How Do Mental Health Practitioners Consider and Understand Identities, Beliefs and Practices That Are Associated With Islam When Encountered in Clinical Practice

Prof Doc Thesis

Al-Alaway, S. 2020. How Do Mental Health Practitioners Consider and Understand Identities, Beliefs and Practices That Are Associated With Islam When Encountered in Clinical Practice. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsAl-Alaway, S.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Islam is a growing religion in the UK, however it is also highly politicised and marginalised, as highlighted by the increasing Islamophobia in social and political discourses seen in the West. Discrimination and social inequalities affect Muslim groups in the UK, both of which are shown to have a negative impact on mental health and wellbeing. However, access to inclusive, culturally and religiously sensitive mental health care appears to limit Muslim populations from receiving appropriate mental health support.
Some research has importantly considered Muslim service users’ experiences of mental health services and found that mainstream mental health care may not respond appropriately to their religious or cultural needs. Furthermore, experiences of stereotyping and discrimination from professionals were noted. However, ideas about stigma or other ‘cultural’ barriers to accessing help appear to dominate professional ideas about low access rates.
This research sought to explore the way that mental health professionals construct Islam and whether these go on to impact professionals’ judgements and clinical decisions in their contact with Muslim service users.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 mental health professionals based in the UK. These findings highlighted the way that religious and cultural unfamiliarity with Islam and the prevailing Islamophobic and Orientalist discourses available in the West may affect professionals’ perceptions about Muslim service users and lead to decisions about care which exclude or overlook their needs. The implicit prioritisation of Western mental health frameworks was also seen to lead to the discrediting or problematising of different cultural or religious understandings of distress.
However, examples of practice which attempted to reduce this epistemic inequality and adapt interventions to be more in line with Muslim service users’ frameworks were highlighted as having fostered improved relationships with Muslim service users, families and communities. The implications of these findings are discussed.

KeywordsIslam; Muslims; Mental Health; UK; Islamophobia; Orientalism; Professional Judgements; Psychology; Psychiatry; Mental Health Nurses
PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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Publication dates
Online18 Dec 2020
Publication process dates
SubmittedOct 2020
Deposited18 Dec 2020
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