A Muslim Counsellor’s Perspective on CBT
As Muslims we believe that our current life is a gateway to a better and an eternal life, hence in our current life we go through different tests and trials. However, we are not left alone: Allah, our Creator, has provided us with different tools that we can use to help us overcome difficulties and challenges in this life.
For example, psychological and emotional distress such as anxiety and depression are all a test from Allah and counselling is beautiful tool that can be used to help alleviate the emotional distress and bring about therapeutic change.
However, Muslim counsellors believe that the therapeutic change is only possible when the client is motivated to change their own condition. This is because Allah doesn’t change the condition of people until they change themselves. Therefore, in order to make a positive change, clients are encouraged to seek therapy and to engage with the therapeutic relationship.
Muslim therapists can use Cognitive behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help the client to reflect back and examine his/her chain of thoughts and to identify negative or self-destructive thoughts that are affecting their behaviour as well as their emotions, and then help them to work on replacing these negative thoughts with positive thoughts which will in turn facilitate personal growth.
While, it’s normal to feel sad sometimes, it is also vital to know the danger of too much sadness on the physical, the psychological and the spiritual sides of the individual. When a person has negative thoughts he/she might feel hopeless about the future and will be in a state of despair. Subsequently, when individuals are feeling sad they become weak and Satan will use this opportunity to defeat the believer by leading them astray or turning them away from their belief:
‘…that he (Satan) may grieve those who have believed’ (Quran 58:10 ) Muslim Counsellors can use Allah’s words to remind the client that his/her state of sadness, helplessness, difficulty, anxiety, depression etc., can easily be elevated by Allah as He says: ‘Verily, after every difficulty there is relief’’ (Quran 94:5).
Allah also says:
‘My mercy embraces all things’ Qur’an (7:156) A Muslim Counsellor works with his/her client in a holistic approach which means mind, body, and soul, as well as their relationship with Allah, as these are all sides of one coin. For instance, the client may learn some strategies that not only help him/her to feel better but will also help them become a better person and a better worshipper. To clarify, I can give the example of learning ways of mindfulness and contemplation as well as self-compassion, as these have been identified as the most effective techniques that help to overcome anxiety, panic attacks and depression which are also the best form of worship in Islam. For further reading in this area I suggest books written by Professor Malik Badri and also his translation of Al-Balkhi’s book ‘The Substance of the Soul’.