This article is adapted from “Oman National Tour” prepared by Samir Al-Adawi, 2002, which appeared in Wedding, D., & Stevens, M. J. (Eds). (2009). Psychology: IUPsyS Global Resource (Edition 2009) [CD-ROM]. International Journal of Psychology, 44 (Suppl. 1).
Although Islamic/Arabic tradition (of which Oman is part) has a long history of psychological interest, the applications of modern psychology in Oman began during the last two decades. In early 1980, the Sultan Qaboos University was opened. In the College of Education and Islamic Sciences, the Department of Educational Psychology was established. The main objective of the Department has been to offer psychological services in the form of counseling for the students and to train a cadre of Omani teachers to utilize psychological skills in their prospective occupations as teachers. The first academic members of the department consisted of educational and counseling psychologists, trained mainly in Sudan and Egypt. Currently, there are four Omanis who have or are pursuing graduate studies in psychology relevant to educational settings.
In parallel with the development of educational psychology, the College of Medicine established the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Psychiatry. Teaching of psychology in behavioral sciences has been an integral part of medical education. Due to the lack of qualified psychologists, the first academic members involved in teaching psychology were mostly psychiatrists, social anthropologists, and sociologists. This deficit has been partly reversed with the employment of Omani graduates with degrees in psychology.
Recently it has been voiced in the various sectors of Omani society that the country is not invulnerable to psychological problems. There is sense of urgency to devise programs to address the psychological needs of the country. The Department of Psychiatry has started to offer psychological services, which encompass both psychological interventions to psychiatric, medical, and surgical patients as well as meeting the needs of clients with psychological problems. British-trained psychologists organize the program, one Omani and another Indian national. On the whole, psychology has been a relatively neglected field in the area and its history has yet to be made.
As distress is often experienced in a social and cultural context, studies are being conducted in Oman with the aim of discovering how culture and environment shape the formation, distribution, and manifestation of health and illness. Psychological disorders in Oman appear to be camouflaging and supplanting previous cultural forms of communication, such as spirit possession and conversion disorder. Contrary to widely held wisdom, males tend to fare worst in the climate of emerging acculturation and modernization. Whereas women in Oman have experienced emancipation due to education, males, who were once privileged with all that is entailed in a paternalistic society, have now been relegated to confusing roles by modernity.
Qualitative research has examined how Omani traditional communities cope with irrevocable traumatic events. The findings suggest that Omanis tend to negate the immediate effect of loss by assuming that the ‘deceased’ is only ensorcered and will return alive. Such culturally sanctioned belief can be interpreted as coping mechanism to loss. The phenomenon has paved the way to view cultural refractions as well-recognized psychological reactions.
Training in psychology in Oman is in the Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences of the medical school and in the Department of Educational Psychology in the College of Education.