Linda Sakr is one of Dubai’s longest standing therapists and the founder of a holistic wellness center Keyani. Linda grew up in Dubai and calls this city her home. We recently interviewed her about her experiences as a therapist and about the story of her center.
Linda, you have been practicing here for almost two decades. In your experience how has the mental health space in the UAE evolved over the last few years?
I moved back to Dubai from London in 2005 and there were only a handful of therapy centers at the time. We were inundated, demand certainly exceeded supply! Being an Arabic speaker was rigged in my favor as that was and still is much needed.
I must say, the stigma of going to see a therapist back then was a lot more apparent than it is now. I recall, in the previous place where I worked, people would go and wait in the tea/coffee room fearing that they might be seen. Some would give false identities (before Emirates IDs even existed).
Over the years, I noticed that people have become a lot more open and accepting of seeking professional help. They would inform their family and friends that therapy helped them and in turn persuade them to seek help themselves.
What are the wins and some challenges you see in the mental health service provision?
I believe that mental health is still in its infancy in this region and we have a long way to go. However, having said that, we have improved in leaps and bounds with our service provision and awareness over the years.
There are a variety of mental health services offered in the region for adults, children and special needs. There are also excellent professional development opportunities. The government also launched a mental health initiative which really helped raise awareness in the field.
As for challenges, while I understand the need for regulation, the licensing process in Dubai can be overly restrictive. I also feel there is a lack of monitoring over malpractice. Hence, we need better structures in place in order to protect both our clients and practitioners.
I would like to see more in-patient centers offering services for all sorts of issues such as addiction and eating disorders by professionals that are experienced and properly trained. In addition, there is still a certain taboo around the break up of marriages in the UAE. Also, there is hardly any recognition by law of psychological abuse, coercion or manipulation as the cause of real mental health issues.
Tell us about Keyani. What has been your vision for Keyani?
During lockdown, we got evicted from the centre where I was working, they simply did not see the value in mental health as they were more medically oriented. That’s when I started thinking to myself: “What do people need now more than ever?” Intuitively the answer that popped up for me was ‘healing and helping’ as we had all gone through this collective trauma during Covid and we all coped differently with all the uncertainty and losses.
As I was born and brought up in Dubai, I wanted to make a difference in my hometown and so Keyani came to fruition in August 2021. People thought I was mad for opening a centre during the pandemic but I was adamant that this was a much-needed provision long-term.
The word ‘Keyani’ originates from Arabic, Farsi and Urdu that has multiple meanings: my essence/ my existence, to be complete, to be fulfilled, majestic & of good nature.
Keyani is a holistic wellness centre. My vision for Keyani is to create a warm, supportive community that inspires one to find the best version of oneself. I wanted a welcoming space whereby one could make sense of the intricate connections of their mind, body and soul. A place to nurture a deeper, more authentic and meaningful relationship with oneself, with others, and within society as a whole. A place where people can connect heal, learn and transform.
The highlight of my career has been seeing Keyani grow into a sanctuary. It marked the culmination of all my experiences and subsequently how people’s lives have improved as a result of seeking the help they need. The most challenging part has been the ability to raise awareness on the benefits of holistic wellness . It’s a whole new world for the majority of people.
As for the future, Keyani has a global vision and mission and is looking to touch people’s lives in other parts of the world.
What has inspired you in your work?
My work in the UK consisted of mainly working with refugees. It taught me a lot about compassion, empathy, kindness and above all perseverance. A refugee’s story is an exemplification of courage, determination and inspiration. These are the foundations that have shaped me and my career.
My passions include personal development, practicing yoga and climbing mountains. I am full of gratitude and blessed with a loving and supportive team and family. I have three teenage children that continue to challenge, motivate and inspire me on a daily basis.
The goal is not to change who you are but to become more of who you are at your best.Sally Hogshead
What services does Keyani offer?
We have a wide range of holistic health and wellness services at Keyani . We cater to the mind, body and soul all under one roof. Our offerings include: acupuncture, breathwork, chiropractor, clinical dietician, energy healing, psychotherapy, physiotherapy, yoga and much more. We also have a pet-friendly cafe and retail space and we offer room-hire for events.
Is there anything else you wish to share with Hoopfull readers?
We constantly have new events and workshops popping up so be sure to follow us on Instagram @keyani_wellness to be up to date on the latest upcoming functions. We look forward to welcoming you.
Feel free to also contact us if you would like to join the Keyani family as a practitioner or supplier.