Patterns and factors associated with consulting traditional healers on the care pathway of psychiatric patients in the United Arab Emirates

Shaden Adel, Karim Abdel Aziz, Dina El Tabei, Noha Adel Mahfouz, Dina Aly El-Gabry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Despite the availability of mental health services in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), reluctance in seeking a mental health professional is widely prevalent. In many countries, psychiatric patients consult Traditional Healers (THs) prior to seeing mental health professionals. Data from the UAE on the pattern of consulting THs is limited. Aims: To investigate patterns and factors for visiting THs in psychiatric patients in Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE. Method: We conducted a cross-sectional study of patients attending the adult psychiatry clinic, Maudsley Health, Abu Dhabi. We assessed 214 patients for the pattern and possible factors for contact with THs on their pathway to psychiatric care. Results: There were 58 males and 156 females. Most (43.5%) had a depressive disorder. Prior to consulting a mental health professional, 28% had seen a TH, of whom 36.7% had only one visit and 60% had seen only one TH. Advice from a friend or family member was the commonest reason for consulting THs (81.7%). Envy was the commonest explanation given by THs for symptoms (26.7%). Female gender and having a high school education or less significantly predicted contact with THs. Conclusions: Almost a third of our sample consulted THs prior to seeking psychiatric care. Closer collaboration with THs could help bridge the gap with psychiatrists to avoid delays in patients accessing psychiatric care, however caution is needed to mitigate the possible negative effects of such a collaboration.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • pathway to care
  • psychiatric disorders
  • Traditional healers
  • United Arab Emirates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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