An Islamic Inspired Approach to TA Psychotherapy

‘An Islamic inspired approach to counselling and psychotherapy which blends Transactional Analysis  theory with Islamic teachings and guidance.’


As an integrative psychotherapist I draw upon many theories and modalities to assist my clients and inform my practice. I was drawn to Transactional Analysis (or TA) after experiencing it as a client in therapy. TA is Humanistic and Analytical in its approach approach and I find complements the Islamic philosophies of human nature (fitrah) and personal development. The ‘Ego’ states model is useful to begin to understand the interaction between the inner self, which from an Islamic perspective would be interaction/action/influences of the Nafs (self), Aql (intellect) and Qalb (Heart).

Transactional Analysis psychotherapy can be a helpful intervention to use alongside all stages of Islamic Tarbiyah and Tazkiayh (self development and spiritual purification). Transactional Analysis techniques such as game theory, ego state formation and script analysis can help one to understand personal barriers to performing certain tasks such as prayer, and /or what whispers within distort the transmissions between Aql/Nafs and Qalb. (intellect/personality and soul).

The aim of psychotherapy & counselling is to support the client as they walk the journey of self awareness and change. The aim of Islamic psychotherapy & counselling supports this but it also includes a spiritual element of transformation and a higher purpose and goal, God consciousness (Taqwa).

The techniques and guidance drawn upon to assist both therapist and client derive from the concept of Tarbiyah and Tazkiyah. Transformation is through learning and implementing the guidance within the Quran. In addition we draw upon examples of our beloved Prophet swws and his companions (may Allah be please with them).

Where do Islamic counselling & psychology concepts originate?

There is no one word translation for the word psychology in Arabic other than the principles of what psychology is based on and referred to as; the study of the human psyche (Nafs) in Arabic, Ilm-al-Nafs (knowledge of the self) (Ahmad, 2005). The most notable scholar that relates to the concept of the personality and purification of the self and soul was Abu Hamid Muhammad Al – Ghazali (1058-1111) whose comprehensive psycho-spiritual philosophies were based on his knowledge of the Quran and Hadith. Other notable Islamic philosophers and scholars who wrote extensively on the subject include; Al-Kindi (801-866), Al-Razi (864-932), Al-Farabi (870-950), Ibn Sina (980-1037), Ibn Rushd (1126-1198) and Ibn Arabi (1164-1240) (Abu Raiya, 2011). According to Al- Ghazali, the psycho-spiritual structure of a human is said to compromise of four; Qalb (spiritual heart), Ruh (spirit), Nafs (psyche or self) and A’ql (intellect/mind) (Al- Ghazali, 1995).

Like Western forms of psychology, psychological balance and harmony in Islam are considered achievable through awareness, change and re-alignment of the self to a natural, harmonious balance (Haeri, 1989). But what is most noticeably different between Western non-theologically based theories of psychology to Islamic interpretations of psychology is that the highest form of purification, peace and balance of the self and soul, is achievable through God consciousness, referred to as taqwa (Al-Ghazali, 1995; Murad, 2000). For Muslims this is achievable in the following way; seeking knowledge and support from Allah through consultation of the revealed guidance (Quran), submittance to the creator and acceptance of his creation (shahadah). In addition ritual prescribed acts of worship and self purification such as; prayer (salah), fasting (sawm), charity (zakat) and the personal endurance of pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) is prescribed of all Muslims.

Within the field of Tazkiyyah and Tarbiya (fields of self-development and spiritual purification) the journey towards Taqwa (God consciousness) and self awareness is through:

  • Positive lawful intentions (Niyyah)
  • The remembrance of Allah (Zhikr)
  • Contemplation of Creator and creation (tadadbur & tafakkur)
  • Repentance (tawbah)
  • Seeking personal development & guidance through education, advice and support (Istisharah)
  • Seeking Gods guidance (Istikhara)
  • Goal making, evaluation and action (Basra, ‘Aml & Azm)
  • Self watching/Midfulness (Muraqabah)
  • and always Putting trust in Allah ( Al-Tawakkul-Allah)

(Abu-Raiya, 2011; Barise, 2005; Cardo 014; Hussein Rassool, 2016; Skinner, 2010; Utz, 2011).

It should be noted however that the explanation of Islamic concepts of personality and psycho-spiritual existence are considered offerings towards an understanding of Quranic teachings and are in no way defined by the interpreters as definitive truths in the explanation of the Quranic verses (Al-Ghazali, 1995; Haque, 2009; Abu-Raiya, 2012). The study of the Quran and its reference to the human soul is a journey of discovery as is the nature of the human being. Muslim philosophers, scholars and students endeavour to contemplate the complexities of its formation and existence whilst bearing in mind the verse in the Quran that informs them;

‘They ask you (Muhammad swws) about the ruh (spirit). Say, the ruh is by the command of my Lord, and that you (human beings) have been given but little knowledge’ (Quran, 17;85)

With regards to mental health and well-being the Quran supports the importance of seeking balance and harmony of the self in many of its verses, for example one verse says;

Indeed he succeeds who purifies his own self’ (Quran, 91:9)

The Quran also supports seeking guidance and counsel and emphasises the free will of an individual to be inspired towards seeking such help;

‘ .. Allah would not change the condition of a person until they change what is in themselves’ (Quran, 8:53)

The importance of consulting others which could relate to a counsellor, is emphasised when the Prophet Muhammad (swws) said;

‘Reported by Abu Dawwud and Tirmizi from the Hadith of Abu Dardaah

said that Prophet Muhammad (swws) said to the companions one day:

“Shall I inform you on what is better than Salat, Fasting and Zakat?” The companions replied; yes please Rasoululah (swws).

Prophet Muhammad (swws) said: “Reconciling between two.”

(Al-Tirmidhi, no. 2509 as cited in Hadith al-Islam, 2014. p192)

(G.Cardo, 2014 p19-20)

‘G.Cardo (2014) A Systematic Review Which Explores Counselling Modalities that have been Developed or Adapted to suit the needs of the British Muslim Client’ (edited 2015). Unpublished Dissertation. University of Salford

For reference list contact G Cardo via this website

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