I'm an undergraduate in Psychology, and it's my goal to become a Islamic psychologist, inshallah. Unfortunately, I don't know how to go about it. Would a Master's in Applied Psychology be my next step, or Master's in Clinical Counselling? As Psychology from an Islamic perspective is relatively new, there aren't a lot of courses available. I'm really not sure what steps I need to take to achieve this, and I would love to get some advice from counselor's who are already in the field. Awaiting your reply.
Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh sister,
Masha Allah, indeed psychology is a very interesting field to be in. Psychology is such a broad subject that can be useful in many different fields. With there being so many routes to become a psychologist it can be very daunting to the undergraduate psychology student as you contemplate which is the best route to take.
Islamic psychology is an emerging field as you are aware, but as I am sure you are also know Islam can be applied in many different ways to psychology , both improving our practice as we learn how to incorporate Islamic principles into all fields of psychology, but also simply making psychological services more accessible to a wider Muslim community.
Muslim psychologists are required in all the different branches of psychology, so to be a Muslim psychologist does not necessarily narrow the field anymore as you can apply Islamic psychology to counselling psychology as much as you can to health psychology for example. Additionally, there will always be people who prefer to see a Muslim psychologist in all fields, in the confidence that the advice they will give will be in line with Islamic principles.
There a number of things to contemplate to make the next step clearer for you. Firstly, decide which field interests you; clinical, forensic, health, counselling..etc.. This will narrow down which masters to do should you desire to progress to this stage. There are many types of psychology masters available so to have some idea of which area you desire to specialise in, this will narrow down your options more and make the next step less dating as you become more focused on your next step. It may be that there is no course that specialises solely in the Islamic approach to that particular branch of psychology, but it most cases, it is possible to apply the Islamic approach particularly when it come to your thesis where you are more free to be specific on your topic of research and therefore can chose to apply Islamic psychology to a topic of your choice relevant to the branch of psychology that you are studying in.
There is also another very important thing to consider in choosing your next step. Depending on the country you want to practice in, you will need to check with your local psychological society what the requirements are to become a licensed psychologist. In some countries a masters is sufficient, in others you must also go on to do your doctorate degree also. If you are thinking you might even like to practise in another country, you also need to find out about whether your degree is recognised in that country. Sometimes you are required to take some kind of conversion course, or in others, significant work experience can be sufficient. Either way, all these questions are those that can be answered by the psychological society of your country, or that of the country that you wish to practice in.
In the mean time, it is advisable to get a bit of part time work experience in the field. This will also help to confirm if that particular field is really what you would like to do. Try something new also, it may be that you find you enjoy a different field that you hadn’t even contemplated before. Getting work experience will also help you to develop the necessary practical skills to become a psychologist as well as understanding how the theory that you are learning in your degree work in practice. Working under the supervision , or in an organisation where you will have regular contact with a psychologist will be highly beneficial . It will place you in a position where you can see directly what the role of a psychologist entails as well as being able to get advice from the psychologist themselves. This will place you in a strong position for progressing your career in the field, especially if you are able to do some kind of work directly with them. In many cases, this will not be a realistic option at first, but certainly positions such as that of a care worker or research assistant are very useful in gaining insight into the field and relevant experience.
I am unsure of the current status of psychology in South Africa, but in many places around the world, psychology has become very competitive so you need to be prepared for this and the challenges that it may come with, but with patience and persistence is very possible, in sha Allah. With Islamic psychology slowly emerging as it is new opportunities will continue to become available also.
I hope this makes things a little clearer for you. May Allah bring you much success in your career in both this life and the next.