Dr. Vedrana Mladina’s Personal Life

The Arabia Times: Explain your background and experience in detail.

Dr. Vedrana Mladina: I am a licensed Clinical Psychologist with more than 20 years of international clinical experience working with diverse populations in various interdisciplinary working environments.

The Arabia Times: Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a licensed Clinical Psychologist and how you ended up in your current role as the Associate Director of Counseling at NYU Abu Dhabi?

Dr. Vedrana Mladina: Prior to joining NYU Abu Dhabi seven years ago, I spent around 15 years working in the international criminal law arena, supporting victims and witnesses of war crimes around the world.

Being a clinical psychologist was always my career dream and it equipped me and helped me navigate challenging situations in war affected areas and provide adequate support under most difficult circumstances. After that long and amazing professional journey, I was ready to try out my clinical skills and international experience in a very culturally diverse higher education environment and that’s how I ended up joining NYU Abu Dhabi.

In my current role of Associate Director of Counseling at NYU Abu Dhabi, I enjoy the opportunity to support young people with brilliant minds to reach their full potential.

About the Company by Dr. Vedrana Mladina

The Arabia Times: Could you provide an overview of the Middle East Psychological Association (MEPA) and its founding objectives? What motivated the establishment of MEPA back in November 2010?

Dr. Vedrana Mladina: The Middle East Psychological Association (MEPA) was established in November, 2010, to unify psychologists and other mental health practitioners in the Middle East. The Middle East Psychological Association aims to unify all of the psychologists and mental health clinicians in the Middle East. Ever since then, MEPA has grown in terms of membership numbers, scope and influence in the region.

Membership is open to psychologists, counselors, social workers, therapists, allied professionals (e.g., teachers, occupational therapist, etc.) and it provides many professional development and networking opportunities and benefits. We also offer membership to students, aspiring mental health professionals.

The Arabia Times: In your opinion, what are the most pressing mental health challenges faced by individuals in the Gulf region, and how is the Middle East Psychological Association actively working to address these challenges? 

Dr. Vedrana Mladina: There is still a lot of stigma related to mental health and mental health treatments in the Gulf region, as it is still seen as a rather Western concept. Through our professional development and general public events MEPA is helping with normalizing and promoting professional mental health care in local communities and raising awareness about mental health in general.

Another big challenge is the professional ethical standards of care that are not always easy to monitor and maintain in this region, mainly due to socioeconomic and cultural factors that play a role.

To combat this, MEPA has created an ethics code for mental health practice in the Middle East. The ethics code is drawn largely from the American Psychological Association and all members of MEPA have agreed to practice according to the code. In addition to protecting the public from ethical violations, the organization serves as a resource for when clients and consumers believe their clinician has behaved unethically which provides a level of trust in the field and in those practicing it that are part of MEPA.

The Association’s Greatest Strength & Vision

The Arabia Times: What do you feel is the biggest strength of this Association right now?

Dr. Vedrana Mladina: MEPA has signed memorandums of understanding (MOU’s) with other professional organizations including the American Psychological Association and this in itself elevates the standards of practice and professional code of conduct within the field of psychology in the Middle East. MEPA has also been working hard to establish country chapters around the region. Our HQ is in Kuwait and we currently have active country chapters in UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon and Jordan.

The Arabia Times: You also hold the position of Middle East Psychological Association UAE Chapter Director. Could you share more about the mission and vision of the association, especially in the context of promoting mental health awareness in the Gulf region?

Dr. Vedrana Mladina: Two years ago, MEPA leadership decided that it was important to be represented and active on country levels in the region to be more integrated into respective local mental health communities. That is when we also established the UAE Country Chapter and started having more active presence in the UAE through professional development and networking events, tackling challenging issues on the local level and supporting and meeting mental health professionals and local communities where they are.

Path Took by Dr. Vedrana Mladina

The Arabia Times: What was the path you took to get to where you are today?

Dr. Vedrana Mladina: I personally have always been open to different professional opportunities and made sure to maximize them – this attitude opened many doors for me and allowed me to learn from and work alongside some great mental health professionals.

The main reason I decided to join MEPA’s leadership was the enthusiasm and vision shared by our current president Dr. Joanne Hands and our Vice President Dr. Michel Nafwal who tirelessly worked to build and lead MEPA over the years.

Challenges faced by Dr. Vedrana Mladina

The Arabia Times: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome during the journey of your leadership?

Dr. Vedrana Mladina: I always consider every challenge, no matter how big or small, to be my opportunity to rise and grow from it as a leader and as a person. Being a successful leader means to be able to embrace challenges as part of the job. My biggest challenge as a leader so far has been to accept that sometimes all we can do is to accept that we can’t change people’s mindsets overnight and that sometimes just chipping away bits and pieces of it is the best we can do and the fastest we can go, but it’s still progress.

My profession is also my true passion and that always helps me go through challenging times. Being in a position to help others improve their mental health and make positive changes in their lives is something I consider to be a privilege and act of service I strongly believe in.

Future of Company

The Arabia Times: How do you see MEPA is changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?

Dr. Vedrana Mladina: I hope that MEPA will continue to grow in size and importance in the Middle East and beyond, especially when it comes to unifying professional and ethical practice among mental health professionals. I personally will continue to volunteer my time, knowledge, and passion for mental health care to make this happen.

Advice from Dr. Vedrana Mladina

The Arabia Times: Would you like to say anything else to our viewers?

Dr. Vedrana Mladina: There is no health without mental health!

Please visit our website for more information about the association and membership and if you would like to support our work or to be supported by MEPA, please contact us on uae@mepa.me

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