Islamic Trauma Healing: Integrating Faith and Empirically Supported Principles in a Community-Based Program

Jacob A. Bentley, Norah C. Feeny, Michael L. Dolezal, Alexandra Klein, Libby H. Marks, Belinda Graham, Lori A. Zoellner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Access to adequate, much less state-of-the-art, mental health care is a global problem. Natural disasters, civil war, and terrorist conflict have forcibly displaced millions of Muslims and have resulted in a remarkable level of individual and communitywide trauma exposure. As a result, many are at risk for posttraumatic stress and other trauma-related disorders. Many religiously oriented Muslims traditionally rely on Islamic principles and teachings, as well as their community, to cope with and address trauma-related distress. Islamic Trauma Healing is a six-session, lay-led group intervention developed within a Somali Muslim community that integrates evidence-based trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy principles with cultural and religious practices aimed to enhance uptake and create an easily up-scalable intervention for a wide range of trauma. In sessions, narratives of prophets who have undergone trauma (e.g., Prophet Ayyub, faith during hard times) present Islamic principles and facilitate cognitive shifts. Group members spend individual time turning to Allah in dua (i.e., informal prayer), focused on exposure to trauma memories. Program themes arc across suffering to healing to growth following trauma. This paper describes the core theoretical principles and methods in the Islamic Trauma Healing program. We also describe leader perspectives and the program's train-the-trainer model, in which lay leaders are trained to further disseminate the program and allow Islamic Trauma Healing to be owned and sustained by the Muslim community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-192
Number of pages26
JournalCognitive and Behavioral Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Islam
  • PTSD
  • Refugee
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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