Dubai: Years of sweeping sensitive issues under the carpet in the Arab world has prompted organisers of the Counselling Arabia conference to officially put them on the table for the first time this year.

The two-day conference starts on Tuesday at the Sharjah Higher Colleges of Technology (SHCT).

Under the theme "Youth at the Crossroads", the conference will have psychology experts, academics and students sharing information on taboo topics that affect Arab youth.

They include the "Boyat" Phenomenon (cross-dressing among young women), illicit relationships, dysfunctional families, domestic violence, confidentiality and counselling, ‘Arabising' the counselling profession, mental disorders, divorce and the UAE family and substance abuse, among others.

"This year's conference is unique and maybe one of our strongest conferences because we are daring to touch taboo issues in our Arab societies," said SHCT counsellor and conference organiser Fadwa Lkorchy.

"This is only the beginning of a serious talk about long hidden issues that are shaping the personality, identity and dreams of Arab Youth. We hope that the conference will result in strong recommendations that can open the door for more research, and new courageous approaches to these issues," she added.

Many practitioners

Lkorchy said thorny issues are coming up more often in the Arab world but they are not being tackled properly. Professionals need to openly discuss these matters to find solutions.

Providing proper care to Arabs is a challenge as many practitioners have been educated in the west and apply a one size fits all approach to problems. Arabic counsellors are also in short supply and this poses another challenge as people are better able to express themselves in their native tongue said Lkorchy.

"In the profession we need to come up with new techniques that would fit the Arab mind instead of blindly following what we've learned," Lkorchy said.