Therapy for Muslims

If you’re a Muslim going through a tough time, it’s important to get the help you need. Therapy can offer you a useful, dedicated space to talk about your thoughts, feelings, behaviours and experiences with someone trained to help you to better understand yourself.

Therapy can be particularly helpful if you notice negative/unhelpful patterns in your life or relationships that keep occurring, or if you have gone through something very difficult like a physical assault, or bereavement. You might want to try therapy if you’re struggling with difficult emotions or worrying thoughts – this could include depression, compulsive thoughts, phobias, hopelessness, emotional numbness or suicidal feelings. Or, you might just generally feel that life could be better, and that’s a perfectly good enough reason to get therapy too. 

Therapy is about giving yourself an outlet to process things, explore new perspectives, and challenge your behaviours in order to improve your life and mental wellbeing. It is about you investing in you. But that doesn’t mean traditional talking therapy is the only way to do this, or that every experience of therapy is going to be positive or lifechanging – and that’s ok. What works for you, might not work for someone else and vice versa.

Do I need a Muslim therapist?

If you’re struggling it’s always a good idea to get help. The important thing is to think carefully about what you might like to get out of the experience. Are you looking to talk about experiences very closely tied to your faith or culture? Is it important to you to get advice from within an Islamic framework? What do you perceive to be the positives and negatives of having a Muslim therapist? Remember, the role of a therapist is not to judge you.

It’s ok to be honest. And you don’t need to try to convince yourself to ‘be open-minded’ when you know what you want or need and what you don’t want or need. You’re allowed to trust your judgment.

Speaking with someone who understands your background and is open to your values and God-consciousness is likely to change your therapy experience and may help you to let your guard down.

Whoever your therapist is, it is very important you feel comfortable being open and honest with them in order to get the most out of your therapy session. 

“In all honesty, speaking to a non-Muslim just wasn’t for me. I can’t explain why it’s such a big deal. Speaking to someone who was like me, and had been in my shoes made so much difference. It was like breathing fresh air – not being judged, not having to explain, just connecting. We all need a space where we can be ourselves so openly.”

“What actually helped was having someone from my faith challenge certain beliefs I thought were coming from a morality/religion/Islamic place, but were actually just coping mechanisms. I thought I was such a great person because I let people walk all over me and I was ‘being a good Muslim’ but I needed another Muslim to say hold on, why are you hiding behind God here?”

“Trust is so important when someone’s dealing with your most personal stuff. I feel like when you trust and respect your therapist it’s a gamechanger. Safety is key.”    

“I think what helped me was to manage my expectations – I’m not going there specifically for ‘religious advice’, I’m going there for a perspective shift. I’m a bit of a magpie – I take inspiration and ideas from anywhere. But that said, if I’m getting advice from someone who doesn’t believe, I know my perspective isn’t truly aligned with theirs – so it’s extra important for me to analyse what they say from an Islamic perspective, and I always pray for help, clarity and guidance. Prayer is my lifeline and puts my heart at ease that Allah will always unravel illusion to expose truth so that I can navigate my mental health struggles, spiritual struggles and general life struggles, in a balanced, blessed way.”

“I sometimes feel a bit gaslighted by people (non-Muslims and mental health websites) telling me how wonderful therapy is. I try to think of it in the reverse – would a non-Muslim pay for advice coming very specifically from an Islamic perspective that they don’t fully respect or believe? I seriously doubt it. I feel like it’s ok to know who you are and want what you want and that’s not about being picky.”

“I couldn’t access therapy but I followed some online therapists and learnt A LOT. I made a lot of breakthroughs this way and genuinely recommend looking into psychology stuff yourself if you’re on a waiting list, or not able to access therapy. You might be surprised how much progress you can make if you’re willing to challenge yourself and hold yourself accountable.” 

 

What if I don’t like my therapist?

No two people are guaranteed to hit it off. You might not gel with your therapist and that’s ok – you don’t have to stick with the same person. It’s important to find someone who you feel comfortable with – so you’re allowed to ‘shop around’. 

“I had a therapist who definitely didn’t get where I was coming from at all. I think she found it hard to mask her dislike of Islam (or the concept of God generally) even though she tried her best to seem open-minded. And it felt quite overwhelming to have to try to explain and understand what my boundaries are, and why I have them. It felt like ultimately she treated my faith as part of my mental illness. All I can say is it didn’t work for me. My advice would be, don’t feel like you need to stick at something that isn’t working for you. It might take work finding someone suitable but it’s better than wasting your time pretending. When it works for you, you’ll feel it.

“Talking about what I’m going through is so crucial for me – but when I reflect on it, some of the most powerful conversations in my life have been pretty random. And I’ve had some of the biggest eureka moments reading self-help books or listening to podcasts, and sometimes during prayer or meditation. So yes, therapy can be lifechanging, but I don’t buy into the idea that traditional Western-style psychotherapy is the only way to go and that without it you’re doomed. And I think there’s a lot of pressure to buy into all these different wellness lifestyles – it’s a massive industry – everyone is selling you inner-peace these days. Trust yourself, trust Allah to guide you to what’s best, and maybe your ‘therapy’ is right in front of you, but it’s just not in the format you thought it would be.” 

You can look for a Muslim counsellor or psychotherapist in the UK on the MCAPN directory

@the.poc.therapist

The Home secrets, and family politics that you never share, and get swept under the rug, let’s talk about it. Really, at the core, this concept of keeping everything secret is how we allow generational abuse to get a free pass. Our inability to share our stories and to find healing from our pain hinders the generation from coming after us. Because then, we have taught them inherently the burden of the pains we live with is a legacy. Healing is a consequence of confronting our pain head-on. You cannot know healing without being honest. You cannot be open to healing without sharing your story. The only difference in the space of therapy is that you can do this with a mental health professional who is equipped with the skillset to hold space, do so confidently, and provide guidance on how to move forward.

♬ Stories 2 – Danilo Stankovic

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