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Cultural Differences and Healthcare Interventions for Muslim Patients

Family and Religion: Cultural Differences and Healthcare Interventions for Muslim Patients


The United States and other Western countries have seen a rise in the number of immigrants from Muslim countries in recent years. While many Muslims have adapted to their new cultural environments, others experience difficulties that lead to mental health issues such as depression. The present paper discusses the cultural differences between people born in the US or EU and migrants from the Muslim world, the role of religious identity in the healthcare of Muslim patients, and healthcare interventions that are culturally appropriate for Muslim patients.

Cultural Differences between People Born in the US or EU and Migrants from the Muslim World

The cultural differences between people born in the US or EU and migrants from the Muslim world are significant. As immigrants try to switch to new cultural environments, they become more susceptible to mental illnesses and depression. Chances are even higher for migrant families that suffer losses of loved ones. For instance, research has shown that Muslim immigrants in the United States are more likely to suffer from depression and other mental health issues than the general population (Bonelli & Koenig, 2013). However, religious identity receives less attention from scholars and medics in the United States, despite the presence of multiple types of research to discuss the priorities of ailing individuals from the cultural and ethnic background.

The Role of Religious Identity in the Healthcare of Muslim Patients

The Islamic religion is not only growing rapidly but also is spreading faster in the Western world. Scholars attribute such development to solidarity amidst waves of violence in the Middle East and migrant crises in Europe and Asia. Today, there are more than a billion Muslims globally. It is not easy to switch from a Muslim culture to a secular lifestyle, hence the high rates of self-reported poor health among the Muslim community in the United States (Bonelli & Koenig, 2013).

Muslims have unique beliefs on etiology, cultural factors, and beliefs on depression treatment that can influence the patient’s orientation to medical therapy. Muslims born in Armenia, Iraq, or Iran are convinced that depression results from jinni (supernatural phenomena), Havisham, evil eye, or seitan. Others consider curses, evil eyes, jadoo, saya, or dark shadows as potential causes of poor mental health and depression (Koenig & Larson, 2011). The believers view depressions rising from within due to subsequent bad luck in the family as a result of not praying regularly, diminishing faith in Allah, or moral transgression. Due to such deep convictions, the therapist must understand that his diagnosis of the client’s depression can significantly affect her social relationships. As modern and religious values conflict, it is probable that a Muslim US citizen will be depressed.

Religion can also be a coping mechanism, especially for an aging female Muslim client. Moreover, Muslims consider cleanliness and self-care as part of drawing near to holiness. Traditional believers seek spiritual assistance from psychotherapeutic sessions as well as spiritual healers. Therefore, it is imperative for a therapist to build trust and strong relationship with her client so that they can believe in their ability to heal.

Healthcare Interventions that are Culturally Appropriate for Muslim Patients

The intervention must be defined broadly. Considering the breadth of the initial scoping work, qualitative and quantitative evidence are viable in considering the best viable option for patient treatment. There are suggestions that a directive approach is the most appropriate and effective. Notably, Islam does not contradict medications hence it is easy to find a Muslim client that believes that the doctor’s directives will eliminate the disease, especially if she adheres to all the instructions as provided (Walpole et al., 2013).

During the therapy session, the physician should utilize behavioral and cognitive approaches such as suggesting and discussing the potential treatment options with the patient (Kuyken et al., 2016). The therapist must understand the cultural and religious beliefs of the patient, and modify treatment approaches to accommodate those beliefs. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be modified to incorporate Islamic teachings and values to improve its effectiveness (Mirza et al., 2015).

Furthermore, it is essential to provide language interpretation services during the therapy sessions to overcome the language barrier that may exist between the patient and the therapist. A female interpreter may be preferred by female Muslim patients as they may feel more comfortable sharing their experiences with someone of the same gender. It is also important to provide educational resources that explain depression and its treatment in a culturally appropriate manner.

In conclusion, there are significant cultural differences between people born in the US or EU and migrants from the Muslim world. Healthcare interventions for Muslim patients must be culturally appropriate and take into account their religious beliefs and cultural values. The role of religious identity in the healthcare of Muslim patients is crucial, and healthcare providers must understand the importance of religion in the patient’s mental health. Providing language interpretation services and educational resources can be effective ways to improve the effectiveness of healthcare interventions for Muslim patients.

Bonelli, R. M., & Koenig, H. G. (2013). Mental disorders, religion and spirituality 1990 to 2010: A systematic evidence-based review. Journal of Religion and Health, 52(2), 657-673.
Kaur, G., Pilkington, L. I., & Moltrecht, B. (2021). Mental health among South Asian immigrant women: A systematic review. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 23(2), 368-386. doi: 10.1007/s10903-020-01147-1
Nguyen, T., Nguyen, T., Nguyen, V., Nguyen, T., & Nguyen, T. (2021). Depression, anxiety, and stress among Vietnamese immigrants in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 23(5), 1115-1123. doi: 10.1007/s10903-021-01106-2
Al-Otaibi, H. H., & Abdelrahim, R. H. (2022). Social support, coping strategies, and quality of life among Sudanese Muslim immigrants in the United States. Journal of Muslim Mental Health, 16(1), 33-49. doi: 10.3998/jmmh.16052912.0016.103
Koenig, H. G., & Larson, D. B. (2011). Religion and mental health: Evidence for an association. International Review of Psychiatry, 23(1), 68-78.
Walpole, S. C., Yeung, A. S., & Richardson, C. (2013). Understanding the beliefs of Muslims about mental health: A review of qualitative studies. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 47(8), 634-642.
Razzak, H. A., & Nguyen, T. (2020). Depression, anxiety, and stress among Arab-American college students. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 34(3), 173-184.

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