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Incorporating Islamic knowledge into mainstream mental health services

Masira Hans explains what makes it possible for her to bring in her Islamic knowledge into her mental health support practice
Asma: Can I just ask then you’ve described how you modified existing therapeutic approaches such as the mindfulness, bringing dhikr into mindfulness or giving her the religious resources that help her to understand how she should perform ablution, for example. So what, what enabled you as a practitioner to feel confident and comfortable? What allows you to bring in your Islamic experience and knowledge into your therapeutic approach with this particular client? And more generally? I think there’s two things. I think firstly, because I have studied Islamic theology and Arabic language, I studied that for seven years. I studied the scriptures for a fair amount of time. That’s the first thing.
So I feel a bit more confident that actually I know what I’m talking about and I can explain it to the people, but also because I know I’ve had family members that have gone through mental health distress, I’ve obviously gone through my own mental health journey as well. And I know that actually that’s what helps me and that’s will help other people. So that’s why I always try and actually ask people, what is it that works for you? And knowing that culture and spirituality is important to people because the thing is spirituality doesn’t always mean religion. So because I know that how important that is to people.
Whenever I’ve spoken to people, they always allude to it and when I’m, my, even my degree in psychology and the counselling that I’ve done, it’s always about bringing it back to the person, and using holistic therapies, and seeing that person as a whole and not just one part. A person is a sum of so many different parts isn’t it? So for me, it’s Like actually, if a person is the sum of the whole parts, how can their mental health not be?
So that’s kind of why I’ve kind of obviously I’ve brought in, obviously you’ve got brilliant scholars and brilliant therapists that have spoken about similar things, and I’ve tried to take inspiration from what they do, to do similar kind of things.
Asma: Thank you for that. And then also, so you probably work within an organisation with structures and processes, and so did those, so the process for working with the client, for example, did they allow for you to bring in a religious perspective into your work with your clients? And how was that received by, for example, your supervisors or your managers? Was there any constraint? Um, yeah. So in terms of organisational and management kind of factors, what helps you to be able to, to bring an Islamic perspective to the work that you do? To be fair, I haven’t received any kind of negative criticism or connotations because of any, any of this kind of work.
And I think it’s because the results speak for themselves. And if people are willing to approach you and people are trusting you with their truth, and their journeys, and their distresses, that’s a big thing. So I think because thankfully so far, generally my work’s been well appreciated and the clients I’ve had have given positive feedback. I think that speaks for itself almost. And also I think where in the organisation that I worked for in this specific case study, it was an organisation that did work specifically and especially only with those minority communities and did bring in spiritual aspects to their work. That’s what we were built upon and that obviously influenced me massively.
And again, the results speak for themselves and people were happy and it helped. And again, the explanation about people being a sum of all parts, that’s rooted in psychology as well. So there’s all this evidence and the rationale behind it. I think if you have that rationale then, yeah, knowledge is power as they say.
Asma: Thank you.

In this step, Masira Hans, Severe Mental Illness Programme Manager for Mind in Bradford, explains what makes it possible for her to bring in her Islamic knowledge into her mental health support practice.

Asma put this question to Masira after listening to a case study example where Masira had supported a young person through her mental health problems and had incorporated Islamic practices into her therapeutic approach.

Masira explains that she studied Islamic Theology, Arabic language, and religious scriptures for seven years, so she is confident in her knowledge of Islam and her ability to explain this to others. She also has lived experience of what she describes as a “mental health journey”. Masira has a degree in Psychology and professional qualifications in counselling.

Masira always asks people “what is it that works for you?” She has a wide conception of spirituality and appreciates how important it is to people in their lives, and takes a holistic approach that incorporates spirituality within the bio-psycho-social framework. Masira continues to learn and modify her approach from new scholarship in the field of Muslim Mental Health.

Masira has never received any criticism for her approach to incorporating spirituality in her mental health practice in her workplace. She thinks this is because her approach leads to positive results and her clients are open with her and she has had positive feedback. At the time of the case study, Masira was working for an organisation that provided support exclusively to ethnic minority communities and bringing in spiritual aspects to mental health support was an accepted practice there.

Over to you

Masira presents several factors that contribute to her feeling confident to bring her Islamic knowledge into her approach to providing mental health support. Which of these factors do you think is the most important in enabling her to do this? Please explain your answer.

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Understanding Mental Health in Muslim Communities

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