Talking Therapies: Amal’s Story
Amal, who is a part of the local Muslim community, had been struggling with difficult feelings for a while, but she didn’t know why or how to cope with them.
She had tried to seek help before but could not find someone who understood her situation, and it ended up making her feel worse. Determined to feel better, she spoke to her GP who introduced her to the NHS Talking Therapy service.
Amal wanted to share her story with us in the hope it would encourage others to try Talking Therapy.
How did you hear about Talking Therapies?
It was from my GP. I went to see her because I was experiencing flashbacks, night terrors and intrusive thoughts. I didn’t know what it was. An incident had occurred in my life, and it all started soon after that, I just didn’t realise that they were related.
I’d been feeling this way for a long time, but it wasn’t until my GP mentioned that my symptoms matched those of post-traumatic stress, she suggested I see a specialist.
What happened after you’d been referred?
I was referred to the Talking Therapies service, but while I was waiting for an appointment, I was introduced to the Talking Therapy workshop about PTSD. This is where it all came to light for me.
The workshop taught me how to deal with the symptoms and helped me to understand why I was feeling this way. I learned some techniques in the workshop before I started my sessions, which worked really well for me. It was a great eye-opener and good introduction to the therapy.
The workshops were held online, which really helped as people could have their camera turned off – it made them feel more comfortable if they wanted to speak. You could talk to each other as a group, and we got the chance to share our own stories and experiences about what we’re going through.
Knowing that there are people out there who are going through something similar really helps, then you know that it’s not just you. You’re not the only one feeling like this.
When you started your sessions, how were theses arranged?
My sessions were over the phone due to Covid. My therapist understood that there are cultural differences, and this really stood out. When speaking to me, she mentioned to me about my culture and my background and that made me think, ‘wow, this is good!’
People in the Muslim community find it difficult to go for therapy because of the cultural differences. There are certain things we can’t do or aren’t accepted in Islam, so we need the therapist to understand these things. The impact of a trauma on yourself is one thing, but the impact it has on your religion is another trauma altogether. So, to find someone who understood this was very good.
Can you talk me through how the sessions were run? What did they involve?
My first session didn’t start well. I was angry, I was frustrated and annoyed. I hadn’t had the correct help in the past, so it had all built up inside me. The way the therapist dealt with the situation really caught my attention. She was so professional and the way she turned it around and how she handled the entire conversation, it developed into something really positive.
The whole service in itself was good. It felt confidential and personal. My therapist helped me to develop goals and to use tools to manage my symptoms. I was taught to be kind to myself, to have control over my thoughts and feelings, and also to know that it’s ok not to feel ok.
Would you recommend Talking Therapies to someone who is going through something similar?
Yes, absolutely. Coming from a Muslim community and background where mental health is taboo, I would recommend this service most definitely. They are very sensitive to our norms and values. I feel like there’s a lack of Muslims getting professional help, because they think they’ve tried something in the past that didn’t work, that wasn’t compatible. I wanted to share my story to show other Muslims, and people from other religions and cultures, that this can work.
In my area, there are people that have not only witnessed Grenfell, but they’ve also had their own traumas to deal with. So, trauma on top of trauma. I would encourage people not to give up, and to keep trying. I came out of this service a different woman, and I wanted to share that.
If you need support with trauma, stress, anxiety or depression…
If you have experienced something similar to Amal and would like try Talking Therapy, you can refer yourself by completing the form available here or call 020 3317 4200.
Learn more about Talking Therapies and how it can help you here.
This story was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 edition of the Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. You can sign-up to our mailing list to receive the magazine directly into your inbox.
Author: Stewart Gillespie
Posted on: 8th April 2022