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It can be difficult to know how to help a loved one who’s suffered a traumatic or distressing experience, but your support can be a crucial factor in their recovery.   Everyone can become a “willing channel” for the health-giving power of the Holy Spirit:

The work of healing the sick, however, is a matter that concerns not the patient and the practitioner only, but everyone.  All must help, by sympathy and service, by right living and right thinking, and especially by prayer, for of all remedies prayer is the most potent. “Supplication and prayer on behalf of others,” says ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “will surely be effective.” The friends of the patient have a special responsibility, for their influence, either for good or ill, is most direct and powerful. In how many cases of sickness the issue depends mainly on the ministrations of parents, friends or neighbors of the helpless sufferer!  Even the members of the community at large have an influence in every case of sickness. In individual cases that influence may not appear great, yet in the mass the effect is potent. Everyone is affected by the social “atmosphere” in which he lives, by the general prevalence of faith or materialism, of virtue or vice, of cheerfulness of depression; and each individual has his share in determining the state of that social “atmosphere.” It may not be possible for everyone, in the present state of the world, to attain to perfect health, but it is possible for everyone to become a “willing channel” for the health-giving power of the Holy Spirit and thus to exert a healing, helpful influence both on his own body and on all with whom he comes in contact.  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 112)

In this quote we learn:

  • healing the sick is a matter that concerns everyone
  • all must help, by sympathy and service, by right living and right thinking
  • supplication and prayer on behalf of others will be effective
  • the influence of friends, either for good or ill, is most direct and powerful
  • even the members of the community at large have an influence – it may not appear great, yet in the mass the effect is potent
  • it is possible for everyone to become a “willing channel” for the health-giving power of the Holy Spirit

What’s Helpful:

Encourage active participation in Baha’i teaching and community events:

The House of Justice advises you to persevere in your efforts to secure good medical assistance, from psychiatrists or others, and to follow the advice of these specialists. It also suggests that through daily prayer, and specially by observing the daily obligatory prayers, through study of the Writings, through active participation in teaching efforts and in the activities of the community, and through constant effort to sacrifice for the Faith you love so well, you will obtain a spiritual counterpart to the professional help you will receive from the experts. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 26 July, 1988)

Encourage people to find a good therapist:

Failure to encourage an appropriate healing remedy for an emotionally or psychologically traumatized member of a family is likely to adversely affect the future happiness and well-being of every member, for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states, “The injury of one shall be considered the injury of all.”   (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 60)

If need for a therapist is indicated, the Assembly may wish to suggest that the person get a referral from his or her primary physician, if they do not already have someone they are seeing or would like to see.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 12)

Know when to ask for outside help:

If the individual’s behavior seems to be so extreme that immediate assistance is required, the Assembly or its liaison may wish to contact a mental health crisis intervention unit or the police, as seems appropriate to the situation.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 12)

Assemblies are encouraged to seek advice from local mental health professionals, including social service agencies, and qualified non-profit organizations concerning specific situations and to draw upon these resources in deciding upon any course of action.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 11)

Appoint a liaison with a capacity to listen:

If individuals with mental disorders are repeatedly writing letters or making phone calls to the Assembly, it may wish to appoint a liaison with a capacity to listen to interact with the individual. It may be helpful to assist people to clarify and focus their thinking by asking, “Why are you telling me that?” It is also possible to politely interrupt a flow of monologue that is unproductive.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 11)

Establish Clear Boundaries:

If the person’s problems are affecting the community, the Assembly may wish to establish clear boundaries regarding his or her behavior in relation to itself, the community and, if necessary, to particular individuals within the community, with explicit consequences for violating the boundaries. If that approach is used, care should be taken to establish boundaries that are reasonable and consequences that are appropriate. If possible, this should be done in consultation and cooperation with the individual involved.

The Assembly may find it helpful to put the boundaries and consequences for violating them in the form of a written contract at the time of the agreement so that both the individual and the Assembly will have a copy. If possible, the actual wording should be agreed upon by both the individual and the Assembly. This will help to reduce confusion and minimize individual differences of perception in recalling what was decided when referring to the agreement in the future. Once consequences are specified, if the predetermined boundaries are violated, the Assembly must act to impose the consequences. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 11-12)

Suggest that the person get a referral from his primary care physician:

If need for a therapist is indicated, the Assembly may wish to suggest that the person get a referral from his or her primary physician, if they do not already have someone they are seeing or would like to see. If the individual’s behavior seems to be so extreme that immediate assistance is required, the Assembly or its liaison may wish to contact a mental health crisis intervention unit or the police, as seems appropriate to the situation.  (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 12)

What’s Not Helpful:

One of the least helpful things anyone can say is “get over it” or “all you need to do is pray”.  The House of Justice has told us:

Advice given by well-meaning believers to the effect that you should seek to transcend psychological problems does not qualify as competent advice on what is essentially a medical issue.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

Prayer is of course important, but by itself, it’s not enough:

There are two ways of healing diseases, the material and the spiritual way. The first is the remedies of the physicians; the second prayers and turning one’s self to God. Both must be practiced and followed.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v3, p. 653)

It’s also not helpful to say “everything you need to heal is found in the Baha’i Writings:

It is possible for a man to hold to a book of medicine and say, “I have no need of a doctor; I will act according to the book; in it every disease is named, all symptoms are explained, the diagnosis of each ailment is completely written out, and a prescription for each malady is furnished; therefore, why do I need a doctor?” This is sheer ignorance. A physician is needed to prescribe. Through his skill the principles of the book are correctly and effectively applied until the patient is restored to health.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 248)

Or “you should just forgive and forget”:

Although individuals are admonished to forgive one another on a personal level, this does not imply a right on the part of one individual to excuse another from the consequences of serious misconduct or criminal behavior. Judgment in such matters, whether involving violation of Bahá’í laws or violation of civil laws, can only be provided by duly constituted institutions.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, pp. 51-52)

For more information on this topic, please see Learning How to Forgive 

You should also not tell them they have a mental health issue – as you are likely not qualified to make that determination:

If the Assembly becomes aware of a problem that might be an indicator of mental illness or other disorder it should avoid suggesting that there might be a mental problem, as it is not qualified to make such a determination.  Depending on the circumstances, it may wish to suggest that the person undergo a medical evaluation through his or her primary care physician or other health care practitioner.   (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 11)

When to Contact a Professional

You should seek professional help if symptoms persist and interfere with day-to-day activities, school or work performance, or personal relationships.

Signs that a child may need professional help to cope with a traumatic event include:

  • emotional outbursts
  • aggressive behavior
  • withdrawal
  • continued obsession with the traumatic event
  • serious problems at school

Psychologists and mental health providers can work with people individually to find ways to cope with stress. They can help both children and their parents understand how to cope with the emotional impact of a traumatic event.

Physical, social and psychological resources to help buffer and heal the negative effects of traumatic events

Signs that an adult may need professional help:

Recovering from a traumatic event takes time, and everyone heals at his or her own pace. But if months have passed and your symptoms aren’t letting up, you may need professional help from a trauma expert.

Seek help for emotional or psychological trauma if you’re:

  • Having trouble functioning at home or work
  • Suffering from severe fear, anxiety, or depression
  • Unable to form close, satisfying relationships
  • Experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks
  • Avoiding more and more things that remind you of the trauma
  • Emotionally numb and disconnected from others
  • Using alcohol or drugs to feel better

Finding a Trauma Specialist

Working through trauma can be scary, painful, and potentially re-traumatizing. Because of the risk of re-traumatization, this healing work is best done with the help of an experienced trauma specialist.

The House of Justice has said:

You can draw on these powers by your prayers as well as your participation in the work of the faith and the life of the Bahá’í community; through this effort, and through your consultation with competent professionals having expertise in your area of need, you can promote your healing from the damaging effects of your past experiences, and can find happiness and tranquility.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 9 September 1992)

Finding the right therapist may take some time. It’s very important that the therapist you choose has experience treating trauma. When someone went to ‘Abdu’l-Baha with eye problems, this is the advice he was given:

According to the explicit divine text the sick must refer to the doctor. This decree is decisive and everyone bound to observe it. While thou art there thou shouldst consult the most skilled and the most famed eye specialist.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 285)

If ‘Abdu’l-Baha wanted him to consult the most skilled specialist, I think it’s safe to say that trauma victims deserve the same!

It’s OK to get a second opinion.  With regards to surgery, Shoghi Effendi has said:

Before having any serious operation, you should consult more than one qualified physician.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 291)

The same should hold true for therapy.

For more information, please see How Do We Find a Competent Physician 

Once we’ve found a therapist we have confidence in, the next thing is to follow his advice, and put your trust in God, through prayer:

The basic instruction in the Writings to one who is ill is to find a doctor in whom confidence can be placed, to follow his advice and to put one’s trust in God through prayer.   (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

The quality of the relationship with your therapist is equally important. Choose a trauma specialist you feel comfortable with. Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel safe, respected, or understood, find another therapist. There should be a sense of trust and warmth between you and your trauma therapist.

The House of Justice has told us:

You should feel under no obligation to continue to consult with someone in whom you have lost confidence or who you believe may cause you to act contrary to the teaching of the Faith. However, it should be understood that counselling of the type you are receiving may cause a variety of emotions to surface as a normal part of the therapy. Individuals sometimes feel close attachment to their therapist or experience other feelings which might be unsettling because they are unexpected; such emotions may simply represent a beginning of helpful change and need prove no danger to one’s moral standards.   (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 7 September 1990)

Obviously, any healing techniques which would lead the practitioner or the patient to contradict the Laws of the Faith is not acceptable

Of course, no healing technique which would lead the practitioner or the patient to contradict the Laws of the Faith is acceptable.   (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

After meeting a potential trauma therapist, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did you feel comfortable discussing your problems with the therapist?
  • Did you feel like the therapist understood what you were talking about?
  • Were your concerns taken seriously or were they minimized or dismissed?
  • Were you treated with compassion and respect?
  • Do you believe that you could grow to trust the therapist?

Treatment for Psychological and Emotional Trauma

In order to heal from psychological and emotional trauma, you must face and resolve the unbearable feelings and memories you’ve long avoided. Otherwise they will return again and again, unbidden and uncontrollable.

Trauma treatment and healing involves:

  • Processing trauma-related memories and feelings
  • Discharging pent-up “fight-or-flight” energy
  • Learning how to regulate strong emotions
  • Building or rebuilding the ability to trust other people

For more information, please see:

Fight, Flight or Freeze 

Finding Love Again

Trauma Therapy Treatment Approaches

Trauma disrupts the body’s natural equilibrium, freezing you in a state of hyperarousal and fear. In essence, your nervous system gets stuck in overdrive. Successful trauma treatment must address this imbalance and reestablish your physical sense of safety. The following therapies are commonly used in the treatment of emotional and psychological trauma:

  • Somatic experiencing takes advantage of the body’s unique ability to heal itself. The focus of therapy is on bodily sensations, rather than thoughts and memories about the traumatic event. By concentrating on what’s happening in your body, you gradually get in touch with trauma-related energy and tension. From there, your natural survival instincts take over, safely releasing this pent-up energy through shaking, crying, and other forms of physical release.

Baha’is doing this kind of therapy include:

Hugh Smiley is a certified Hakomi therapist, teacher and founder of the Korason Method for authentic voice and dialogue, which will help you in finding and using your true and natural voice as an important building block towards genuine dialogue and relationships.  Hugh teaches specific techniques which can be applied to real-life, day-to-day situations, interpersonal challenges, physical and emotional balance and health. He uses the languages of music (tone, harmony, resonance, vibration), mysticism (mindfulness, meditation, oneness, spiritual connection) and neuroscience in his practice.  For more information visit his website.

  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation. These back-and-forth eye movements are thought to work by “unfreezing” traumatic memories, allowing you to resolve them.

Baha’is doing this kind of therapy include:

Douglas Waldruff, PhD:  Treatment specialization includes:  Personal Growth and Empowerment; Performance Enhancement; Stress Management; Trauma and Recovery; PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder); EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing); Hypnotherapy; Energy Psychology; Depression and Anxiety; Panic Attacks and Phobia; Sexual and Relationship Problems; Medical and Health concerns; Grief and Loss; Work and Career issues; Addiction & Recovery; For more information visit his website.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you process and evaluate your thoughts and feelings about a trauma. While cognitive-behavioral therapy doesn’t treat the physiological effects of trauma, it can be helpful when used in addition to a body-based therapy such as somatic experiencing or EMDR.

Baha’is doing this kind of therapy include:

Keyvan Geula is a licensed marriage, family, and child therapist specializing in mindfulness approach in therapy, transformation and education.  In her clinical work she incorporates the wisdom of the Baha’i Writings, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach, Mindfulness techniques, and John Gottman’s approach in couple’s therapy.  For more information visit her website.

Albert Schmaedick, MA, Albert specializes in mindfulness training, holistic health therapies, psychotherapy and is a freelance consultant in the area of Detox therapy. He practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Rapid Therapy).  For more information visit his website.

Mary K. Radpour, is a psychotherapist with 30 years’ experience. She has worked with individuals, families and groups, focusing on Post-trauma symptoms, resulting from physical, emotional and sexual abuse; Phobias; Depression and dysthymia; Anxiety.  She has trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; Family systems and strategic family systems therapy; Hypnosis and hypnotherapy; Transactional Analysis; Dialectical Behavior Therapy; Mindfulness Focus therapy; and Rapid Trauma Resolution, a newly developed approach to clearing the effects of traumatic experiences.   For more information visit her website.

Other Baha’is doing trauma work include:

Diana Kite:  addresses smoking, alcohol, drug, gambling & other addictions, anger management, depression, anxiety, allergies, Asthma, control issues, Bi-Polar disorder, OCD, fears & phobias, brain damage, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, memory issues, marriage & relationship difficulties, impotence, migraines, nail biting, Anorexia & Bulimia, digestive disorders, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue syndrome, bladder issues, TMJ, ulcers, high blood pressure, Restless Leg syndrome, immune & autoimmune disorders, abuse, death of a loved one, childhood trauma, aging issues, guilt, rejection, reading & math issues, school & test anxiety, insomnia, grief, job loss, nightmares, stress relief, stuttering, weight and body issues, writer’s block, etc…  For more information visit her website.

Nancy Watters:  wants to help you find relief and restore JOY to your life. She’ll show you ways to . . . quickly boost your mood, anytime, anywhere;  natural ways to reduce pain and stress; get a solid night’s sleep; overcome depression, trauma, abuse; ditch negative thinking and improve your memory.  For more information visit her website.

Tabasom Eblaghie:  provides counselling services to individuals who want to make a positive change in their lives with respect to relationships, self-esteem and career. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, or trauma, give her a call.    For more information visit her website.

Flora Todaro-Luck:  Online Psychotherapist/Counselor – individual and group psychotherapy, anxiety, depression, social anxiety, trauma, low self-esteem, confidence, emotional focused couples therapy.  For more information visit her website.

Adrienne Carter:  MSW with a specialty in trauma management, providing direct treatment services to traumatized individuals and setting up community based mental health services for victims of wars, violence or natural disasters working with refugees and Doctors without Borders in Nigeria, Kosovo, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Malaysia, Myanmar, India, Iraq Liberia, Russia, South Africa and Canada.  To download her resume, go to her website.

Please Note I provide these names for your consideration only – and do not have first-hand knowledge of their competence; so cannot endorse any of them.

For more information, please see:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 

Baha’i Perspectives on Mental Illness

Dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder in the Baha’i Community

Does Becoming a Baha’i Make People Crazy?

Mental Health is at Risk when Love and Justice are Absent

Surviving Spiritual Depression

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