STORIES OF HOPE
At Behavioral Health Alliance, we use Muslim faith-based coping skills, self-disclosure, relaxation techniques, and the “use of self as a therapist” approach as our therapists share culture with our clients.
( Identifying information and details changed to protect privacy. )
Harsh Reality of Balancing Somali Culture and Western Life Cause Yasmin to Seek Culturally Appropriate Therapy
- Young female college student
- Balancing Western and Muslim cultural norms and demands
- Unequal gender roles within the family
- Brother with substance abuse issues
- Immigrant parents fear the stigma of therapy
Yasmin navigates the cultural expectations at home. She helps with house chores, cleans after everyone (including her brothers). She has a strict curfew and dress code. Yet, at the same time, she is expected to get good grades and figure out the Western system all alone. She compared her life to her non-Somali friends’ life and upbringing.
“I feel like an imposter – that I’m not good enough. My heart desires to live on campus, take full advantage of the college experience, and save commuting time. But my parents are not ok with this.”
And so, Yasmin cannot take on opportunities that involve traveling because her parents don’t feel safe letting their daughter travel to another state (let alone a foreign country!).
She wouldn’t dare express her feelings to her family about the imposter syndrome because they lack understanding or will label her spoiled or too fragile.
Meanwhile, her brother is dealing with substance abuse. The family enables him, giving him gifts and money, thinking that this will help him stay sober.
He’s had several violent outbursts that put his siblings at risk. But Yasmin parents are unwilling to listen to the kids’ pleas to get him mental health services.
As immigrants with limited language skills, and distrust of the system, their parents hide their son’s problem to avoid embarrassment – and shame from the community.
Yasmin’s parents think that if they seek help, they will further harm him or label him as “crazy” and a “junky.” They are afraid that these labels, along with community shaming, will affect their son’s future.
Yasmin is the oldest in her family and bears the burden with her parents since she is the oldest daughter. Sometimes she wants to escape and not live with them but feels very ungrateful for thinking that way. She feels the guilt of the immigrant child (belief: parents made sacrifices; therefore, I must sacrifice too).
Balancing the two worlds of her culture and Western culture and the stress at home cause her much distress, low moods, feelings of isolation, and heightened anxiety.
HOW WE HELPED
We discussed how the generational gap is prevalent in immigrant refugee families to move beyond comparisons. This is due to her parents’ new environment in which they are raising their children.
This helped her gain perspective and not feel helpless but better understand her parents’ behavior.
Areas of Support:
This client advocated for herself, convinced her parents of the move, and eventually moved to a different state after getting into a graduate program. She began to confidently blend cultures without compromising her relationship with her parents.