God Is in the Therapy Room


Divinity and psychiatry: how do they connect? One psychiatrist shares his perspective.


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The field of psychiatry has never been the biggest fan of the healing power of the Divine. Many psychiatrists would go to extremes to keep God out of the therapy room. I would argue though, based on personal and professional experience, that there is a lot of value in honoring our clients’ religious views, faith beliefs, and spiritual practices.

I am a strong believer in the existence of a God who is loving and compassionate, and who has my back and my best interest at heart, even when His decisions do not always align with my wants or needs. It is that solid faith in His wisdom that continues to ground me even when things feel quite shaky beneath my feet.

I was in medical school when I first decided to memorize the holy Quran and get acquainted with my faith traditions. I have done it with many textbooks before. But it was not an easy task at all; it turns out that God’s words are quite different, they are so powerful and heavy.

I fell in love with the field of Islamic psychology and found solace, peace of mind and heart in the teachings of the Lord and the traditions of the holy prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and how he lived his life as an advocate for healing despite his own many invisible wounds of trauma.

It became clear to me then that I have found my true calling. Life now has a profound meaning and purpose. I am going to dig deep, extensively researching the sacred text and the autobiography of the noble prophet, so I, too, might become a light source, and share the healing tools I found with those who desperately need healing.

Keeping in mind that we are made of bodies, minds, hearts, and souls, and given that most of our trauma happens in a relational context that deeply impacts our soul and causes moral injury and soul ache, it is no surprise that God needs to not only be welcomed, but invited, into the therapeutic space.

I have used my personal belief in a higher power to serve in many different capacities and contexts across the world. I always try to honor what my clients believe and find a way to celebrate that with them.

I was recently hired as the imam of the Islamic Center of Fort Collins in Colorado, where I am tasked with the heavy duty of making the mosque a safe and inclusive place, and also entrusted to build programs for the youth and their caregivers. This is a true privilege, and a responsibility that I take very seriously.

I decided not to accept a role of a “traditional” religious leader who talks to the congregation about their Lord. I wanted instead to show Him to them when we all search actively for the divinebeauty and engage in acts of grace.

Friday sermons in our community are mainly about psychosocial topics, and issues relevant to the worshippers in the here and now, topics that touch our daily lives, like family bonding, spousal relations, parenting styles, and healing from trauma.

The point I am trying to make here is not that you need to become a religious scholar to bear witness to those in distress. What I would argue though is that if someone entrusts you with their heart, you should tend to it with the utmost compassion and every ounce of your tenderness.

Religion is not the enemy of psychiatry. Mental health professionals always remind their patients to have faith and to never give up on hope. It is time that psychiatrists come to terms with their own existential spiritual crisis and know that when God comes to the therapy room, He will breathe into it with His infinite grace and fill it with light.

Dr Reda is a psychiatrist in Colorado. He is the author of The Wounded Healer: The Pain and Joy of Caregiving.

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