Mindfulness Cultural Adaptation in Afghanistan

16 January 2015

January: Mindfulness Cultural Adaptation in Afghanistan

International Medical Corps is currently building capacity for Afghan staff at the Kabul Psychiatric Hospital. This hospital is the only medical facility treating psychiatric cases in the whole of Afghanistan. Therefore, the responsibility, accountability and efficiency of best practices at the hospital are of great importance both its staff and the thousands of beneficiaries. As part of this elaborate plan of capacity building, IMC has recruited me to conduct a Mindfulness training for psychologists, medical doctors, social workers, occupational therapists and psychiatric nurses. The training is named Mindfulness-Based Counselling.

Even before such a practice as mindfulness can be clearly apprehended by staff of islamic culture and religion, I thought it would be worth making specific cultural adaptations. The first adaptation is to describe scientific evidence for the benefits of mindfulness practice. Entering a culture through its medical facilities, it is most worthy to document and justify mindfulness’ healing pathways. Secondly, a close study of the Qur’an has proved useful in selecting quotes and metaphors. Discussions with Afghan colleagues of currently used manners of speaking and references to Allah in everyday life have helped tailor this version of Mindfulness training.

With regard to the training itself, it is planned in two phases: the first has an experiential focus of mindfulness practice. With the objective of becoming familiar with the technology of mindfulness of one’s mental patterns, emotional activations and biological responses, the participants understand the meaning of mindfulness from the inside – not just as a concept. This first phase of the training brings many benefits, one among which is that of diversifying personal resources and increasing measures of self-care. Secondly, the training aims of developing specific aspects of counselling. Mindfulness is a powerful tool for developing understanding and healing of patients. Perceiving the patient’s experience through a psychosomatic lense, paying specific attention to non-verbal communication, empathy, authenticity and a diverse range of approaches for dealing with aggressive behaviours/communication.