Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Counseling Muslim Americans: Cultural and Spiritual Assessments

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Counseling Muslim Americans: Cultural and Spiritual Assessments

Article excerpt

As the counseling profession moves toward greater specificity in cross-cultural and multicultural counseling encounters, Muslim Americans and immigrant Muslims are a focus for culturally sensitive and ethical counseling considerations (Bushfield & Hodge, 2007; Graham, Bradshaw, & Trew, 2009; Hamdan, 2007; Kelly, Aridi, & Bakhtiar, 1996; Lee, Gibbons, Thompson, & Timani, 2009; Roysircar, 2003; Springer, Abbott, & Reisbig, 2009). Muslims were originally concentrated in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, and they are now increasing in numbers in the West and especially in the United States. Several changes in the world have brought a significant number of Muslims to North America and Western Europe. These include globalization; migrations; wars; political, religious, and gender and sexual orientation oppressions; and poverty.

As immigrants or sojourners, Muslims stand out because their religious beliefs and cultural customs differ significantly from Western culture (Abu Raiya, Pargament, Mahoney, & Trevino, 2008; Halim, 2006). However, this is a complex group to understand, as Halim (2006) noted in his observations on the several different types of Muslims in the United States--immigrants, citizens who have been here several generations, children of immigrants, and the different levels of acculturation and socialization that are operating among the various groups among this religious population. A wide variety of beliefs and values are evident among those who identify as Muslims; these tend to be as varied as the cultures they come from, and the religious beliefs are mediated within the primary cultural context (Halim, 2006; Mernissi, 1996). There is no particular set of beliefs and values that is representative of all Muslims, because the Islamic community in the United States is composed of many smaller Muslim communities, each with its own distinct characteristics mediated by primary culture of origin first and religion second. Appreciation of both the uniqueness of a specific person in his or her environment and a generalized knowledge about the cultural group's worldview is necessary for effective practice. Currently, Muslims in the United States and in the West are facing significant exclusion and difficulties because of the events of 9/11 in the United States and July 2007 in the United Kingdom (Abu Raiya et al., 2008; Halim, 2006; Pena, 2007). Although the level of harassment and exclusion varies by ethnicity and culture of origin, it creates significant stress for Muslims in general; African, Arab, Iranian, South Asian, and South East Asian Muslims report significant stress and anxiety as they negotiate their lives in the post-9/11 atmosphere (Abu Raiya et al., 2008; Elias, 2006; Pena, 2007). Given their current status in U.S. society and in the West, it is argued that they are exposed to severe psychological stress, and the importance of increasing counselors' ability to provide culturally responsive services, with specific attention to the ACA (American Counseling Association) Advocacy Competencies (Lewis, Arnold, House, & Toporek, 2002), for this population becomes significant.

In this article, we propose that a cultural, spiritual/religious, worldview, and acculturation assessment may prove to be helpful in working with Muslim clients. The American Psychiatric Association requires a cultural formulation (understanding of client cultural identity and context) to be completed with a client before a diagnosis is given (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Several clinicians and researchers have supported this position and proposed various assessment methods, especially to work with clients from nondominant cultures, lifestyles, religions, and so on, including the ethical standards of the counseling profession (ACA, 2005; American Psychological Association, 2002a; Castillo, 1997; Daneshpour, 1998; Hodge, 2005; Ibrahim, 2008a; Kaslow, 2004; Krishnamurthy et al. …

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