“Individuals often choose therapists who they can relate to so that they don’t feel judged or so that they won’t have to explain how their mental health struggles are related to their identity.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
What brought me to pursue a therapist role was the stigma therapy held in my community. I saw individuals who were struggling and didn’t have an outlet to express what they felt. We didn’t have many (if any!) therapist models that could psycho-educate on how important speaking to a professional was for our mental health. I wanted to be someone who could implement change and grow that awareness in my community. My experiences in substance abuse facilities, family homes, college career centers, and mental health clinics allows me to explore how individuals feel toward mental health and how much strength and vulnerability it takes to reach out for help. I want to provide that safe space where individuals, couples, or families can freely speak to a professional and not feel judged.
What should someone know about working with you?
As a therapist, I believe it’s important that I am always learning and growing. There are always new things to add to my toolbox of therapeutic interventions that could help my clients. I will meet the client where they are and tailor my approach to fit their needs. My focus is on the client and I strive to provide an open door to communication where the client can inform me on what has been helpful or hasn’t; this better informs my approach to their treatment.
How do your own core values shape your approach to therapy?
I am a Palestinian Muslim woman and, in my religious and ethnic community, I am one of a handful of counselors who does outreach, education, and therapy. I think it is significant because the field of mental health is so stigmatized that individuals often choose therapists who they can relate to so that they don’t feel judged or so that they won’t have to explain how their mental health struggles are related to their identity. I understand that and want to provide that space where the principles of confidentiality, safety, and acceptance are not threatened.
Have you done any research-based work that you found particularly exciting? How does it inform your practice today?
Research is also a big part of my life. I was a research intern for NYU Medical Center, studying the effects that advertisements for breast and cervical cancer screenings have on Muslim women. I also helped to create advertisements targeted toward getting screened in minority communities. Additionally, I am also working as an interventionist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, researching immigrant health and cancer disparities. Research has provided me another lens in which I can see and understand how people view their lives, especially in communities where mental health is stigmatized. I’ve learned how I can become part of the positive change. I believe individuals have within their inner core the strength to make the decisions that fit their lives best. I also believe that, as therapists, it’s our duty to de-stigmatize mental health and make it accessible for all.
“I understand that and want to provide that space where the principles of confidentiality, safety, and acceptance are not threatened.”