How Faith Gets Hindered When Seeking Mental Health Care

“Doctor, let me be honest with you,” said a new patient at my therapy clinic. “I didn’t really want to be here, but I tried everything else, and finally her sister pushed her to come see me.”

She said she has tried to remain stoic in the face of difficulty and to accept God’s dictates of life. But spending her nights in prayer didn’t seem to help her heal from her childhood trauma, which had been re-launched by recent events.

In our session, she said her reluctance to seek therapy stems from her belief that therapy complicates her relationship with God. It is as if we are asking for help from someone other than God.

According to one review article, individuals from various faith groups renounce their religious beliefs because they believe that God is testing them in a special way, that faith alone is enough, or that they have limitations. It may be used as an excuse not to seek help, a phenomenon known as spiritual bypass. worth the trouble.

As medical professionals involved in mental health research, community and clinical work, we have witnessed this phenomenon in the Muslim community as well. But we also know that while these concerns are real and rooted in our commitment to faith, they can also be the result of misunderstanding aspects of faith.

Teach Patients God Does Not Want You to Suffer

Many religions of the world understand that hardships and challenges are part of life, but they are never meaningless or intended to hurt people. Rather, God puts us in difficult situations to help us realize our dependence on Him, illuminate our blessings in a new light, and learn lessons for spiritual growth.

When you are going through difficult times, find lessons in them, take actionable steps to overcome them, and use them to strengthen your trust in a loving God.

Faith Can Empower People to Seek Mental Health Care

In Islam, individuals are responsible for taking care of their bodies and minds, including seeking appropriate help. This message is echoed in many of the world’s major faith traditions, but not always emphasized when it comes to mental health.

One of the ways we encouraged our devout Muslim patients to seek treatment was to quote the Prophet Muhammad: Allah did not send the disease, but also the cure and remedy for it. ”

This wisdom encourages believers to seek help for illness, including mental illness, without feeling that they betray other religious ideals, such as trust in God and belief in destiny. can.

And care must be adequate. Instead of limiting yourself to self-help books, online resources, friends and family, seek professional help. Unprofessional resources, even well-intentioned, can be harmful without proper guidance.

Faith should help you feel empowered to ask for help, even if you are unsure of its effectiveness at first.

For this patient, discovering that her religion promoted mental health care was a major motivator in her decision to seek treatment. For others, seeking guidance and introspection from their support system may help them reach the same conclusion.

However, not everyone of faith feels ready or comfortable with mental health care, and religious beliefs can complicate the process. Here are some ways to make getting care easier.

Bridging the Gap Between Mental Health and Religion

Religious people often find it difficult to seek care because they rarely hear about mental health in religious settings or religious beliefs in medical settings.

It doesn’t have to be this way and there are many examples of religion and mental health merging.

If you are a member of a faith community seeking therapy, discuss your religious beliefs. Similarly, find ways to talk about mental health while engaging with religious communities.

The simple act of speaking about each topic in a new environment helps strengthen the natural connection between the two and makes it easier for others to ask for help.

surrender to a process of trial and error

Many people don’t feel right with their first therapist. Similarly, many religious people do not immediately feel welcome in some faith communities. Both therapy and religious experiences can be trial and error processes, and that’s okay.

Don’t be discouraged if your therapist isn’t familiar with your religious beliefs or can’t incorporate them into your therapy. You may need to do some more searching on your part or learn more on their part.

Likewise, if a religious community can’t discuss mental health in a way that feels natural and connected, don’t give up on that community. It will take time, but it will happen.

Starting therapy and feeling pressured to change your beliefs and worldview can be uncomfortable, especially since a large part of therapy is about challenging your beliefs and thought patterns. But remember that you are responsible. You are welcoming mental health professionals into your world, not the other way around.

Communicate your religious beliefs clearly and openly to your therapist, giving you the confidence and strength to develop trust that your therapist will help you overcome mental health challenges without pushing back on your faith. Our lab recently created a step-by-step process for navigating the treatments you may find helpful.

Over time, my reluctant patients came to see their therapy sessions as faith-strengthening experiences rather than faith-stripping.

“I thought talking to you was complaining about what God had set for me,” the patient said. “But I’m glad to be here now, and I feel God must have led me to you.”

Dr. Rania Award is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine. Stanford Institute of Muslim Mental Health & Islamic Psychologypresident of Maristan — A comprehensive spiritual and spiritual wellness non-profit organization serving the Muslim community.

Taimur Kauser, Massachusetts, is a medical doctoral candidate at Stanford University School of Medicine and a researcher at the Stanford Institute for Muslim Mental Health and Islamic Psychology.

We look forward to your comments regarding this column.

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