As Muslim communities become more established in Canada, our needs continue to evolve and grow. Many Muslims in the GTA face particular challenges while navigating concerns like family conflict and mental illness, including the stigma attached to seeking professional help and lack of knowledge of existing services. These challenges can be exacerbated by the shortage of culturally competent social service providers. To meet these challenges, a ground-breaking free Family Counselling Service was launched this past summer at the ICC as part of ISNA Canada’s commitment to meeting the needs of Muslims in the GTA to ensure their health and wellbeing.
I spoke with Sr. Shahnaz Ahmed, the new ISNA Canada Family Counsellor, to learn more about her and the new service offered at the Centre.
A registered social worker with the Ontario Association of Professional Social Workers (OAPSW) and the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service workers (OCSWSSW), Sr. Shahnaz completed her Master’s degree in Psychology from Dhaka University in Bangladesh and her Master’s degree in Social Work from the City University of New York. She has over a decade of experience working for various mainstream agencies in NYC and the GTA providing counselling and psychotherapy to children, youth, adults, and families of diverse backgrounds.
Sr. Shahnaz can provide support to clients in English, Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi. Further, as a registered social worker, she is bound to keep all information shared by clients private and confidential.
Lanterns: What does a Family Counsellor generally do?
Shahnaz: Many families struggle with various difficulties in their lives such as stress, anxiety, depression, family relationship issues, parent-child conflict, grief and loss, and low self-esteem, which they don’t know how to resolve. A family counsellor’s job is to help families identify the sources of challenges they are struggling with and help them to resolve these effectively.
Lanterns: What motivated you to enter this profession?
Shahnaz: I have always had a passion for helping others, and admired those with the ability to resolve other people’s issues and make them smile. One of my professors in grad school, who was not a counsellor, showed me how this could be done. Students often visited her office to share their academic, emotional, and relationship struggles. The professor had not only spoken to these students, but also visited their homes to meet their families in order to ensure they had support. She inspired me and I learned from her that if you are committed to providing someone with support, sometimes you have to go that extra mile.
Lanterns: Based on your experience working within the Muslim community, what are some of the areas that you would like to see the community take more initiative around?
Shahnaz: I feel that Muslim families are overall doing a great job in keeping families together compared to many other communities in Canada. However, unfortunately, in my experience, many new couples face unexpected vulnerability in their initial attachment due to parental over-involvement in their lives. Divorce rates in Muslim families could be reduced significantly if parents and extended family provided new couples with their own space.
To know about the free Family Counselling service at ISNA Canada and how to book an appointment, please visit our website.