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Highly Need Psychotherapy But Dad Refuses

Question and answer details
Muslim (24-male-Switzerland)
2013/03/05
Salam Aleikoum. I want to thank you for all the times you’ve helped me and many others in the past and the much relief you give to struggling Muslims. My main problem is that I don’t know how to ask my father for a therapist. I have severe social anxiety to the point where I really dislike going out of home (I can still do it if I must). In a few weeks time I will have to go to a recruitment day (there is mandatory conscription in my country) in my country, an event which is causing me much anxiety. It’s an event I have been afraid of for the past two years which creates suicidal feelings inside me to escape it. I am trying to increase my Tawakkul (trust) in Allah and I believe I have achieved it but there is still this fear. I know that every trial in my life is a gift from God, trying to get me closer to Him but this one event is bringing much fear in me. Therefore, I believe I need therapy but I don’t know how to ask for it. My main fear is that I don’t speak well any of my country’s national languages (there are three and I somewhat know one of them). My parents thought it would be best to send me to an English speaking school when I was young and so English is my first language. This is creating a feeling within me that I don’t belong anywhere; a language barrier. At home my parents are separated (each lives in a different country) but my father doesn’t realize that. He has pushed my mother away by abusive language that a few times turned physical. I am saying this because when I was a child, my mother went with a few of my siblings to live in another country and me and another one of my sisters was left to live with my father. They were tough years as my father is very difficult to live with. One of his worst traits is that he believes he’s always right and believes that he can never be wrong. He didn’t let us go out much and hence our social skills are non-existent. My mother, who is normally a very understanding person called me a wimp a few weeks ago because of my anxiety. I haven’t told my father of my anxiety, but if my mother sees it as that I don’t think there is much hope of him seeing it any differently. Can you advise me on how I can approach him regarding the subject of needing a therapist? My parents have the traditional view that therapy is bad. Also in recruitment day, I will have to see a psychologist so that they can assess my mental state. I fear that if I tell them of my anxiety, they will ask me of my upbringing. Do I tell them that it was alright or that my father didn’t treat us well when we were growing up? We are naturalized here (but I was born and raised here).
Dr. Feryad Hussain
Answer

BismillahiRahmaniRahim

Asalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh dear brother,

Jazak Allah Khairan for writing in with this problem. Bless you, it certainly seems that you are facing some challenging times but as Allah tells us with every hardship comes ease. It seems the solution (the ease) is staring you in the face so now you should take the chance for the betterment of your health and life.

It seems you are facing a number of problems and that the therapy issues and practical problems of accessing therapy overlap and are creating a confusion in your mind. For example, some of your problems about managing your father and the effects of his behavior towards you and your mother as well as the separation of you from your siblings are therapy issues. At the same time the personality of your father which has created these past experiences for you also means it may be difficult for you to get much needed help since it is his permission you are now reliant on. This may be complicated by the fact that the symptoms of your problems themselves contribute to your fear of asking for help.

So, for your emotional stability, I am going to give you some very practical advice and advise that you bring the rest to therapy as opening it up randomly online will only increase your anxiety.

First and foremost: If you are feeling suicidal it is of the utmost importance that you get help immediately. In these cases it is not so much “Shall I get therapy” but more “When do I start?”

From your email I assume that the only need for permission from your father is perhaps based on finances and that perhaps you are expecting monetary support from him. Based on this assumption, from a Shar`i point of view, as I understand, you have two options:

-          As a young man, you are past the age of maturity so one option is that you go for therapy and that you do not need to tell your father let alone take permission. It is your Islamic right to seek help for your illness and your body’s right over you to be healed so do not worry and just do it.

-          If the therapy costs and this is why you have to take your father’s permission (because he has to pay) and even then your father refuses to support you then he is going against Shari`a. He is not allowed to prevent you from seeking medical treatment irrespective of what he thinks. The creation cannot over-ride any ruling revealed by the Creator as we are clearly told in Quran so there is no acceptable excuse here. In such instances therefore, Islamically you can disobey your father.

In this second case you have two further options:

You either arrange the money yourself through a loan or something or if the doctor diagnosed you with this problem then why not ask him what the government facilities are or if there are options for free therapy and ask him to help you access it.

OR

You convince your father of the need/benefit of therapy. If this last suggestion is what you face you should consider some of the suggestions below:

-          Are there times when he will listen and are there times when he is flexible?

-          Consider your timing and make sure he is available to listen or make a time with him to talk so he knows it is important.

-          Is there someone who your father listens to and respects and who you can talk to and who may be able to help you convince him? I would advise if you talk to a third party to consider where and how. Your father may feel undermined if you invite him to the house without his invitation or knowledge and may not appreciate the surprise. So it may be better if you talk to that person alone and then let that person talk to your father separately – if you think that is something that would work.

-          First make dua before speaking to him and especially make the dua of  Prophet Musa Rabbi ishrah lee sadree Wayassir lee amree Wahlul uqdatan min lisanee Yafqahoo qawlee” {O my Lord! Expand my breast for me and make my affair easy to me, and loose the knot from my tongue, (that) they may understand my word...}

-          Then when you mention to him you have been very ill and the extent to which it is affecting your life, mention that the doctor has already suggested this as the only treatment for you. (Alternatively he could come to the doctor with you and listen to the doctor giving you this advice – people rarely disagree with their doctors regarding the care of their family).

-          Ask him what his justifications are for refusing IF he refuses. Most often these beliefs are a result of misunderstandings or personal fears that parents have about not only their own insecurities but also the effect therapy will have on their relationship with their child (or a fear of being blamed for their child’s problem – sadly as can be the case).

-          Remain respectful; listen carefully and answer clearly and do your best not to become angry or offensive especially if he says something that is itself offensive to you. If you become angry he will simply become more steadfast in refusing and if you are too fearful he will find it easy not to listen or be convinced.

-          If you have some leaflets or written information from the doctor about it give them to him to read when he is perhaps alone and less defensive.

-          You are welcome to show him this letter and if need be he is welcome to contact me and discuss his concerns and fear. I would be happy to have that discussion.

-          Remind your father that therapy is not something that goes on forever and I am sure you will find that after a few sessions you will feel the improvement and you will be able to carry on with your life.

-          Tell your father you have spoken to a third party and mention what they thought and especially if they supported you.

-          When you have finished leave the conversation and come back to it later.

Again brother, all this is only if finance is your reason; otherwise, again I would remind you that Islamically you have a right to treatment and you do not need to tell anyone about your therapy.

Your experience with your parents is not a new one; irrespective of cultural and religious backgrounds, these attitudes towards therapy are only now beginning to be challenged even though therapy itself has been something that has existed for centuries in different shapes and forms particularly in Islam.

Indeed, as we now know many of the therapeutic approaches were developed in their basic form by Islamic scholars and so there is no contradiction between them and Islam. I am telling you this in case what you face from your father is a belief that therapy is unIslamic; only certain models are unIslamic and those are obvious to us all as Muslims.

Neither culturally nor Islamically is all therapy bad – rather it is people’s attitudes towards it that are wrong, unhelpful and destructive to those people who need this help. In refusing to support them they are simply contributing to making the problem worse and seeing their loved one’s suffer. This is something that they will have to account for before Allah and that will not be an easy thing. If you someone insults you for seeking treatment, the best response is silence; just because someone says something it doesn’t mean it is the truth.

The language problem you mention is again a practical issue and can be resolved since it is possible to do therapy with translators and I am sure they could arrange that for you when you start – mention it beforehand so your time is not wasted. The remainder of what you say is regarding your personal identity issues around language and fitting in are, again, a therapy issue.

You say that the psychologist at the recruitment day will assess your mental state. This is why it is important for you to sort out this problem as it does make it hard to find the right job or even get the job you want. As a young man, you have your whole life ahead of you and so you must remove obstacles to your desired future.

The psychologist at the recruitment is most likely to be an occupational and not clinical psychologist and will assess you along the lines of your ability to do the job so your past personal family experiences are unlikely to be addressed and they certainly would not be explored there in a public forum anyway. So do not raise this before you are asked because you are not likely to be asked.

I hope this advice is of some use to you and helps you gain some clarity regarding this problem. If you have any questions, then please do not hesitate to contact me. I repeat that if your father has any questions or concerns I am more than happy to discuss them with him – we are quite used to managing negativity towards therapy so I am happy to have the conversation if you and/or he wishes.

Brother please make du`aa’ asking Allah to increase your faith, strengthen your heart and ask Allah for al-Aafiyah (It means to ask for protection from trials rather than to welcome them and have to face the suffering that may come with them – which we may not be able to manage in spite of our love for Allah). It is something that Prophet Mohammad himself advised.

And Allah (swt) knows best.

May Allah (swt) grant you healing with ease and speed and may He Al-Jami' (The Gatherer) unite your family, remove your difficulties and increase your unity and love.


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About the Counselor:

Dr. Hussain holds a practitioner Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and has worked as a clinical psychologist for a number of years in a range of clinical settings with differing populations in UK. She is author of numerous research articles on health psychology and cross cultural and religious therapy models. She is currently carrying out private research and consultancy in the discipline of Islam and Clinical Psychology/ Psychotherapy with a number of psychological organizations in order to develop an Islamically-centred therapy model.

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. You are strongly advised to seek face-to-face counseling and consult your physician or therapist when making a drastic change in your lifestyle in terms of behavior, medication or diet etc.

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