Experts moot ‘Islamic psychospiritual therapy’ to treat PTSD, drug addiction

By Zurairi AR

KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 — Several psychiatrists today suggested the use of so-called “Islamic psychospiritual therapy” as a form of treatment for mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and drug addiction.

The experts claimed the therapy — used to describe recitals of Quran, prayers, and supplications — would complement modern medicine as part of a holistic treatment, and as alternative to other spiritual healing methods such as the Hindu yoga or Buddhist meditation.

“I am confident Islam has a place in therapy, and we can use it for someone to not only get healthier and healed, but hopefully his faith and deeds will also increase,” said Dr Rafidah Bahari, a senior psychiatry lecturer at the Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences.

Dr Rafidah, who has researched the use of the therapy on PTSD patients since 2012, was the first presenter in an experts’ conference on the topic of the therapy, organised by the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia here.

According to her, PTSD incidents in Malaysia primarily involve traffic accident victims, but reported cases are low, at only around 7.4 per cent, despite the high annual death rate of around 7,000. In the United States, it is between 24 to 33 per cent.

The therapy is used by Dr Rafidah for patients dealing with distress. Among others, it includes reciting specific Quranic verses whenever they suffer from intrusive memories or flashbacks, or when dealing with nightmares and fear.

Dr Rafidah conceded, however, that her proposed treatment has not gone through randomised controlled trials that would measure its effectiveness and provide reliable scientific evidence behind its use.

Dr Rusdi Abd Rashid speaking at the ‘Muzakarah Pakar Terapi Psikospiritual Islam’ talk in Kuala Lumpur April 20, 2017. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Another presenter, Dr Rusdi Abd Rashid of University of Malaya’s Center of Addiction Sciences shared his experience using Islamic psychospiritual therapy to supplement methadone maintenance treatment for victims of substance abuse since 2010.

“We integrate latest medical treatment with psychospiritual treatment using the mosque as a platform. It can enable the mosque community to become volunteers to help addicts heal and be accepted again by society,” said the psychiatrist.

Dr Rusdi said his programme, named “Spiritual Enhanced Drug Addiction Rehabilitation” at Bangsar’s Ar-Rahman Mosque near his university, has resulted in better retention rate compared to rehabilitation centres, resulting in among others, better health and social conditions for participations after a year.

Despite that, Dr Rusdi said participants did not improve on their risky sexual behaviours, after its sexual practice education programme failed due to the mosque’s opposition against the involvement of transgender instructors.

He also admitted that there was no scientific evidence yet on the programme’s efficacy, explaining that randomised controlled trials are currently ongoing, with results due soon.

Before the advent of modern medicine, black magic involving supernatural “makhluk halus” (literally “unseen beings”) such as djinns were often blamed by the Malay community for ailments that were then treated using exorcisms.

Historically, the Malays would consult a bomoh or pawang, a shaman who mixes ancient pagan practices with Islamic teachings, but the role is now increasingly undertaken by pseudo-scientific faith healers.