Discussion Questions (Critical Incident pg. 200)
Sawsan’s case illustrates several issues that are typical of those facing Arab Muslim youth and their parents:
- Arab Muslim clients usually approach counseling or psychotherapy after they have visited medical doctors. How might this affect the counseling process?
- Young Arab Muslim clients are typically brought to counseling by their parents and take a passive and submissive role in the first meeting, when their parents are present and dominate the conversation. Should a non-Muslim counselor try to alter this interaction? If so, what steps might the counselor take?
- Sawsan had expressed her distress passively (withdrawal) and somatically (headaches). How central are these forms of expression for her case?
- Traditional Arab Muslim parents are typically not sensitive and empathic to their children’s emotional needs and do not understand why their children are distressed as long as their materialistic needs (e.g., Sawsan’s new computer) are supplied. How might the counselor deal with the parents if and when such beliefs and attitudes emerge?
- For Arab Muslim parents, traditions and values are more important for decision making than their children’s feelings. Can or should the counselor try to ameliorate this tendency?
- Arab Muslim parents tend to attribute bad behavior to external entities such as “bad friends” or “bad readings” or, in some cases, bad spirits. Is this something that the counselor may want to address with the parents?
- The behavior of Arab children in the presence of their parents (external control) is often extremely different from their behavior when they are away from external control. It is not that one behavior is real and the other is false; rather, the two behaviors represent two different yet real components of the children’s personalities. As a counselor, how would you deal with this?
- It is often difficult for Arab children to criticize their parents in conversations with foreigners, such as Western counselors, and they typically feel the need to emphasize that the intentions of their parents are good. Should the counselor avoid discussing the client’s parents with the client?
- The main conflict that needed resolution in the above case was an intrafamilial rather than an intrapsychic one; therefore, counseling was focused on the family relationship in order to accomplish change in the relationship that fits the needs of both the identified patient (Sawsan) and the family belief system. Do you agree that change was possible only after the counselor had established a positive relationship with the father?
- Counseling with Arab and Muslim families should not seek to change or confront the family culture or the family structure; rather, it should be aimed at finding better solutions within the fabric of that culture. Explain how the counselor might use a family’s internal resources and strengths to change this situation for the better.