United Arab Emirates



Counselling Associations

All Professional Bodies, National Associations (e.g. Mental Health, School, Guidance, Addiction, Faith-based etc.) and Accrediting Organisations.

The Middle East Psychological Association (MEPA)

Universities and Other Education and Training Institutes

Emirates College for Advanced Education

United Arab Emirates University

Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus

Counselling Agencies, Services, Group Practices, Counselling Centres

Thrive Wellbeing Centre

Background & Context

Al-Darmaki and Yaaqeib (2015) explain that the education of psychology in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) started in the 1970’s through the first bachelor’s degree offered at United Arab Emirates University. Although the education is offered for the counselling profession, there continues to be a lack of effort in promoting quality counselling services, which has caused a lot of ambiguity among the profession (Al-Darmaki, & Yaaqeib, 2015).

In 2003, the Emirates Psychological Association (EPA) was established (Al-Darmaki, & Yaaqeib, 2015). The Ministry of Social Affairs was the catalyst for the only psychological association offered in UAE (Al-Darmaki, & Yaaqeib, 2015). Although the EPA attempts to promote awareness of mental health issues, there is still a problem with the current education offered in universities in UAE because the students are not getting the proper education to correctly conduct the counselling services that are needed (Al-Darmaki, & Yaaqeib, 2015). Al-Darmaki and Yaaqeib (2015) explain how more universities are continuing to add psychology courses, but there are still limited opportunities for the students and it makes it difficult for the students to find relataed jobs after graduation in the counselling field.

Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:

Before the EPA was established, regulation of psychological services hardly existed and there was no proper way to regulate these services (Al-Darmaki, & Yaaqeib, 2015). Without having proper regulation, misinformation occurred along with fraudulent practitioners (Al-Darmaki, & Yaaqeib, 2015, as cited in Bell, 2014). Although universities are beginning to offer degrees in psychology, there is still a problem with proper recognition and qualifications of the degrees. The lack of education, recognition, and regulation has led to limited job opportunities for psychology graduates. Due to the lack of qualifications, and regulations on counselling services, there have been fraudulent practitioners which has stigmatized this career field and makes it harder for there to be any further advancement. 

Practice Settings

It is not clear how many counsellors exist in the UAE presently. However, according to Al-Darmaki and Yaaqeib (2015), “the rate of mental health professionals per 100,000 is as follows: 0.3 psychiatrists, 0.51 psychologists, 0.25 social workers, 0.04 occupational therapists and 0.04 other health workers” (para. 2). The data on the number of counsellors is unavailable. Counsellors and mental health workers in the UAE work in a variety of settings including: 

  • Primary & Secondary Schools.
  • Universities
  • Student Care Centres & Special Student Care Centres  
  • Family Service Centres
  • Counselling Clinics & Centers 
  • Hospitals and Mental Health Facilities 
  • Private Practices

Challenges & Trends

Although progress has been made regarding education and proper regulation of counselling services, there is still a lot that needs to be done for this career to become efficient in providing its services in the UAE (Al-Darmaki, & Yaaqeib, 2015). With the lack of education that the mental health service providers receive, there is a lack of confidence in this profession and the public does not trust counselling professionals (Al-Darmaki, & Yaaqeib, 2015). Because of the limited training that is available, it is expected that authorities will regulate the psychological services, which causes problems with authentication of these services (Al-Darmaki, & Yaaqeib, 2015). Lastly, a challenge that results in tremendous limitations is that the students in the psychology programs have extremely limited opportunities for work within the country after they graduate from college (Al-Darmaki, & Yaaqeib, 2015).

Additional Information & References

For a deeper exploration of the counselling profession in the country, interested readers are recommended to read the following journal & website articles:

  • Al-Darmaki, F. R., & Yaaqeib, S. I. (2015). Psychology and mental health services in the United Arab Emirates. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/international/pi/2015/06/psychology-arab
  • Al-Maseeh, H. (2013). Licensing psychology — no closer to a unified system? The UAE Psychologist, 2(2), 5.
  • AlShihabi, R. (2011). Licensing needs for psychologists in Abu Dhabi. The UAE Psychologist, 1(2), 4.
  • Badawi, I. (2012). The role of psychologists in promoting mental health in the UAE. The UAE Psychologist, 1(2), 12-13
  • Crookes, A. (2012). Psychology education in the UAE. The UAE Psychologist, 1(2), 22-23.
  • Kruse, M. (2011). Emirates psychological association: A brief introduction. The UAE Psychologist, 1(2), 6.
  • Rizvi, J. & Bell, J., (2014, October 23). Mental health act needed in UAE. The National. https://www.gncdubai.com/mental-health-act-needed-uae-national/
United Arab Emirates
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