A Case Study of a Muslim Client: Incorporating Religious Beliefs and Practices

By Hamdan, Aisha | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, April 2007 | Go to article overview

A Case Study of a Muslim Client: Incorporating Religious Beliefs and Practices


Hamdan, Aisha, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


With the significant growth of the Muslim population in the United States, there has been a corresponding increase in the need for mental health services. The author discusses techniques for incorporating Islamic beliefs and practices in the counseling process. The fundamental goal is to ensure ethical and effective treatment for Muslim clients.

En combinacion con el incremento sustancial de la poblacion musulmana en los Estados Unidos, se ha dado un crecimiento proporcional en la demanda de servicios de salud mental. El autor discute varias tecnicas para la incorporacion de las creencias y practicas del Islam en el proceso de consejeria. El objetivo fundamental es asegurar un tratamiento etico y efectivo para los clientes musulmanes.

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There are an estimated 7 to 8 million Muslims in the United States, and because Islam is the fastest growing religion in the country, that number is expected to double by the year 2014. The reasons for this rapid growth include immigration, conversion, and high birth rates among Muslims in general. Compared with the national average of 0.9%, the annual growth rate for Muslims is 6% (Cornell University, 2002).

There are approximately 1,200 mosques in the United States, and 20% of those have full-time Islamic schools. Sixty-two percent of those mosques have been founded since 1980. Since 1994, there has been a 25% increase in the number of mosques. Approximately 2 million U.S. Muslims are associated with a mosque, and 30% of the participants are converts (Bagby, Perl, & Froehle, 2001).

With a significant growth in the Muslim population, there has also been a corresponding increase in the need for mental health services. Although official statistics are scarce, the Islamic Social Services Association (2002) of North America has confirmed the need for social services for Muslims who face various social and psychological problems. Recent research (Amer & Hovey, 2007) with the Arab American population (69% Muslim) found that 21.9% scored in the mild to moderate range for anxiety, 13.6% scored in the moderate to severe range, and 11.0% scored in the severe range of anxiety on the Beck Anxiety Inventory. Nearly half of the participants (49.3%) scored in the clinically significant range of depression on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. These scores for anxiety and depression were significantly higher than scores for the average population in the United States (Amer & Hovey, 2007). The scores for Muslims were also significantly higher than the reported scores for other ethnic minorities (e.g., African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans; Amer & Hovey, 2007). Although Amer and Hovey's (2007) study included Christian Arabs, it nonetheless provides evidence of the need for mental health services for the Muslim population who represented almost 70% of the study participants.

Some communities may be fortunate enough to have Muslim professionals, but the numbers are likely to be insufficient to cover the range of counseling needs of members of the Muslim community. For this reason, non-Muslim professionals may be required to fill in the gaps. Kelly, Aridi, and Bakhtiar (1996) found that almost half of the respondents in their study would be willing to work with a non-Muslim counselor; at the same time, however, more than three quarters would want the non-Muslim counselor to have an understanding of Islamic values. Thus, it is imperative for non-Muslim counselors who may be working with Muslims to gain an understanding of and sensitivity to the beliefs and values of this unique population (Erickson & Al-Timimi, 2001; Roysircar, 2003).

There are, of course, various sects or divisions within Islam, which results in a complexity of belief systems and religious practices. The majority of Muslims (approximately 85% to 90%) adhere to the Sunni tradition of Islam. Other groups include Shi'ite, Sufis, and the Nation of Islam. …

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