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Mental health practice priorities

What the priorities are for practitioners who support mental health in Muslim communities?
Priorities for practice is to not see Islam as a monolith and more importantly, not to see Muslims as a monolithic group of people. And I think this is, the biggest challenge is oftentimes we’re looking at Muslims as a cultural population. And that’s really problematic because there are every, almost every culture that exists in the world has Muslims as a part of it. And so, you know, there isn’t as much a Muslim culture as there are, many cultures within the… there’s many cultures represented within the Muslim population.
And so I think one of the priorities is to really understand that people are going, Muslims are going to have their cultural identity, and then there’s going to be a reality of the Islamic identity. And that there’s going to be crossover, but that in many ways, they have to be treated not as the same thing.
That people are, you know, so I think one of the priorities for people going forward is to separate out this notion of Muslim mental health and to understand that really we can talk about an Islamic approach to how we understand mental health so this is why I use the term Islamic psychology, and then understanding people who identify as Muslim but, but not compounding the two and thinking that we’re just talking about, there is only one psychology and then we’re doing that psychology with the cultural population of Muslims. Both of those, I would say are problematic because those are both defined differently depending on your perspective.
And then another I think priority going forward is going to be for practitioners to not assume that everything that they have learned about psychology Goes, can be applied with Muslim, with Muslim clients in a way that’s going to work in the way that we’ve learned perhaps in our training. And so I think having an open mind, but also being willing to embrace the notion of different paradigms that you know, and I think, you know, I’ve mentioned this before, this this term of epistemological bias. I think often we are not aware of our biases.
And I think sometimes what we collectively, even as a society, regardless of Muslim or non-Muslim, just as human beings living in the world, we tend to favour things that are measurable and things that can be seen and that really creates a big blind spot for us. And I think if we’re going to be, we’re talking about mental health or we’re talking about the internal world of the human being, regardless of your belief, regardless of whether you believe in a soul or how you define the soul, the reality is that there is a lot that cannot be measured and explained through, through physical means.
And so I think just having the courage and willingness to embrace that unseen reality is going to really help us move forward in understanding how to help people better.
And I think in terms of specifically working with Muslims in mental health and in this, this developing and growing field of Islamic psychology, I think the priority is going to be training people, training practitioners and supporting efforts to
to learn this indigenous approach to Islamic psychology to help the Muslim population.
And to see, and to sort of collectively both as a, as a psychology community, and mental health community, and the Muslim community, to understand the real crucial element of, of using the Islamic tradition and the resources that are provided there in a really authentic and genuine way, and not just from a… not just by name, but really understanding the…
the sort of theology and cosmology and how that intersects and relates to the practical application. And so that for me, that means a dialogue between mental health practitioners and religious scholars. And so I think the real priority is for those, for them to be in contact with one another, in dialogue with one another. And in in certain cases, in partnership with one another where mental health practitioners are working closely in partnership with religious leaders so that there isn’t this big gap. Because oftentimes the Muslim community, and this is going to continue being the case, are going to go to the imam for understanding their situation and how they how they find guidance within the Islamic tradition.
And with it, wrapped up in that religious guidance there’s going to be psychological experiences, there’s going to be mental health issues. And so I think there just needs to be a bridging of this gap and this divide between the sort of theoretical and theological and the practical and application to mental health.
I think if, if a non-Muslim clinician is working with a Muslim who who uses Islam as the framework for how they navigate their life and understand their world, then it really becomes incumbent on the practitioner to learn about what that framework is, not necessarily in detail to be able to themselves give religious guidance, but to moreover really just to honour that framework for everything that it is and to be careful that they’re not guiding them in a way that may,may in just the lack of understanding, seem perfectly fine to guide someone where you would in what makes sense to you. But just to be aware that in some cases this may be problematic based on their belief system.
And so I think there’s a lot that a non-Muslim practitioner can do to just increase their awareness, to be cautious about how they guide somebody in a certain way and what areas to be careful about

In this step, Dr Rothman responds to a question asking what the priorities are for practitioners who support mental health in Muslim communities. He identifies the following priorities:

  • not seeing Muslims as a homogenous group
  • not assuming that mainstream conceptions of psychology can be applied to Muslims and being open to embracing alternative conceptualisations of mental health
  • being aware of unconscious bias
  • creating opportunities for dialogue between mental health practitioners and religious scholars
  • exploring opportunities for religious scholars and mental health practitioners to work in partnership
  • for non-Muslim practitioners to become familiar enough with the Muslim worldview to honour how Muslims navigate their life and understand their world, and to be careful that their support is not problematic in relation to Muslim religious beliefs and values.

Over to you

Which one of Dr Rothman’s recommendations do you think you might be able to implement in your mental health support practice, and why? Has the knowledge you have gained through this course supported you to work towards this recommendation, and how?

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Understanding Mental Health in Muslim Communities

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