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Egypt And Groups

Group Therapy in Egypt

Conference 2014

In the

FN 14.1


Connecting Islands
First International Egyptian Conference In Group Psychotherapy and
Group Processes: Hope in Critical Times . Egypt, January 2014

Mona Rakhawy, MD

Founded just before the recent crisis in Egypt, the Egyptian, Association for Group Therapies and Processes (EAGT) was like a ship sailing to connect isolated islands. Its sailing across rough waves as those of pain, sadness, anger, loss, and grief, eventually resulted in the planning for the first international conference “Hope in Critical Times” that was supposed to be held in September 2013.
It was a process rather than a simple event. We started our work more than a year ago, when our senses were taken by images of blood and tears, sounds of bombs and ambulances, and smells of fumes and gases. Questions emerged: Why not start looking for our own stimulation of our senses? Why not choose the sounds that we want to hear and deliver? Are we allowed to sing and act while suffering and witnessing all this pain inside and outside?
And how dare us?

Creativity was key to the conference success. EAGT Art team was born to discover waves of survival, togetherness, creativity, care and determination. By August 2013, safety diminished in the country, and we had no choice but to postpone the conference. It was through our regular rehearsals that we decided to do a national workshop day, which proved later to be our first evidence of being on the right track. Throughout the process, we realized that it is not just about connecting inside our country. Our colleagues from different
places all over the world supported us all through. This had its special powerful meaningful and influential support.

Finally, the conference was held in January 2014.It was clear to us that acknowledging our past, by honoring the two group psychotherapy founders in Egypt was the solid ground on which we would like to build up our future construction. So, this was a central part of our opening ceremony.

I would like to present the conference as seen through the eyes of two young physicians who took part of the volunteer work in organizing and translating throughout the four days of the conference. They were also active members of EAGT Art Team that presented a concert and a play at the conference‘s opening and closing ceremonies.

“Well nothing can explain the experience! It all started with the art team. It started by a song, and suddenly it developed over the weeks to a friendship that feels at the moment like one of those family friend things. We discovered the possibilities of things we didn’t think we could even try and do. We simply made each other believe in at least a 1000 impossible things…
The different workshops were eye opening to not just understanding the depth of the other attendees, but they helped me out on my own path of self-discovery and growth. No matter what I say, I will not be able to list all of the things I found out, yet some of them are:
– Something as simple as dancing turned „a frown upside down‟ aka it made us happy!! (From a Dance Therapy Workshop). It was exhilarating!
– It is really not the whole world I can change, but I can change my world and my space.
– The future is not a place that we are going to go to, it is a place that we will get to create.
– I understood the importance of being patient. For some reason, the proverb „slow and steady wins the race‟ just clicked.
(From a workshop on youth and reshaping the systems)

Let us not forget where this conference was taking place, and that a lot of the attendees were affected by the events happening in Egypt because of the political instabilities. It was horrifying for some, and even though almost everyone had a different political opinion than the next person, there was something special within it. I realized that all of us humans were basically the same within our hearts no matter how different our skin color, hair, veils, genders or whatever else that makes us individuals. We were all
different but yet all the same.”
Omnia Saleh

“Being together, newly graduated physician colleagues with different backgrounds, different beliefs and different dreams, in the presence of different generations made me feel something new!
One by one, we met twice weekly in a warm home. I felt the authentic Egyptian warmness, hospitality, peace and love that I was missing. There I felt I am back to the Egypt I missed. Starting to sing our old songs that highlight our authentic Egyptian culture and our good core. Day by day, week-by week, month-by-month and step-by-step we got closer and closer. I started to build my new identity together with the group. We found ourselves creating a new dream and a new hope for us! Every song we sang … every meaning we meant … every deep emotion implanted in my soul made a change! And when we decided to make a play, we were inspired by the conference themes… Each idea and every improvisation from each of us, added a lot to every one of us. But it wasn’t that smooth; most of us were suffering in silence for different reasons in different times, yet we continued. At the beginning of our rehearsals, I had shifts in the ER, saturated by patients’ pain and sufferance, by the bloody grounds and people’s cries. Our regular meetings and rehearsals gave me a chance to see the parallel stream in life and to share my experience and the others‟ as well. This was of great help and inspiration. I can see the group as a bracelet made from different beads. Each bead has a different color, emotion and special appearance. When bonded together they made its beauty.”
Sara Habib

Determined to maintain our connections and create new ones, we have reached the end of the process with more awareness and understanding of the crucial importance of our mission: to protect our humanity and our creative and unifying power. It is a long way to the shore, but we only have to continue sailing.