Conceptualizing an Islamic psychotherapy: A grounded theory study. Spirituality in Clinical Practice. American Psychological Association. Advance online publication.
by Rothman, A. & Coyle, A.
Many religiously committed Muslims do not seek psychotherapeutic services because of assumptions that psychotherapists will not engage with their religious values in an informed and open way. In light of this, an approach to psychotherapy is needed that explicitly values Muslims’ religious orientations and commitments and integrates these into clinical practice. The present study builds upon an Islamic model of the soul to develop a data-grounded, experience-based model of Islamic psychotherapy. It does this by adopting a grounded theory approach to the analysis of interviews with 18 Muslim psychotherapists from six countries (12 men and six women) who believed that they integrate Islamic conceptions of psychology into their clinical practice. The ways in which participants understood and applied the four levels of the structure of the soul (the nafs, or “lower self”; the aql, or “intellect”; the qalb, or “heart”; and the ruh, or “spirit”) in formulating an Islamic psychotherapy are examined. Their conceptualizations and reports of practice spoke of a holistic psychology with an emphasis on embodiment, and of psychological difficulties as occurring because of blockages or imbalances at the levels of the soul. These were seen as needing to be released to enable clients to align more closely with their pure and good nature that comes from and is connected to God. Participants expressed caution about overstepping their knowledge and expertise and venturing into deep religious guidance. From these insights, an “iceberg model” of Islamic psychotherapy is developed.