September 3. 2010

Poran Poregbal, MA, RSW, RCC.



Couple Counselling

In my position as a clinical counsellor, I often meet Iranian men and women who are stressed out due to a difficult marriage.   Martial issues are occurring for all people; however the cultural understanding of how to resolve conflicts is remarkable in the case of our fellow Iranians who are challenged in their marriages. These individuals come from all background, all ages, and all social status.

Most individuals have been in a long time marriage, while their relationships have not been the healthiest.  Immigration, unemployment, extended families, traumas, and shifts in roles are some of many important factors that are often involved in one possible case, when I meet these couples.

At some point when the marriage is threatened, most people try to think of possible solutions which are not always the best.

In general, counselling may not be the first option when couples are in conflicts.  Some may appreciate and choose to seek professional help, while at times many bridges have already been broken.

One thing that most women report is about their efforts to ask, plead, and encourage their husbands to attend counselling.   Men usually complain about wives who are willing to destroy family life due to the “women friendly western Society” they have immigrated to.  However, to be fair, I have had many Iranian men who choose to come to counselling while their wives are skeptical or negative about the work that can be done.  In some cases, i have heard of physical alteration being the fact and in those cases I refer the victim to make a police report, while it is not my job to intervene.  The only protection I am legally bounded is to intervene if i hear a child is being abused, if i hear some one will hurt the self or others.  In case of violence, therefore i have to inform the individuals about their right to be safe.  And, just to be clear;  it is important to say that I have seen men and women being violent against the other partner, so violence does not know any gender, race, social background, nationality, or social status.

In many cases, these broken relationships moving fast towards divorce, a situation that could have been avoided if / when both parties were willing to resolve issues sincerely in counselling session.

I have heard one partner telling their spouses: “I have no problem, you are crazy, and you need to attend counselling, not me.”  Or others who call me to say” My wife / husband should come and talk to you.  “In most cases, one part basically is telling me to “fix the other partner, as it is his or her fault.”
I have heard this statement from too many individuals in order to be able to find a pattern in these types of statements.

Therefore it is important to emphasize that couple or marriage counselling is a two party’s work and a marriage can be saved if both parties are cooperating.  The earlier people try to prevent emotional suffering in their marriage, the more chance we have to help the couple to rebuild their relationship.

May 8, 2010


What Counselling is Not

Our job as clinical counsellors involves ethics and ethical practice.  What does it mean?  It means that we are bounded by law and Ethical Codes to practice in a way that we do not harm people.  This means that we practice in a way that we respect people’s dignity and whole being of the person. It also means that we are true to our clients as well as to ourselves.

On this note, anyone who is a psychologist, clinical counsellor, a social worker, and a mental health worker, is bounded by the ethical codes to follow Ethical norms ruled by their professional governing and disciplinary boards of registrations.

Therefore, there is need to view our Iranian understanding of our roles as clinical counsellor / psychologists in respect to the ethical codes we have to adhere to. I like to bring this issue home to our communities, because there are many confusions, misunderstandings, and misconception about who is who and who should be who.

The reason I am discussing this  is that, in our community there are people who create confusion about services that we clinical counsellors offer and stand for.

There are some individuals here in our Vancouver, who pretend to be something they are not. I am sure, this is not specific to any place or time, somehow there are always individuals who put their nose into other people’s businesses.

We hear from our clients, time by time that there are “counsellors” who impose their illogical and unethical views on clients.  I hear that there are some or one senior / older gentleman who works with families as a “counsellor” and he gives people “advises.”

We have been told by many of our clients that some individuals who advertise as “counsellor or social worker “in the Iranian community, have certain interest to destroy marriages when she/ he advise women to get divorce.

Some individuals have told us stories of how  in their ailing marriage, they decided to see a counsellor in order to help their marriage, while the “counsellor “told them they should take divorce.  Some other people have the experience of meeting “counsellors” who have taken side or not understood their situation.

Our counsellors in the Iranian Educators Society for Families likes to stay away from these types of people, misleading information, and unethical behaviours.

Exaggerating is a habit in our culture, we Iranians know that.  To exaggerate in this case, is more about misrepresentation and misinformation.   And it happens a lot among us.

It is a bad habit in our culture to call students in medicine a “doctor” already before they have finished first year of education or call students in the technical areas as an “engineer.”

We know that there are people who might have a bachelor degree in one humanistic area and they call themselves: Therapists.

There are others who have taken one or two month courses in “counselling” and advertise already as “social workers” or else.  However there is a long distance between just exaggerating and destroying life.  How can we advise people while the basis of any counselling job is not giving advice? What counselling is not, is about giving advises, interfering in people’s decision making, and taking sides.  We have to know that we can always report these fake counsellors or nosy individuals to the authorities.

Our community deserves clarity, ethical professionals, and ethical practice of clinical counselling. We have to go to basic and  discuss healthy boundaries while taking responsibilities for what we offer.

March 25, 2010


What is Psychology anyway?

What does Psychology mean for us?

How can we understand psychology through the lens of our Iranian culture?

Drew Westen (2001), an American psychologist and writer, explains Psychology as a scientific investigation of mental processes and behaviour.

What are mental processes then: Thinking, feeling, remembering, understanding, sensing, and perceiving.

Are you one of those people, whose parents told them, “Don’t think so much, you’ll get crazy.”?

Being born and raised in Iran, you never, at least not on a deep level, learn about psychology. This changes slightly when you get into some university course and learn some surface aspect of how we as humans act, think, and behave.

The science of psychology is neglected, ignored, abused, misinterpreted, and misused in our beloved home country. It is not abnormal then, that our fellow Iranians take a long time to reach the point of asking the “Who am I?” type of questions.

I do not mean to offend anyone. Something that we have in common is that we Iranians learn about “the self” in the cultural aspects of family and individual development in an environment merged in hundreds of ways. This is due to the notion of differences in class, cultures, races, and even families. Although we can say certain things about this and that town, we can rarely assume anything about any individual family from Iran or even a group of families, as life in Iran does not follow a certain harmonic pattern.

I have a friend whose 75 year-old mother loves to read simple psychology books. She keeps saying, “I should have known this information before. Since I know myself, I can relate more to my family and to my life!”

What is involved in the world of psychology anyway? Why it is not known by us Iranians?

Psychology looks at many areas of life such as:

* The view of human nature.
* Normal and abnormal behavior.
* The study of cognition, behavior, and emotions.
* The pattern of relationships and relationship in general.
* The stages of development and the study of human development.
* And a lot more of course…

Our Iranian way of thinking is a complex area that I will not touch on, yet I would raise the awareness of all the cultural impacts of the field of psychology, which makes it hard to be applied to many aspects of life.

Dr Daniel Siegel, neurologist and associate professor of Psychiatry from UCLA, had a one day workshop in the recent 55th Annual Conference of North American Society of Adlerian Psychology in Vancouver, BC, (May 2007). I appreciate the opportunity to have been in this workshop. He talked about his research and findings of how the brain and mind is being developed and how attachment is being built.

One thing that made clear sense to me was that he tries to define mind and well-being from the aspect of early attachment as a child. Our self, our true self, is developed through the interactions we have as a child with our caregivers (mothers) and the environment around us. In this aspect, it is very important that we learn about how we take care of a child and how the development of children is a big responsibility on our shoulders. Attachment or delbastegi in the Persian language occupy a huge space itself that involves all of us Iranians and human beings in general. This is a subject that our poems have pointed out a lot, yet it is a hard area to look at.

Psychology not only answers those big questions, but also can relate to each one of us as it talks about why we have become who we are and how our children become who they will be.

Adlerian Psychology (1956) looks beyond the scope of our behaviour and cognition, it studies the need for belonging to a group of people and the need for being part of a society as the main reason for human beings making any movement in life.

Where do we belong?

Do we belong to any group of people at all?


Ansbacher H.L. & Ansbacher R.R, (1956). Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler. Harper Pernnial.
Drew, W. (2001). Psychology: Brain, Behavior and Culture. Wiley; 3rd edition.

June 4, 2007


Mulcticultural view on Psychology

There are many areas of life that we could get help with if we have a multicultural or better to say an Iranian view on Psychology.
We would benefit from a new evaluation of the use of psychology for understanding human behavior and the human mind in our diverse cultures. The scientific outlook of psychology and psychotherapy covers humanity in general, yet the impact and the social settings of psychopathology are truly distanced from each other when comparing the Eastern and the Western cultures.

Migration, when forced onto a nation as it is the case for Iranians is become a main source of mental illness for many families.

For many other nations, when people flee horrible and inhuman life circumstances, the level of trauma creates unbearable stress, anxiety, pain, dislocation, separation, loss, and fear.

The feeling of leaving one’s home and never going back to it is devastating enough to cause depression and all other sorts of mental health problems.

In my mind, there should be a category of depression due to just migration as a real issue in the world.

Multicultural counseling must be defined and discussed.  Counseling and lifestyle consultation is the main source of help many people are in need of since adjusting and integrating to a new society has its own dilemmas.

Many times psychiatrists and psychologists in Western cultures diagnose depression as the source of the problem while not digging for the reason for the depression.

Prescribing medicine and giving advice that does not work for such diverse cultures is another aspect of this need of evaluation.

How can we help a client to change any behavior if we have no idea of the puzzle of life this person lives with or the impact of the many cultural barriers?

More to come…

April 22, 2007