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Since the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, Muslim Americans have been placed under an untrusting microscope in a country where previously, they were just another marginalized minority group in the fabric of American society. It is common for immigrants to struggle in finding the balance between adapting to American principles while striving to honor and maintain individual cultural traditions; however, the wave of hate crimes, discrimination, media rhetoric and policies put in place to undermine Muslims as American citizens has caused a surge in depression and anxiety amongst Muslim Americans of all ages.
Of the 1.6 billion Muslims living worldwide, over 3 million currently reside in the United States. What many fail to consider is 1.6 billion Muslims come from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, nationalities, races, languages, and cultures. It has become common practice to lump all Muslims into one stereotype consisting of religious and political extremism, which has heavily contributed to a collective backlash against Muslims all over the world. From macro-level policies, such as the travel ban ordered against seven Muslim majority countries by the U.S. President, to the media’s biased labeling crimes committed by Muslims as “acts of terrorism”, Muslim Americans remain under unwarranted dire scrutiny.
For example, a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, anti-Muslim assaults in the United States surpassed its previous record of 93 in 2001, the year in which the Twin Towers attack occurred. In 2016, 127 hate crimes of assault against Muslims were reported. When including other forms of crime, not exclusive to assault, 307 reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes were reported: this includes the destruction of property, vandalism, intimidation, and harassment.
Amer and Hovey (2012) surveyed 601 Arab Americans across 35 U.S states. Nearly one-fourth of participants reported moderate to severe anxiety levels, and one-half reported depression scores that met clinical caseness. This sample, when compared to the general population and to four other minority groups, reported significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety. While mental health issues are not unique to Muslim Americans in recent years, the socio-political climate of anti-Muslim rhetoric and systematic discrimination has compounded the trauma experienced by Muslim Americans.
Although some mosques provide intermediate counseling services, mental health continues to be talked about in hushed tones. In Islam, the Muslim faith, seeking treatment for any ailment, mental or physical, is encouraged. This practice contradicts the cultural stigma currently in place in which Muslims view mental illness as a weakness in faith, where prayer and worship are prescribed as the cure to any condition. Contrary to popular belief, doctors in Europe were the first to assign demons and bad spirits to mental illness during the Medieval period. During that same time, a famous Muslim Scholar and physician, Ibn Sina- the founder of Modern Medicine, known as Avicenna in the Western World, rejected the notion of mental illness being related to a lack of faith and viewed mental disorders as conditions that were psychologically based. The first psychiatric hospital in the world is recorded to have been in Baghdad, Iraq in 705CE by one of the greatest Islamic physicians in history, Dr. al Razi. Mental disorders were considered medical conditions and were treated with psychotherapy and medication.
As a Pakistani Muslim-American, growing up in Mississippi, I had trouble finding a counselor with whom I could connect. Even though I was not particularly immersed in my religion or spirituality at the time and had lived in the U.S. since infancy, my initial counselor’s lack of cultural competence regarding my heritage and family’s background left me feeling misunderstood. When I did finally find a counselor with whom I was able to develop a therapeutic relationship, she was of Indian descent. Although she was not Muslim, our similar heritage was enough to provide a bridge for the therapeutic relationship to render effective.
In her book, Counseling Muslims: A handbook of mental health issues and interventions, Sameera Ahmed, Ph.D, Psychologist and Director of the Family and Youth Institute in Canton, Michigan, notes that building a therapeutic relationship with Muslim clients requires counselors to be clinically competent regarding basic Islamic beliefs and the specific cultural background of the client. Despite the growing size of the Islamic community in the U.S., most mental health practitioners appear not to have been well exposed to Islamic values and teachings. Researchers have found that many Muslims are hesitant to seek help from the mental health professionals due to differences in their beliefs and the helping professional’s lack of understanding in regards to Islamic values in their treatment modalities. Consequently, Muslim clients feel uncomfortable seeking psychiatric help as it tends to conflict with their religious beliefs.
Muslims experience mental health crises and illnesses similar to most populations from depression, substance abuse, marital issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, grief, and trauma, to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, suicide, self-harm, identity crises, LGBTQ issues, addictions, and eating disorders. As advocates for wellness and mental health for all the members of our communities, it is vital to strive for clinical competency for our most marginalized members.We are now, more than ever, cognizant of the intersections of identity, pulling further away from stereotypes. Becoming knowledgeable about the basic tenets of Islam and the struggles the Muslim American community faces while incorporating this knowledge thoughtfully and skillfully into proven therapeutic interventions, mental healthcare providers will develop the skills necessary to better serve our communities and our clients.
Saher is currently a student at Capella University, completing her fieldwork towards her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She received her Bachelor’s in Psychology in 2009 from Mississippi State University, as well as an Associate’s Degree in American Sign Language Interpreter Technology. Saher believes that in order to be fully nurtured and content, individuals must address all mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of their lives. She strives to advocate for her patients and to have a voice in breaking through the stigma of mental health.
Ahmed, S. (2012). Counseling Muslims: handbook of mental health issues and interventions. New York, N.Y: Routledge.
Amer, M., & Hovey, J. (2012). Anxiety and depression in a post-September 11 sample of Arabs in the USA. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 47(3), 409-418. doi:10.1007/s00127-011-0341-4
Yes, parental burnout is a real thing. It is so easy for parents to fall into a routine while neglecting to take care of themselves. The frustration, irritability, and lethargy sneak up without warning, resulting in self-shaming thoughts by the parent who begins to doubt his or her ability to handle this demanding job. In order to avoid the downward spiral of guilt and hopelessness, it is essential for parents to become familiar with the warning signs of parental burnout.
Parental burnout does not discriminate. While the signs are often more intense for single parents, parents of high-risk or disabled children, and those parents with limited socioeconomic resources, it is not uncommon for the burnout to attack those on the other end of the spectrum. It is imperative for anyone experiencing this misery to become aware of the signs and familiar with ways to reduce or even avoid parental burnout.
“As a parent, getting my kids to understand that when mommy needs time alone, she needs it. So I give them time where it’s all about them and then mommy has her day.” – Samone
“It was challenging for me when I realized that I was no longer able to just go and come whenever I wanted to. How do I manage this time? Who do I trust to watch them? How do I balance education and recreation? I learned that if I created “daddy time” I was more likely to be balanced and prepared to tackle any challenge. – Jason
The suggestion of “me” time is usually met with eye rolling or a frustrated shaking of the head; however, self-care is more important than any task you’re striving to cross off your to-do list. Whether it be 20 minutes of exercise, 30 minutes soaking in the tub, an hour of reading in bed, or 15 minutes of meditation and prayer, your mental well-being will improve if you make yourself a priority. Some find that even ten minutes of journaling can make an entire day more enjoyable. Remember, it is not selfish to take time out for yourself; on the contrary, it is potentially harmful not to.
In order to accomplish this goal, it is necessary to talk to your kids. Children are smart, resilient and much more understanding than we typically assume they will be. In fact, most children enjoy being a part of the “grown-up” conversation, and will happily help Mom plan that bi-weekly pedicure or Dad’s Fantasy Football guy’s night out.
An important addition to “me” time is “us” time. If you have a significant other and are in the throes of the parenting years, it is quite possible that you barely remember what it is like to gaze adoringly into your lover’s eyes over a candlelit dinner. While it may not be possible to enjoy those types as nights as frequently as you have in the past, it is beyond essential for you to make time for the two of you and your relationship… WITHOUT YOUR CHILDREN. Remember, when the kids have all grown up and leave you to wallow in that empty nest, your spouse will be left to wallow alongside you.
“The most trying time for me as a parent was when my daughter was diagnosed with cancer at the age of eight. I had to be there for her while also attending to the needs of my two younger boys and my husband. I felt so overwhelmed and so alone, because I was doing everything on my own. It has always been hard for me to ask for help, and that was a time where I needed it the most. I had to be everything for everyone.” – Caronda
The old saying “it takes a village,” can be applied to parenting life on a daily basis. It is essential for you to embrace those people who support and encourage your journey and readily pitch in and lend a helping hand when you need one. You will know you’ve found your village when help is at your door before you’ve realized it was even needed. Many parents feel that seeking out a support system can be awkward and embarrassing; however, it is quite possible that you will reach out to someone struggling through the chaos of parenting just like you, hoping someone will reach out help make the pandemonium more manageable. Joining support groups in your area is a fantastic way to find those making their way down the same path you’re navigating, providing you with a validating reminder that you are not alone.
“Because of my trauma as a teenager, I would fear becoming a parent. I remember wanting to do everything “right” when my child was born; however, I quickly learned that there is no such thing. I sought treatment in dealing with my anxieties and frustrations, and also found better coping strategies.” – Unanimous
While talking to friends and family about your doubts and struggles can certainly be helpful, it is oftentimes difficult to let all of your thoughts and feelings flow freely when talking to those you love. Seeking the support of a professional therapist allows you to leave the filter at the door and unload every stressful, guilt-ridden, unexplainable thought you’re having on an unbiased individual who is trained to help you untangle the scrambled messages flowing through your mind. By guiding you in the determination of specific stressors and triggers in your life, a mental health counselor can additionally aid you in discovering coping strategies which help make those seemingly overbearing stressors and triggers become manageable instead of intimidating.
“I thought the reason I wasn’t feeling well was because I was so overwhelmed and depressed. I had no motivation to exercise, didn’t want to eat healthy foods, and just basically stopped taking care of myself. It took me a long time to realize that in order to stop feeling that depression, I HAD to eat well, I HAD to get a good night’s sleep, and I HAD to exercise.”
“There have been many obstacles on my journey as a mother, but I have found strength in taking care of myself spiritual, physically, and mentally. My husband was the support I needed. I also spent time journaling, exercising, but most importantly I turned to my faith and the community it provided.” – Michelle
Taking care of your body not only helps you feel better physically but impacts your mental health as well. A good sleep schedule allows you to start each day feeling rejuvenated and focused while staying hydrated and maintaining a healthy diet keeps your body running at full strength throughout the day. If you are suffering from depression, you may find that the thought of exercising or eating healthily sounds as exciting as a root canal… in fact, a root canal may sound more appealing to you as you wouldn’t be required to get up and move around. If this is the case for you, please seek the help of a mental health professional in order to address and alleviate these serious symptoms you are experiencing.
A FEW FINAL WORDS: You WILL mess up. You WILL doubt yourself as a parent. You WILL get tired of being a parent! Beating yourself up over these realities will do nothing but make you feel even worse. There is a reason why flight attendants instruct you to put an oxygen mask on yourself before those around you, and that is simply because you will be no good to anyone else if you aren’t prioritizing yourself first. Put on your mask and take a few deep breaths. Only then can you rescue the ones you love.
In 2010, I was sitting across from a client, just starting a new job and collecting my hours toward my LPC licensure. As the session continued, I struggled to concentrate on what my client had to say. Thoughts raced through my head, “What if they realize, I have no idea what I’m doing,” “What if they realize, I’m a fraud?”
Fast forward to four years later, starting a new job, those type of thoughts come back. Only now I’m fully licensed, with several years of experience. “What if this new company, finds out I’m just winging it.” “What if they learn I’m a fraud?”
The rational part of my brain knows I know what I’m doing… but those irrational thoughts are stronger and they consume me.
The term was coined by American psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, who published an article called “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” in the 1978 journal Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice.
Earlier thought to only occur in high-achieving women, this experience is found to occur in everyone regardless of gender, race, socio-economic stasis etc… 70% of people will experience at least one episode of Impostor Phenomenon in their lives. Famous people like Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Neil Gaiman, Maya Angelou, and Chuck Lorre have admitted to feeling like they would be found out for being a fraud.
So what does this mean for me and you… it means we are normal. We are not alone in these thoughts. When we are in new situations, it’s normal to feel insecure and unsure until you can get your bearings, it doesn’t mean you are unqualified or a fraud. It means you are Human and you are learning, growing and changing.
Be Vocal: Tell a trusted friend, coworker, or professional about your feelings of inadequacy. Vocalizing your thoughts can sometimes help you realize how irrational or silly they sound.
Write Down Your Accomplishments: Make a list, check it twice, and keep checking it. Whenever you are feeling inadequate, add something. Sometimes on a really bad day, an accomplishment can be “I survived.” Don’t discount any accomplishment, no matter how small you may feel it is at the time.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others: Recognize that you are you. You are unique. When we compare our lives to that of others we fall into traps of “my life sucks compared to ______.” No one’s life is the best, no one’s life is perfect. What are they not showing you? If you compare your life to others you miss out on your own life and your experiences.
Being Wrong Doesn’t make you a Fraud: We all make mistakes, we are human. Mistakes are necessary to learning life’s lessons. The knowledge retained from fixing a failure is remembered longer than doing “it” right the first time. Just think back to your childhood.
Take Action: It is impossible to be a fraud, if you are taking action. By taking Action and working through your thoughts, you are proving to yourself that you are not an impostor, you’re a doer.
Fake it till you make it!: Faking confidence does not make us a fraud. For example, faking a smile releases real endorphins in our brains increasing our mood until we are smiling for real. Faking confidence leads to real confidence.
AND REMEMBER YOU ARE HUMAN!!
Nutrition plays a significant role in our mood. How we eat affects our brain function and blood sugar. Your mood will be more positive if you eat in a way that keeps your blood sugar steady and normal all day long. If your blood sugar is going up and down like a roller coaster, then your mood will be on a roller coaster ride too.
Your brain likes to use the sugar in your blood as its fuel source. Another name for blood sugar is blood glucose. You may be surprised to learn that 65% of the glucose flowing in your blood is used by your brain. So eating in a way that guarantees normal blood glucose will help your brain perform at its best.
How do you feel emotionally or physically when you skip a meal? I’m sure you will say grumpy, fatigued, or “hangry.” Research shows that a lower blood glucose can lead to aggression, frustration, tension, nervousness, or low energy.
I’ve included my favorite green smoothie recipe. This is a mild-tasting smoothie that is an excellent source of natural carbohydrate, fiber, and healthy fat.
Tropical Green Smoothie:
1 cup frozen tropical fruit
(banana, mango, pineapple, papaya)
1 cup fresh baby spinach (packed into measuring cup)
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 teaspoon grated ginger
Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!
Stasha Kucel MS, RDN, LD
Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Counselor
Benton, David. “Carbohydrate ingestion, blood glucose, and mood.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 26.3 (2002): 293-308.
Yamagata, Ana Sayuri, et al. “Selfish brain and selfish immune system interplay: A theoretical framework for metabolic comorbidities of mood disorders.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 72 (2017): 43-49.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), almost one-fourth of Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, whether it has been diagnosed or not. Even more alarming, it says that one person out of every 17 is also walking among us with a major mental problem, for instance suffering from bipolar disorder or even schizophrenia.
With something like 20% of all teens suffering from some kind of mental problem and 18% of all adults experiencing moderate to severe anxiety trauma, it seems that a significant percentage of our overall society is lacking in basic good mental health. Most of the time this goes undetected though because all these individuals are still functional in their daily routines – so how can you tell if someone you know is really in need of help?
When a friend or loved one exhibits diminished interest or no interest in events, objects, activities, or places that they used to love, this is a warning sign. A mental issue may or may not be at the root of this sudden disinterest, but if your friend can’t explain the change in attitude at all, there is at least cause for suspicion. It may be time to suggest that they talk to a professional.
Therapy and counseling are often needed by people who don’t really have any mental issues, but who are simply going through significant life changes. These include the death of a loved one, a divorce, loss of a friend, losing a job, or any sudden crushing event in their life which has a major impact on them. Even if there is no permanent damage to a person’s state of mind, they often need some help just getting through that phase in their life, and back on an even keel.
Substance abuse is often triggered by some event or reason in a person’s life that goes undiscovered and unexplored, so the behavior persists. Therapy might help a great deal in fathoming that trigger and helping the person overcome what caused the substance abuse. This is especially true if the behavior represents a fairly sudden departure from their previous ways, and when you see this, you shouldn’t let it go on for long before intervening in some way.
It can be extremely frustrating for someone who is actually suffering from mental illness to be told repeatedly by their physician that they are not sick, and there’s nothing wrong with them. It might also discourage them from seeking out any other kind of treatment, even though they can feel that something is amiss. If you have a friend or loved one in this state, be aware that such untreated conditions can carry serious consequences if not diagnosed.
You can usually tell the difference between someone who has an introverted personality, and someone who refuses to be involved with society in any way. This kind of withdrawal is not good for personal growth, and it may be a sign of mental illness. When it seems they are actually making a concerted effort to stay removed from others and be alone most of the time, it’s a sign they may need help.
Outpatient treatment centers provide a very valuable service to the communities which they’re located in, and to the individuals who travel to them seeking counseling and therapy. Some centers provide a very wide range of services, such as the Grace Counseling center in Lewisville, Texas, while others focus specifically on substance abuse or relapse prevention.
Depending on the center itself, services offered might include counseling for depression, anxiety, or trauma, family counseling, mental health counseling, binge eating counseling, couples counseling, group therapy, and even formal drug addiction treatment programs. But whether the service provided is a fairly straightforward continuing education program or an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), these treatment centers are a vital component of the health and wellness industry. Here are some of the most important benefits provided by outpatient treatment programs, and why you might want to choose one over an inpatient program.
The unfortunate reality of medical treatment is that it’s often very expensive, and the cost of inpatient treatment could well be prohibitive to a given patient, whereas outpatient care is likely to be much more manageable. Since outpatient care does not include lodging, meals, and other residential kinds of service, it can be conducted much more affordably.
For patients seeking discrete care, outpatient treatment may be the way to go, because it’s not necessary to reside at the center during treatment. In many cases, outpatient care is conducted in such a way that a patient can continue working, and carry on a more or less normal life without most people even being aware of the treatment.
Going hand-in-hand with the privacy advantage, is the fact that in many cases, someone under outpatient care can have minimal disruption to their life while still receiving quality treatment. There may of course be scheduling disruptions, but for the most part a normal routine can be balanced with the outpatient treatment program. There are even situations where outpatient care can be dispensed in a manner most compatible with someone’s existing schedule, for instance during evenings or on weekends. This can be a huge advantage to someone like a parent, who is obliged to carry on a regular routine away from the treatment center.
Persons in need of outpatient care often receive the biggest support from family members, and someone enrolled as an inpatient loses this benefit, because they’re largely cut off from the external world. That’s not the case in an outpatient treatment program, and people trying to recover from addiction or some other kind of disorder, will still be able to have the benefit of their primary support network while going to the program.
Even though virtually every city in America has an entire community built up of people recovering from various physical and mental disorders, it’s not always easy to make contact with these people to gain needed support after treatment. One of the big benefits of an outpatient treatment program is that contact information is available so that connections can be made between the recovery community and outpatient graduates wishing to join them.
Finding Your Patronus: Fighting Exhaustion, Anxiety, and Stress
To start, if you do not understand the Harry Potter reference to a patronus, let me give you a definition – it will be vital to understand the metaphor used in this blog.
A patronus is something that one can use in order to protect or shield oneself from things that are draining, fear and anxiety provoking, and overall atrocious (i.e. dementors in the HP books).
These draining and dreadful things can be people or scenarios – but their main aim always seems to be the same – to exhaust one of their happiness, clarity, and will to operate constructively and effectively.
I assume this description sounds familiar to you. We all experience people or situations that take everything out of us. Events that catch us at our most vulnerable and break us down farther than we anticipate.
So how do we combat these unavoidable or unforeseen feelings of unease, fatigue, and despair? We find our patronus. Something we can project, something we can utilize to simulate calmness, protection, and contentment.
Like in the Harry Potter books and films, each person has a unique way of producing this effect. It may be a hot bath, a comforting friend, a yoga posture, a meditation spot, a garden walk, a playlist, or a scent. There are multiple combinations that can be useful for different people in different ways.
What I propose is that YOU explore yours.
What can save you from falling into a bad mood? Who can make you laugh when you feel like you might burst out into tears at any second? Where can you go where you feel instant calm the second you step into that space? What song can give you a boost, validate your feelings, or offer some nostalgic joy?
We cannot always prepare for a bad day, a bad mood, or an unfortunate circumstance. But we can prepare a list of things to help us confront and combat these dementoresque scenarios. A patronus tool belt if you will.
A list of possible patronus:
There are a many more options out there that might be right for you! I encourage you to explore what you can use as patronus. You might need different tools for different emotions, intensities and/or circumstances.
Individuals who challenge the widely normalized and socially accepted binary presentations of gender are often considered “other” and forced to the margins of culture as “issues”, something to be “figured out” or “made sense of”. However unintentional or involuntary these actions may be – those who do not conform to the dichotomy of the main stream gender paradigm may feel as though they are a weight that must be bared or a person who is stripped of receiving respect in their true and heart-felt state of being. There is a void that has formed in society’s comfort zone, where intolerance, disrespect, and fear are found and love, acceptance, and understanding are missing.
Making assumptions in the counseling room, the doctor’s office, or in other helping spaces sometimes feels unavoidable or automatic. We will all encounter individuals who live outside of one’s definitions of gender. So how do we practice in such a way that expresses compassion, respect, and ethical competence as we seek to understand with and what our client, friend, child, or student may still be trying to process?
It is crucial for us to begin to intentionally place ourselves in and endure existing in a state of not knowing. A place that is often uncomfortable, sometimes frightening, and almost always fraught with uncertainty. I believe as helping professionals we can all benefit from being uncomfortable in ambiguity, allowing our clients to come in and create the scripts and through lines of the space which we hold for them with kindness and interest.
By allowing such a space to be more free of expectations, we offer up room for our clients to fill. We hold a safe place for them to present, perform, and live in ways that honor their true essence. By doing this I believe that not only will our client flourish in the freedom of unconditional respect, but we will be given more opportunities to see the increase of growth, knowledge, and possibility in the relationship.
Below are resources for those who want to learn more about the present necessity not only for possibility, acceptance, understanding, but for advocacy and education about gender diversity.
Resources: Butler, J. (2009). Undoing gender. New York, NY: Routledge.
Try this sequence and find your focus.
For the rest of your break you can repeat the sequence, take meditation in easy pose, or simply lie down on your back for a short “yogi nap” in savasana.
Hopefully, you got what you needed!
Stay tuned for more sequences that are designed to fit in your busy day!
We all have experienced times where we simply go through the motions, finding minimal pleasure in a life where our schedule is maximized with responsibilities. The question is, however, what about the responsibility to ourselves? All over the globe, people of all different backgrounds, status, and life phases are searching for a way to get and stay connected, needed, and appreciated – But, in what ways are we sacrificing our ability to connect, meet our needs, as well as find appreciation and even gratitude for our whole self – mind, body, and spirit.
Turning our attention inward might sound impossible – even selfish. On the other hand, is trying to give away a self that we don’t take time to care for fully serving anyone else? “Self-care” a term used widely by helping professionals, may sound like shtick to build interest, but the concept of taking time to care for the self dates back centuries. Meditation, yoga, and quiet reflection (or similar practices) show up in all major world philosophies, religions, and spiritualities. Even scientist have found justification and usefulness of these behaviors by experimenting with brain maps, stress levels, and nervous system response measurements.
The irony lies in the facts. Getting quiet and still actually maximizes productivity and creativity! Practicing mindfulness daily builds stress tolerance, decreases feelings of sadness and being overwhelmed and increases experience of tranquility and contentment.
Finding a method of practice is not as simple as advertisements might suggest, but with a small commitment to turning inward, the needs of the body and the mind will become more clear.
As a counselor in training and a yoga instructor, I have found numerous evidence of the interdependence of body and mind, the necessity of maintaining those connections and the relevance that holds in our happiness.
Wanting to try something new, find connection, or gain relaxation and mindfulness skills? We are offering a yoga workshop near you! Right here in Lewisville Texas at Grace Counseling Center we have yoga for beginners and advanced level practice. Our instructors are RYT certified and can accommodate all levels.