A Dutch nurse’s ‘will to make a difference’ lives on in Amman health center

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The Maria Den Braven Center, located in Jabal Amman, provides a variety of mental health services under a multidisciplinary approach. (Photos: Maria Den Braven Center)
In the 1900s, a young Dutch woman left her childhood home and her country to travel the world, serving as a nurse. As she went, she kept at the forefront of all her actions a personal creed: “The will to make a difference”. She had a passion for enhancing the lives of others, and she succeeded in that endeavor. اضافة اعلان

Today, her legacy lives on through a mental health center in Amman that bears her name: the Maria Den Braven Center (MDB).

Maria’s daughter-in-law, Basma Kilani, was inspired to open the center by her husband’s late mother and her own experience as a school counselor in Amman. In her work, she noticed the need for multi-disciplinary mental health care among schoolchildren, especially those with special needs. Then, she spent some time working at a budding psychological center in the capital. Seventeen years of experience in the fields of psychological consultation and special needs education exposed her to a wide spectrum of human conditions and triggered a deep sense of a need for change to respond to challenges — whether psychological, educational, or social — that so many Jordanians face on a daily basis.

So, she opened MDB near Second Circle in Jabal Amman, adopting a multidisciplinary approach, employing highly qualified specialists committed to providing top-notch mental health services, and infusing the workplace with a non-discriminatory atmosphere. Her dream was realized as the comprehensive mental health service center soon gained traction as a center for people seeking help.

Health is mental, too
MDB’s specialists offer a wide range of therapies including psychotherapy, clinical psychology, psychiatry, special education, speech and language pathology, and occupational therapy, among others. A central tenet of all who work at the center is that mental health needs care, just like physical health — here, there are no stigmas alienating those looking for care.

Kilani spoke to Jordan News about Jordanians’ awareness of mental health issues. “When Jordanians hear the word ‘healthy’, they typically associate it with physical attributes like low cholesterol and the absence of disease. Sadly, a lot of people experience mental health problems that can be just as crippling as some of the most severe physical disorders,” she said.

“After obtaining skilled treatment from mental health specialists, most of these people experience an improvement in their quality of life,” the specialist added.

Many in the Kingdom never get help — not because they fail to seek it, but because even with insurance or financial assistance, mental healthcare services can be costly. As finances are among the top barriers to Mental Healthcare Access, MDB specialists provide services to a certain number of patients for free or at a lower cost. In fact, as Kilani explained, all experts at the center are required to handle one case a month on a pro-bono basis “to give back to society and to stay true to our vision of opening up the society regarding mental health”.

MDB’s volunteerism does not stop at pro-bono counseling. The center also provides therapy and psychosocial support for women at risk and female prison inmates. Expert Vesna Shalaby works at Al-Juwaidah Correction and Rehabilitation Center for Women, offering therapy for female inmates. She also assesses women at risk who are in protective custody, evaluating how they can safely return to their homes, children, and families.

“We also carry out group sessions for the female inmates to improve their skills and their coping mechanisms to handle any issues and conflicts that may arise amongst them,” Kilani added.

For couples, parents, and children
Another MDB service is couples therapy and pre-marital counseling, which helps couples preempt and resolved marital conflict. This also includes sessions for engaged couples seeking to determine if they are a good fit and working to grow their communication, empathy, and validation. Couples therapy for married couples helps them bolster the marriage relationship or deal with difficulties such as infidelity, stressful life circumstances, financial pressures, and intervention of in-laws.

“Our marriage therapist also holds a sex therapy degree from the Royal College in England, so it’s a topic that a couple can discuss in all discretion,” Kilani noted.

Family therapy programs at MDB work to break cycles of intergenerational trauma, often in response to a family member’s mental illness.

“In our parent-child interactions training, our therapists let the parents interact and engage with their children through the use of natural play situations. As the therapists supervise the interactions, they take notice of the parenting style, faults in communication, or even accidental reinforcement of a child’s bad behaviors,” Kilani explained. “Then, the therapists design a training for the parents, tailored particularly for them to address their issues and receive corrective feedback on their mastery of parenting skills.”

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