Understanding Islamically Integrated Therapy:

Psychotherapy is a process of intervention that is rooted in the idea of the “talking cure”.  This process is guided by extensive research done on human behavior and empirically validated ways of intervening to alleviate psychological disarray.  In Islamic terminology, this is an attempt at understanding Allah’s Sunnah (system and structure that Allah has created) and the practical application of Islam.  The Qur’an instructs humankind to seek out and reflect on the signs and creation of Allah and to study them as a means of attaining nearness to Him.  Islamically integrated therapy may utilize psychotherapy in a similar way to assist in the attainment of spiritual serenity.  In fact, psychology is made up of the Greek words psyche (the soul) and logos (the study of).  The soul here refers to all non-physical aspects of a person and fits in very well with the Islamic concept of mental and spiritual health.  Psychotherapy is the therapeutic attempt to revitalize the spiritual self by paving the way towards the exploration of the self via guided introspection.  Coupled with this method is the inclusion of traditional Islamic healing practices that are part of the healing process.

The Islamic tradition and sciences of spirituality have served this function historically through the means of a spiritual Master who is at the head of the community.  Due to premature development of the Islamic community in America and the complex challenges that Muslim Americans face, the work of Muslim religious leaders may be enhanced by a more holistic approach that integrates both an understanding of human psychology, biology, society in addition to Islamic tradition.  This is also known as the bio-psycho-socio-spiritual approach in psychological practice.

There has been an erosion of the traditional Islamic community and many American Muslims do not belong to a cohesive interconnected community under the direction of a religious scholar/spiritual guide.

The popularity of many forms of modern psychology in the west has been largely due to the dissolution of the concept of the community and the industrialization/ commercialization of all fields of health.  There has been a focus on a post-hoc method to dealing with pathology and individuals have become dependent upon the psychologist and medications for the lack of social supports.  The benefits of modern psychology, with its emphasis solely on the individual in isolation, are limited.  In reality, the individual is an atom that is connected to the molecule of his/her community.

New Muslims Stages of Change

It has been observed according to Sue and Sue (2006) that minorities who are put into a foreign environment go through a series of stages of acculturation.  New Muslims often report similarly going through these stages.  The first stage according to this theory is called conformity, where individuals conform completely and whole-heartedly to the new culture that they have come in contact with.  Many New Muslims bring in a lot of energy when they embrace their new religion and begin to fully welcome and sport external symbols of being a Muslim.  Men may start to grow beards, wear Islamic garb and learn religious vocabulary.  Women may begin to wear the headscarf (hijab), face veil (niqab) or Islamic female garb (abaya).  Although, this is not a negative thing, most often people become completely immersed fairly rapidly with little understanding of the diversity or complexities of being a Muslim and the Muslim community.  The second stage is called dissonance.  In this stage a lot of New Muslims begin to question their identity, often feeling the difference between themselves and many ethnic groups of Muslims.  They begin to become confused with the difference between culture and religion and start to realize their own differences and the influence of their culture of origin on them. When such conflicted feelings intensify, they may enter the third stage which is termed resistance and immersion.  In this stage, New Muslims (often an experience of the majority) that embraced the religion of Islam, often return to their faith of origin or completely leave the religion of Islam.  They may resist Muslim communities and immerse themselves within their culture/religion of origin. If they do not entirely leave, they may have a very emotionally reactive perspective that is often seen in unorthodox views of the religion. Many may not get beyond this stage.  However, those who succeed to next stage first begin to introspect within themselves about their complete rejection of both identities and move into the final stage termed, synergistic acculturation and integrative awareness.  In this stage, New Muslims realize that they do not necessarily have to reject their American culture or identity as a Muslim and begin to carve out a lifestyle that embraces aspects of their American culture and blends well with their new faith.

Family Developmental: Stages of the Family Life Cycle

Early Stages – Forming and Nesting
I.      Coupling
Family Stage marker:   The family begins at the establishment of a common household by two people; this may or may not include marriage.
Family Task: Individual independence to couple/dyadic interdependence.

II.    Becoming Three – and more

Family Stage marker: The second phase in family life is initiated by the arrival and subsequent inclusion/incorporation of the first child/dependent member.
Family Task: Interdependence to incorporation of dependence.

Middle Stages – Family Separating Process

III. Entrances

Family stage marker: The third phase in signaled by the exit of the first child/dependent member from the intrafamily world to the larger world.  This occurs at the point of entrance into school or other extrafamilial environment.
Family task: Dependence to facilitation of beginning separations – partial independence.

IV. Expansion

Family Stage Marker:  This phase is marked by the entrance of the last child/dependent member of the family into the community.
Family task: Support of facilitation of continuing separations – independence.

V. Exits

Family Stage Marker: This phase starts with the first complete exit of a dependent member from the family.  This is achieved by the establishment of an independent household which may include marriage or another form of independent household which may include marriage or another form of independent household entity.
Family Task: Partial separations to first complete independence.

Late Stages: Finishing

VI. Becoming smaller/extended
Family Stage marker: Ultimately the moment comes for the exit of the last child/dependent member from the family.
Family Task: Continuing expansion of independence.

VII.   Endings
Family Stage markers: The final years start with the death of one spouse/partner and continue up to the death of the other partner.
Family Task:  Facilitation of family mourning. Working through final separations.

*Revised from Zibach (1968; 1979; 1982; 1986) as found in Lee Combrink-Gaham, M.D. (1989) Children in Family Contexts. Guildford Press.