Potomac Muslim Counseling Link

DC Metro Area Muslim Mental Health Resource


Frequently Asked Questions

Doesn’t a strong iman prevent you from getting depressed?

          Not necessarily. Although one may have very strong faith in Allah, they can still get depressed. Life can be overwhelming even for the strongest of believers. Part of the life of a Muslim is struggling with the difficulty and often times harshness of life in the dunya. In the Holy Quran, surah Baqarah, verse 214, Allah says:


        “Or do you think that you can enter the Garden without there coming to you the like of that which came to those before you? They were touched by difficulties and hardships and were shaken, until the messenger and those with him who securely believe said, “When will the Help of Allah come?” Ah, but surely the Help of Allah is near.”

          There are many examples in the Qur’an of even prophets getting depressed. Although the Qur’an gives us all the guidance we need in terms of our deen and how to live, having a strong faith in Allah’s word and guidance doesn’t necessarily make life easy. It is perfectly normal and expected that even believers will have difficult times and find it hard to cope with life at times.

Is counseling acceptable in Islam?

        Yes, counseling is acceptable in Islam. There are numerous accounts of people consulting the Prophet, sallalahu alayhi wa salam, for matters of every day life other than religious fatwas. Many imams recommend counseling for people who need extra support in finding their way through difficult times and challenging situations.

What happens in a counseling session?

          Generally, in a counseling session the client talks about the things that are causing distress or explains situations that are troubling them. The counselor listens compassionately, empathizes with the client and reflects back to the client what they are feeling in order for the client to find more clarity. Often times just being listened to and heard can be healing. The counselor can also provide a different perspective, offer insights into the situation that bring to light deeper significance of the situation, and assist the client in bringing about more self awareness. The counselor is there to support the client as well as to help guide them through their process of self understanding, and works jointly with the client to relieve frustration, find solutions to problems and decrease depression.

What is the difference between a licensed and non-licensed mental health provider?

           In order for clinicians to practice in a private or non-supervised setting, they must

           meet academic and experience requirements that make them eligible for the state

           license exam. Upon passing the exam, they are granted licensure. Licensure

           requirements vary from state to state, and vary between the different professional

           boards ( i.e., psychology, social work, counseling, marriage and family therapy).

           Clinicians who have completed the academic requirements for their profession may

           practice in their respective field of mental health as long as they are supervised by a

           licensed professional. Many of these clinicians have years of experience and are very

           qualified but have elected not to pursue licensure for any number of reasons. Feel free

           to ask the clinician you are considering for services about his or her educational

           background, licensure, years of experience in the field, etc.

What are the differences between psychology and counseling degrees?

Psychologist (Ph.D.)
Doctorate of Philosophy (Research degree)
General description: Doctoral degree in either clinical or counseling psychology

This is the traditional degree of practicing, academic, and research psychologists. Training includes courses in psychological assessment, theories and practice of different types of psychotherapy, research and statistics, as well as diagnosis and ethics. A dissertation is required which must be defended. The emphasis of this degree is on research and theory. The average length of a Ph.D. program is 6 to 7 years. Ph.D. psychologists most often pursue careers in academia or practice.

Psychologist (Psy.D.)
Doctorate of Psychology (Professional degree)
General description: Doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

This is a newer (circa. 1968) degree offered to those individuals interested exclusively in the practice of psychology. Its focus tends to be more clinically-oriented than the traditional Ph.D., offering more pre-internship experience and practical coursework, in lieu of courses on research and statistics (although most Psy.D. programs also require a dissertation). If the Psy.D. program doesn't require a dissertation (which generally includes the authoring of original research), it will have a requirement for a research paper with less of an emphasis on creating original research. The research paper can be a literature review or some other similar type of contribution to the field.

The average length of a Psy.D. program is 5 to 6 years. Most Psy.D. psychologists pursue careers in practice, although some also enter into research and academia. As with the above doctoral degree, psychologists aren't eligible to become licensed in a state (a legal distinction, not an educational one) until at least one year after receiving their degree. Licensure typically involves a certain amount of additional supervised clinical hours, and receiving a certain minimum score on a national and state psychology licensing examination.

Counselor/Therapist (M.A., M.S., M.Ed.)
Master of Arts/Master of Science/Master of Education
General description: Master's degree in clinical or counseling psychology

Most masters programs are 2 years in length and end in the defense of a thesis. Many programs offer terminal degrees, which allows individuals to not go on and pursue a doctoral degree, but go out into the world with the Master's degree alone. Master's level therapists are usually trained more heavily in psychotherapy techniques and clinical counseling practice, but have fewer courses in psychological assessment, theory, and research. Most Master's students become general psychotherapists.

In order to practice on their own without supervision, counselors must be licensed by their respective state. The licenses differ from state to state, but here in the Northern VA, DC, and Maryland area counselor’s are Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC)

Social Worker (M.S.W., Ph.D.)
Master of Social Work/Doctorate of Philosophy
General description: Master's or doctoral degree in social work

Social work program range in length from 2 to 3 years, and include some practical experience (through either practica or internships). Like the M.S. degree above, social work students are trained in psychotherapy and social work techniques and background, with an emphasis in most programs toward integrating people within community resources. Most social work students go on into careers as social workers and general psychotherapists. Family therapists and EAP counselors are also often M.S.W.'s (or L.C.S.W.'s - Licensed Counselor of Social Work, a legal distinction not made in the degree, but requiring the therapist to undergo examination for licensing in that particular state). The terms used to describe social workers vary from state to state, and may include such titles as: Licensed Counselor of Social Work, Counselor of Social Work, psychotherapist, therapist, etc.

Psychiatrist (M.D.)
Medical degree
General description: Medical degree with a specialty in psychiatry

Psychiatrists start out as regular doctors, traditionally with 4 years of medical school after college. During this time, physicians interested in specializing in psychiatry will typically take clinical electives in topics relating to psychiatry and a clinical rotation in psychiatry.

Psychiatrists then go on to complete a residency in psychiatry. A psychiatric residency typically involves three to four years of additional clinical training, generally in a hospital setting. Experience in medication management, inpatient and outpatient treatment modalities, and crisis evaluations is usually gained during the physician's residency. Psychiatric residents will typically have didactic training in the form of seminars on common mental health topics, such as psychotherapy, professional ethics, psychological assessment, etc. The quality and content of these seminars varies widely from residency to residency. Outside of their residency experiences, psychiatrists typically have no formal educational background in psychological assessment, research, or in the practice or theory of psychotherapy.

Psychiatrists gain licensure when they graduate from medical school; there is no separate license for the specific practice of psychiatry. However, some psychiatrists will choose to apply for board certification in psychiatry to demonstrate they have received specific, additional training and education. Psychiatrists are the only mental health professionals who can prescribe medication and nowadays, this is the majority of what psychiatrists spend their time doing for the treatment of most mental disorders. Psychiatrists sometimes still practice some type of psychotherapy, especially if they're in a private practice.