Damascus’ Psycho Café

Damascus’ Psycho Café
Café Psycho de Damas
To say the least, Damascus is surprising and contradictory. The city has a few surprises in store for those who thought it to be mired in State control for good. Among the innovative initiatives that emerged: the increasingly successful Psychology Café that opened in Damascus in January 2010 is the first one in Syria, or in the whole region.

Aouss ABDEL-DAÏM, clinical psychologist and doctor in psychology (1) is the founder and animator. He has lived in Lebanon and then in France before rediscovering his native Syria three years ago. He then decides to settle there and to develop a double practice: psychology and art (mainly painting and photography). He has accepted to answer our questions.

What is a psychology café? When and how did this experience start?

Psycho café is a place open to all. The name comes from the fact that it takes place in a café, like philosophy cafés. Here, in Damascus, we have preferred to organise it in a library, the Etana library that hosts cultural events apart from selling books. We have kept the name “café” to distinguish it clearly from a conference or specialised seminar venue. In fact, even if it offers a new theme for each session, the Psycho café is conceived as an interactive and participative place where all those present can ask questions related to their concerns and participate to the discussion of ideas. Nevertheless, it is not a “psychology show”, i.e. we do not tackle the intimate that has to be dealt with in private space.

What are the first results?
The psycho café in Damascus came to meet an important need in many people who questioned me on matters related to the involvement of psychology in their daily lives and who could not find sufficient answers given the newness of this speciality in Syria. There is also a lack of an appropriate framework to consider and tackle these questions.
Two sessions per month were soon not enough to host all the persons who desired to participate to the Psycho café so we are now organising four sessions per month.
The sessions’ program is very satisfying and the spirit of participative work, the respect to each one’s point of view has been immediately integrated. A new approach is also being integrated, an approach that gives place to analysis and does not seek to propose ready-made “truths”. Psychological concepts are being disseminated in a direct link the participants’ concerns. (2)

What are your expectations?

After the success of this first phase, we now hope to develop other Psycho cafés in other cities of the region.
We also hope to broaden our audience to reach new segments of society different from those that we currently host. In order to do this we will have to imagine Psycho cafés in diverse places to meet different social realities. The participation to the café is not free of charge and it is important to be able to support this activity financially if we want to open it to persons who have no means to pay.


(1) Aouss ABDEL-DAÏM, founder and animator of the Psycho café in Damascus. He is a clinical psychologist since 1985, and doctor in psychology since 1992.
(2) Among the themes that have been tackled: adolescence, mid-life crisis, creativity, passion, masculine and feminine, the unconscious etc.


Aouss ABDEL-DAÏM aouss@abdeldaim.com T.+963947817119
Librairie Etana info@etanabooks.com T. +963113353097les

Information gathered by Nathalie Galesne
Translated into English by Elizabeth Grech


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