By Tati Hafez
Psychotherapy seems to be gaining more and more ground in Egypt lately part due to increased public awareness. There seems to be a growing openness to seek professional help in coping with life issues, maintaining mental health, and overcoming disorders, whether in adults or children.
Cairo West Magazine sat down with Dr. Georgette Savvides, head of Psychealth Center. Savvides has been counseling individuals for over 20 years both in Egypt and abroad, since earning a psychology degree at AUC (The American University in Cairo). She later pursued her Master’s and Doctoral degrees abroad before returning to Egypt. Savvides opened Psychealth Center – The Psychological Health Center for Services and Training – in 2009 when she realized the growing need for psychotherapy services in Egypt.
CWM: Do you think that psychotherapy is becoming less of a stigma in Egypt?
GS: Definitely. People are more oriented and more accepting, and the psychologist is seen as less threatening.
What are the services offered at Psychealth Center?
Here at Psychealth we have three lines of business. First of all it’s one-on-one counseling, which takes place in individual sessions, but we also offer couples, children, adolescents and family therapy. We have corporate training where use business psychology techniques to analyze employees’ awareness, productivity and motivation during company employee assessments. Finally, we work on educational training programs, where we prepare counselors, and run workshops for teachers, parents and kids.
What is your approach to therapy?
We work through Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (known as CBT), which is a type of conversational therapy that works across all ages and with most disorders from depression to anxiety.
What are the most common problems you encounter with children and teens?
Kids usually come when they are having a history of aggressive behavior, growing fear and phobias, cases of enuresis, more commonly called bed-wetting at a later age. As for adolescents, we have seen a lot of eating related disorders and an increasing number of alcohol and drug addiction problems.
Which are the most recurrent learning disabilities you come across?
There are several types of learning disabilities, the most known are ADHD, ADD and dyslexia.
What are the causes for these learning disabilities?
In the case of ADHD for instance, it is caused by chemical imbalance of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. This deficiency makes a person lose attention and focus, making learning more difficult. And it is highly hereditary.
How about autism?
Autism is a neurological disorder. There are no specific reasons, it could be biological, environmental or hereditary. Autism and learning disabilities are two separate disorders. However, they are both cases of children with special needs.
How can you identify a child struggling with learning difficulties?
Again, in the case of ADHD we need to consider the child in two different settings, for instance at home and at school. The early signs are more obvious in the pre-school years.
What is the approach or treatment?
One to one therapy where we work with behavior modification by applying strategies, that will help the child deal with his homework, focus in class, and organize himself by setting a schedule.
Can you tell us more about diagnosing children with ADHD?
Labeling a child ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or depressed only serves the psychologist assisting the child in order to write the right treatment plan. A “naughty” or agitated kid is not necessarily an ADHD child, but needs attention as child depression can be disguised in hyper-aggression.
How can a parent tell if their child needs help or if they are just misbehaving?
One thing is the natural course of development for a child or an experimentation phase, however if a child is having episodes for more than a month it is good to seek help.
What are the steps to correct this behavior?
The important step is to have a family session with open communication to be followed by cooperation with parents outside the sessions.
So parents have a very important role in the treatment. How do they help?
Parents are involved throughout the therapy. They have a very important role, as whatever happens in the session needs to be followed up. It needs consistency, like doing homework.
Cooperation with parents is extremely important for the success of the treatment.
And teachers? Children spend a good amount of time with them. Are they prepared to assess early signs of mental health issues?
Unfortunately, teachers lack training in this aspect. In most cases a child goes through a lot of difficulties without the right assistance.
Your center offers a variety of workshops and Youth Camps, what themes do you cover in your workshops?
We have workshops for grown-ups and teachers and another separate one for kids. We cover themes like anti-bullying, building self-confidence, and positive parenting skills where parents learn how to handle kids’ disorders and how to work with difficult or ADHD children.
What are the benefits for teachers attending the workshops?
The benefits are endless. From improving their teaching skills, to their rapport with children, teachers might save a child from early intervention.
How about for parents?
They learn how handle their kids’ disorders, how to work with difficult ADHD children, and learning disabilities.
What about the Youth Camps?
Our Youth Camp revolves around wellness and well-being themes and it caters to kids from 7 to 15 years old. The camp is held over a three-day period, on the third day we have a planned daily trip to Fagnoon or the Egyptian Food Bank. During the camp we offer a variety of activities like cooking, recycling, sports, community service, arts and crafts and drama and theater.
What would be your advice for parents who suspect something is just not right?
Drop “Dr. Google”, or calling your friends for advice, which could just end up being about punishment and firmness. Drop the shame, seek consultation, and seek professional guidance. It is confidential and it is affordable. Your head was created first. It says a lot. When the mind is not fine the body collapses. It is very important to take care of the state of your