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MA Counseling, Children & Violence, Middle East

April 13, 2014

When we moved from San Francisco to Dubai last year with our children, it was a permanent career move for my husband; nevertheless, I was soon horrified, angry, and heartbroken to witness how widespread was the use of corporal punishment by parents to discipline children in this culture. A rigid and cold violence against children is not at all uncommon in Dubai and it is to this issue which I have gravitated as my primary life interest on a professional level. I want to help parents by educating them concerning the effects of violence on their children. This is why I have chosen a career in family therapy. I want to empower families to strengthen their relationships and to build solid futures together that provide stable and loving homes for their children.

My original motivation for pursuing a career in family therapy is very much connected to my own complex family history. My childhood was enormously difficult in Iran, especially since we lived through the Islamic Revolution. Shortly afterwards, my parents got divorced and the family was effectively dissolved. At 16, I immigrated alone to the United States. Now, a quarter of a century later, I am still on a quest to rebuild dreams that in a sense I was not able to have. I want to make a profession of that dream and care for other families that suffer and are at risk.

 Now at 41, I have fulfilled my dream of having a family of my own. I have a wonderful and vibrant community here in Dubai and I want very much to give something back to my society. Most importantly, Dubai has a shortage of family therapists, and I am extremely excited about the prospect of helping to respond to this need. There are virtually no social services to protect children and educate their parents about parental responsibilities; and this in a country that condones corporal punishment in both public and private spheres. As a family therapist in Dubai, I want to be part of a profound cultural transformation, something of an Arab Spring between men and women, for the benefit of children.

I am an Iranian woman, yet born at the heart of the youth revolution in America in 1970, in Berkeley California. Perhaps a little of this revolution stuck with me, and is coming to fruition at this time, now that I am reaching full professional maturity. I want to struggle for progressive social change and openness where I live now, in Dubai; and by extension having a share in broader layers of social change throughout the Middle East. By living and working here in the UAE, I might also be able to exert some influence over Iran as well, my country of origin. This is because Iranian society is both isolated and insulated from the outside world. And in this situation, the UAE serves as a conduit of everything for Iran, from goods to information. It is a go-between, between Iran and the rest of the world. And from this vantage point, I want to work for Iranian liberation, especially that of Iranian women, in solidarity with her sisters in the UAE. We are already working together to strengthen our networks online, groups of women’s voices that are growing more powerful in unison.

My long term goal is to use my degree to become an advocate for children and educate families about the cumulative, detrimental effects of corporal punishment. I want to inspire and help them to use more effective techniques to communicate with their children and nurture healthier family dynamics. As an undergraduate student of business, I was not at all clear about my ambitions and was not at all engaged with my studies. My very poor grades were the result of more of a lack of interest than of ability and I believe that my grades from 20 years ago say very little about my ability to excel in your program. I see a dire need for helping the children of this country and I am extremely highly motivated and confident.  I hope to convince you that by admitting me to your program you will be helping to ameliorate the effects of cruelly oppressive social structures that foster violence against children.

After completing my education, I worked for many years in advertising, and then in sales and marketing for a pharmaceutical company. By 2000, I was married with children and settled in San Francisco for a lengthy stint as a stay-at-home mother. Of course, babies grow up; and by 2007 I was feeling the urge to again mobilize myself professionally. My own children had sparked a vast curiosity and concern with child rearing and well being, and I wanted to study their development and psychology. So I enrolled in a Child and Adolescent Psychology class in a community college. By 2010, my husband’s career brought us to Dubai, in the UAE, which we have made more or less our permanent home. So, I am an oddity, an Iranian woman from San Francisco living at the heart of Arab elegance, and, in fact, social change. The UAE does, for the Arab world, show some tendency towards greater moderation and toleration of diversity.

Since our arrival in the UAE, I have been keenly sensitive to very different standards and expectations concerning child rearing, especially with respect to the issue of corporal punishment. I have been moved very much, both emotionally and intellectually, by recent research that suggests that the corporal punishment of children often has devastating and lasting consequences that include lower levels of intelligence as well as emotional disorders such as ADHD. I want very much to work strenuously with all progressive international, non-governmental organizations in the UAE and throughout the Middle East, building networks of activists concerned with child safety, well being, and laws designed to protect them from physical and psychological brutality.

Not long after moving to Dubai, early last year, I was disappointed to discover that there are no universities here that offer a professional degree in counseling psychology; the closest thing is a General Psychology Degree at XXXX University, a British university with a campus in Dubai. At first, I had decided against earning my Master’s online, since I was concerned that my degree might not command the respect of a degree from a brick and mortar university, and I made the decision to enroll in the general psychology degree program here at XXXX U, beginning last September, 2011. I now realize, however, that their curriculum has little to nothing to do with what I most looked forward to studying, theories and methods of therapy. I simply cannot get that excited about experiments with rats and I want to learn how to be an excellent therapist. Now, I am trying to correct my mistake and I ask please for a special exception to enroll in your program despite the late date of my application. 

I am pleased to report that I have also enrolled in a short program which I think will be compatible with beginning my program at UXX Online. I have registered to study towards a Certificate with the Institute of Transpersonal Development in Spain, which begins in May. I have a solid track record so far of solid engagement with my community and your program will lay the foundation for me to make creative contributions in the art of family therapy in my new home, Dubai. My long term goal after completing your program at UXXX will be to practice in Dubai as a Family Therapist. Since spanking and beatings are an acceptable and common form of discipline in this country, my primary goal will be to educate families about the long term detrimental effects of corporal punishment on behavior and mental development. My ideal job would be to have a practice where I could help children with their issues and educate parents in communication strategies. I envision my practice as a center of progressive social change. I love children and I wish to dedicate my professional life to helping to protect and preserve their well being.

I also love families, the dynamic of families. As an intellectual and a professional researcher, I want to focus my energies on the area of the complex ways in which childhood experiences tend to determine, to some extent, what kind of success we have in the world as adults, our struggles, challenges, etc. 

I thank you for considering my application at this late date.

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