Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology

First Advisor

Laura R. Johnson

Second Advisor

Andrew Hales

Third Advisor

Aaron Lee

Relational Format



The United States is home to approximately three million Muslim-Americans, a diverse and growing demographic group that has woven itself into the fabric of American life. Hailing from many regions around the world, Muslims in the U.S. are varied in racial and ethnic backgrounds and not dominated by any particular race or ethnicity. National pride and a strong religious identity are shared aspects among U.S. born Muslims and immigrants alike (Pew, 2018). In addition to the typical challenges of daily life, Muslim-Americans have experienced high levels of religious and ethnic discrimination. Post-9/11, Muslim-Americans suffered a 1600% increase in reported hate crimes including violence, threats, and property destruction relating to group stigmatization after the attacks (Takyar, 2019). These increased animosities were compounded by anti-Muslim political rhetoric and a Muslim travel ban after the 2016 presidential election. Such adverse experiences negatively impact mental health and have led to disproportionate rates of distress, anxiety, and mood disorders suffered by this demographic (Abu-Ras et al., 2018). Despite mounting mental health concerns, Muslim-Americans have encountered barriers to accessing mental health services and remained underserved. Barriers to care are multifaceted and include the factors of availability and access, education, stigma, fears of discrimination, and religious or cultural beliefs that may differ from medical professionals (Amri & Bemak, 2013; Padela & Curlin, 2013). Supporting this notion, past studies indicated that Muslims who reported higher Islamic religiousness tended to prefer spiritual healers (Meran & Mason, 2019). Other research indicated that belief in a mixed etiology for mental illness (stemming from biological or spiritual causes) was associated with the endorsement of multiple treatment options (Western biomedical services, Islamic faith healers; Moodley et al., 2018). A more complete understanding of Muslim Americans’ conceptions of mental illness and their associated religious and cultural beliefs can help treatment providers understand patterns of help-seeking and inform culturally responsive models of care. This study sought to explore the relationship between religious beliefs and concepts of mental illness among Muslim Americans using Kleinman’s comprehensive explanatory model approach. The explanatory model (EM) includes a range of beliefs, from recognition of the problem, to beliefs about etiology, symptom communication and impact, stigmas, appropriate help-seeking, preferred type of provider or treatment, and goals for treatment outcomes. Based on previous findings, it was anticipated first-generation immigrant status, female gender, and being married participants would be predictive of higher Islamic religiousness. For attitudes towards mental health services, it was expected that higher Islamic religiousness would predict negatively predict acculturation but stronger spiritual beliefs about mental illness, which in turn would predict more negative attitudes towards mental health services. It was also expected that lower levels of Islamic religiousness would positively predict acculturation and stronger biological beliefs about mental illness, which in turn would predict more positive attitudes towards mental health services. The results gave insight into how demographic, sociocultural, and religious factors interact with various aspects of a patient’s explanatory models and how religiousness is predictive of mental illness beliefs and willingness to seek mental health services.

Keywords: Islamic religiousness, mental illness beliefs, attitudes toward mental health services


Clinical Psychology



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