Current Research

It goes without saying that Muslims, like individuals of other religious and racial backgrounds, experience mental health issues. However, mental health services are often underutilized by American Muslims due to a number of factors including: lack of psycho-education and  stigma, lack of knowledge regarding the contributions of Muslims to the field of psychology, attributing mental health issues to supernatural influence (jinns, evil-eye), or the availability of culturally and/or religiously sensitive mental health providers. The Family and Youth Institute research team aims to increase mental health utilization by addressing these barriers to treatment as well as introducing new methods of delivering preventative services to promote mental health and well-being.


Culturally Competent Psychological Interventions for Muslims

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Mona Amer, PhD, Sawssan Ahmed, PhD, and Sameera Ahmed, PhD.dsc_0202

Muslims are a heterogeneous group of individuals that are grouped together by their faith. Individuals in need of
psychological services often refuse to seek treatment due to the lack of culturally competent professionals. The development of culturally and religiously sensitive mental health services is essential to support the mental well-being of Muslim clients. This team focuses on producing relevant research, highlighting clinical issues, as well as exploring religiously
and culturally tailored interventions for professionals counseling Muslims.

 

Collaborators in this area of study include Germine Awad, PhD (University of Texas at Austin),  Linda Reddy, PhD (University of Arizona), Donald Walker, PhD (Regent University), Avidan Milevsky, PhD (Kutztown University of Pennsylvania), Heather Quagliana, PhD (Lee University), Anisah Bagsara, PhD (Claflin University), William Doverspike, PhD (Emory University), Jacqueline Woolley, PhD (University of Texas at Austin), Omar Mahmood, PhD (University of California-San Diego), and Mouna Mana, PhD (Qatar Foundation International).

  • Walker, D., Ahmed, S., Milevsky, A., Quagliana, H., Bagsara, A. (2012). Sacred Texts. In Walker, D. F., & Hathaway, W. L. (Eds.) Spiritually oriented interventions in child and adolescent psychotherapy, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Walker, D., Doverspike, W., Ahmed, S., Milevsky, A., Woolley, J. (2012). Prayers. In Walker, D. F., & Hathaway, W. L. (Eds.) Spiritually oriented interventions in child and adolescent psychotherapy, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Ahmed, S.R. and Mahmood, O. (2012). Psychological testing and assessment. In Ahmed, S., and Amer, M. (Eds.) Counseling Muslims: Handbook of Mental Health Issues and Interventions. New York: Routledge.

Mental Health Issues and Treatment Promotion


Muslim Historical Contributions to Psychological Theories and Treatment

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Khalid Elzamzamy, MD

Health-Slide 2 v5Many individuals, including Muslims, incorrectly believe that psychology and mental health are sciences rooted in only in Western civilizations. In fact, Muslim scholars from other parts of the world have long contributed to the field of psychology and mental health dating back to the 9th century. Increasing awareness and appreciation of the historical contributions of Muslims to the field of mental health may help decrease stigma and resistance by some Muslim clients towards the utilization of psychological or psychiatric services.  In addition, researchers and practitioners can incorporate these understandings in treatment plans to provide culturally and religiously sensitive services. Many modern textbooks on the history of medicine, while covering other time periods and contributions, overlook this critical period in the history of the development of psychiatry and mental health. This project explores the contributions of Muslim scholars from the 7th century to the 13th century, often referred to as the golden period of Islamic civilization. The project will explore historically prevalent mental health theories and practices during that period. The project will cover multiple aspects including treatment facilities, methods, theories and concepts, key figures and scholars, and important treatises and references.

This study was conducted in collaboration with Rania Awaad, M.D. (Stanford University).


Use of Social Media Platforms in Mental Health Promotion

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Hena Din, MPH., Sameera Ahmed, PhD, Amal Killawi, MSW and PhD Candidate.

social-mediaPublic health efforts to reduce stigma and provide communities with education around sensitive health issues are increasingly relying on social media technology. In the last couple of years, social media has grown rapidly to connect individuals globally but also to spread information and resources to users. The benefits of utilizing social media for mental health promotion has been explored in the general American community but has yet to be researched within the American Muslim community.  This study examines the ways in which American Muslim organizations utilize social media for mental health promotion for the larger American Muslim community. Recommendations for best practices to effectively integrate social media based mental health promotion efforts within the American Muslim community will be explored.

  • Din, H., Ahmed, S., & Killawi, A. (2016, March) Pathways to Wellness: Exploring Muslim mental health promotion in the digital age.” Presentation at the annual Muslim Mental Health Conference, Dearborn, Michigan.

A Structural Model of Racial Discrimination, Acculturative Stress, and Cultural Resources Among Arab American Adolescents 

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Sawssan Ahmed, PhD

Despite evidence towards the risk for discrimination and acculturative stress that Arab American adolescents may arabface, the link between socio-cultural adversities and psychological well-being in this population has not been established. This study examined the role of socio-cultural adversities (discrimination and acculturative stress) and cultural resources (ethnic identity, religious support, and religious coping) in terms of their direct impact on psychological distress. Understanding the manner in which socio-cultural adversities and resources are linked to psychological distress can inform the development of culturally appropriate interventions that can effectively mitigate mental health concerns for understudied and vulnerable populations.

Collaborators in this area of study include Maryam Kia-Keating, PhD (University of California, Santa Barbara) Katherine H. Tsai, PhD (University of California, Los Angeles). 


Mental Health for Immigrants and Refugees

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Sawssan Ahmed, PhD

mental-health-arab“Little is known about the mental health needs of the Arab-American community. However, stressors including exposure to trauma, poverty, and discrimination may be salient in the Arab-American community and contribute to psychological difficulties in this population… Additionally, research with Arab refugee populations in the United States indicates that this community is especially at risk for psychological difficulties including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.” (From Health Promotion in Multicultural Populations.)

Collaborators in this area of study include Omar Mahmood, PhD (University of California-San Diego), Maryam Kia-Keating, PhD (University of California, Santa Barbara), Sheila Modir, PhD Candidate (University of California, Santa Barbara).


List of Research on Mental Health & Well-Being


Peer Reviewed Journals

Ahmed, S. & Reddy, L. (2007).Understanding the mental health needs of American Muslims: Recommendations and considerations for practice. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 35(4), 207-219.


Book Chapters

Abo-Zena, M. M., and Ahmed, S. (2014). Religion, spirituality, and emerging adults: Processing meaning through culture, context, and social position. In McNamara-Barry, C. & Abo-Zena, M. M. (Eds.) Emerging Adults’ Religiousness and Spirituality, New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Walker, D., Ahmed, S., Milevsky, A., Quagliana, H., Bagsara, A. (2012). Sacred Texts. In Walker, D. F., & Hathaway, W. L. (Eds.) Spiritually oriented interventions in child and adolescent psychotherapy, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Walker, D., Doverspike, W., Ahmed, S., Milevsky, A., Woolley, J. (2012). Prayers. In Walker, D. F., & Hathaway, W. L. (Eds.) Spiritually oriented interventions in child and adolescent psychotherapy, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Ahmed, S.R. and Mahmood, O. (2012). Psychological testing and assessment. In Ahmed, S., and Amer, M. (Eds.) Counseling Muslims: Handbook of Mental Health Issues and Interventions. New York: Routledge.

Ahmed, S.R., and Mana, M. (2017) Arab Americans in context: A sociocultural ecological perspective for understanding the Arab American experience. In Bond, M.A., Serrano-García, I., Keys, C. B., and Shinn, M. (Eds.) Handbook of Community Psychology, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Ahmed, S.R. and Mahmood, O. (2015). Access to mental health services for low-income immigrant and refugee Arab-Americans. In Huff, R., Kline, M., and Peterson, D. (Eds.) Health Promotion in Multicultural Populations: A Handbook for Practitioners. London: SAGE Publications.

Ahmed, S.R., Kia-Keating, M., and Modir, S. (2016). Refugees and forced migrants: Seeking asylum and acceptance. In Amer, M., and Awad, G. (Eds.) Handbook of Arab American Psychology. New York: Routledge.

Ahmed, S.R. and Mahmood, O. (2016). Psychological assessment: Distinguishing the clinically relevant from the culturally unique.  In Amer, M., and Awad, G. (Eds.) Handbook of Arab American Psychology. New York: Routledge.


Books

Counseling Muslims: Handbook of mental health issues and interventions, edited by Sameera Ahmed and Mona M. Amer.

Handbook of Arab American psychology, edited by Mona M. Amer and Germine H. Awad.


Selected Academic Presentations

Ahmed, S. (2011). Spiritually oriented intervention with Muslim clients. Presented at the 119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, August 4, 2011.

Din, H., Ahmed, S., & Killawi, A. (2016, March) Pathways to Wellness: Exploring Muslim mental health promotion in the digital age“. Presentation at the annual Muslim Mental Health Conference, Dearborn, Michigan.

Elzamzamy, K., & Patel, S. (2015). Muslim historical contributions to psychological theories and treatment. Poster session presented at the 7th Annual Muslim Mental Health Conference, March 28, 2015, Dearborn, MI.