The Demystifying Therapy campaign, launched by the Muslim Mental Health Initiative aims to dismantle the stigma surrounding mental health in the Muslim community. One way to do this is through sharing stories of fellow Stanford Muslims' experiences with therapy. Follow along to read the stories of Stanford Muslims and demystify therapy.
Join an undergraduate student recounting their experience seeking therapy outside of Stanford while relying on Stanford resources for FLI students.
I think the best resource here, for me, at least and other FLI students, is the Opportunity Fund. Going to therapy while using cardinal care, I'm going to rack up $25 co-pays, but I'm using the opportunity fund. You get to essentially get those paid for you after you reach 150 dollars.
In the past, my therapy has been very brief and honestly, not that in-depth. I also go to speech therapy for my stutter, and there are some mental health aspects to that that have helped. For instance, very simple self-help books when it comes to mental health definitely help a lot because they're really approachable.
I think another really important thing [that I learned about and practiced in therapy] is core belief worksheets, because a core belief is something that you approach the world believing internally, and it shapes how you view the world in the sense that you accept everything you see that is in line with that belief. So having a worksheet where you can map out your beliefs and how you view yourself and being able to see if that's a cognitive distortion or not is really important. That's a really cool activity I've done in therapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy, and while this doesn't work for everybody, it's been pretty helpful for me personally to be able to assign a more objective lens to the thoughts I have.
As far as stigma, I think my parents are relatively more accepting than a lot of the other parents in the community I grew up in, so it wasn't that bad for them. But I do remember one time my mom being really, really upset at me and saying that the reason I needed to go seek help was that I didn't pray enough. And that's super common from some parents. Much of the stigma I had in my experience involving this kind of thing was a second-hand stigma. I'd honestly guess the majority of my high school class wanted to go to therapy, but couldn't because their parents just wouldn't allow them to.
I've known about it outside of the Muslim community, but I think like inside of the Muslim community, a lot of people fundamentally don't want to seek therapy or they can't out of fear of what their parents or their community might think.
I believe that people should absolutely aim to seek therapy and I think the majority of the taboos if not all of them, that the Muslim community has are absolute garbage and really hold people back from ending cycles of trauma.
Seeking therapy is something every single person should do, regardless of whether they feel that they need it. It never hurts to just talk to somebody about your problems and your life and to be able to sort that out with a professional. I think therapy should be extremely encouraged.
And also outside of that, I also think religious counseling is something a lot of people don't seek out with trained scholars and counselors. I think that is super important, too, because often what you'll find in the Muslim community is a lot of people have mental health problems paired with religious trauma. That's usually, in my experience, how that kind of plays out within our community. And it's really difficult to try to sort that out with a therapist who doesn't understand your religious experience. It's really, really hard, in my opinion, and in my personal experience to sort through religious trauma when you have to keep explaining what prayer is to somebody who isn't in your practice. If you feel that Islam coincides with your mental health in a positive or a negative way, it's definitely worth looking into having a Muslim therapist.
I definitely recommend for the average Stanford student to be aware that CAPS is never a permanent therapy source, ever, and that, CAPS is meant to get you sorted out and then to transfer you to more permanent care. I know from speaking to my advisors, that many FLI students have problems with this so I'd recommend either going straight for an outside source of therapy or even trying to go through CAPS if you're just completely lost on what to do. Seek therapy, get it sorted out, and end the toxic cycles in our community.