Muslim Psychologists: Help with a spiritual touch
Muslim Psychologists provide an important role in assisting Muslim individuals and families in coping with day to day stresses that life throws up at them.
MuslimVillage.com’s Raidah Shah Idil caught up with Emily Eldan a psychologist working at PsychCentral based in Sydney, Australia to learn more about psychology from an Islamic perspective.
What is your work background?
I work at the Auburn branch of PsychCentral and we cater for different religions and languages. I speak Arabic as a second language.
There are many different bilingual psychologists who work with us, and we all bulk bill. Overall, I’ve been a psychologist for 9 years. I previously worked in private psychiatric hospitals and as a school psychologist.
What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?
Many people ask me this question! It’s very easy to see why it’s confusing. Basically, a psychiatrist is a medical specialist in mental health and therefore can prescribe medication. A psychologist does not prescribe meds. We provide therapy and treatment like counselling.
Is it expensive to see a psychologist?
It can be. But now many psychologists bulk bill through Medicare which almost eliminates any cost. Clients who are referred by their GP can have up to 12 sessions on Medicare. This means many people can see a psychologist at places like PsychCentral free of cost.
What kind of people have mental illness?
It is not limited to people of a certain age or culture or gender. However, in general, people who have experienced abuse, loss, trauma or family and relationship issues could be vulnerable to suffering mental illness.
How is mental illness managed?
It really depends on the diagnosis but many mental illnesses can be managed through a range of different therapies such as cognitive behavior therapy and relaxation training. Some mental illnesses may require medication and that’s where the doctor or psychiatrist becomes necessary. Also, a healthy and stable upbringing and family life helps contribute to better mental health.
What is the biggest challenge with mental illness in the Muslim community?
I would say possibly the shame factors, as well the misconception that someone who sees a psychologist is “crazy”. This is not the case. Many clients may have marital issues or need assistance dealing with a grief and loss issues etc. Also, many people in our community have a fear of being judged.
What is the solution to this challenge?
A solution could perhaps be more education for parents and students through schools and workplaces/community outreach. The fact is that the psychologist is not there to pass judgement. Also, there is therapist-client confidentiality.
Do some people believe that having a mental illness is something to be ashamed of, and a punishment for their sins?
Some do. I think this is decreasing though as more people find it easier to access therapy.
What is a healthy way of viewing mental illness?
It is not uncommon in our community. One cannot judge others for having mental illness. Rather, providing support is a great way to reach out to those experiencing a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety.
What is it about you as a Muslim psychologist that makes you different?
For Muslim clients looking for more than just a secular/scientific therapy, I incorporate the spiritual elements which are vital to their well-being. I am able to give therapy in the context of the Muslim client’s worldview, in addition to using CBT and existing therapeutic tools.
Muslims understand hardship in the context of Islam and it makes their difficulties easier to deal with. If I can relate to them through a spiritual perspective, then this works wonders. It gives Muslims clients answers to questions that would otherwise remain unanswered.
PsychCentral has Christian and Hindu psychologists in addition to Muslim psychologists, to cater for their unique faith-based of Christian and Hindu clients.
What is your advice to a Muslim person who is feeling suicidal?
While asking for the help of Allah, this person needs to seek the help of a mental health professional. Do not be afraid to ask family or friends for assistance. When someone is suicidal, they feel alone but more often than not, they have people who care for them if they would only let them in.
They filter out all the positives in their lives and see only the negative. Speaking to a psychologist or a trusted friend can allow then to be mindful of the fact that suicide is not the only option.
What can families of people with mental illness do to help their loved one?
The best thing is to support them. How? By actively listening to that person without judgement. Be gentle in your approach. Mention that they could benefit from therapy. Be there for them when possible.