Pakistan Association of Cognitive Therapists Conference Presentation on Managing Uncertainty
Written by Layla Mofrad
Following our blog post on Faith and Uncertainty by Saiqa Naz, I was invited to co-present with Saiqa at the Pakistan Association for Cognitive therapy (PACT) 11th annual conference on Managing Uncertainty in Times of Covid. This was a remote workshop with 55 participants based in Pakistan. Sitting in my cold and drafty attic room near Newcastle, it felt quite a surreal experience to be connected with this group in South Asia, and to try to locate the Uncertainty Distress Model with them without being able to see the group or their context. Saiqa was able to share her knowledge and experience of her faith, and of her previous visits to Pakistan. The participants generously shared their thoughts and reflections throughout the workshop and I learned a little of how uncertainty during the pandemic has been experienced outside of my attic room.
People commented on how prayer and faith allowed them to ‘absorb pain’ and that looking to a higher power allowed them to tolerate more difficulty in life. Much of the discussion focussed around Islam however it was pointed out that any faith could have been usefully brought into therapy to potentially positive effect and one person helpfully quoted the serenity prayer for us:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference
One participant commented that Covid had given them an opportunity to rethink their relationship with their faith. We talked about different manifestations of faith in the context of the pandemic, and participants gave an example of some people who ‘blindly follow faith’ to the point of not wearing a mask or following social distancing guidelines because they believe their fate is in Gods hands.
Saiqa and I have reflected that for some people there is a higher power than science, which may challenge some therapists scientist-practitioner views. Saiqa has proposed, in her earlier blog post, that there is room to accommodate both and suggested how faith can be helpfully incorporated.
One of the interventions in the Uncertainty Distress Model is Building Safety. This is the idea that routine, rhythm and occurrences in daily life give us a sense of safety that allows us to tolerate uncertainty. Much of this has been disrupted by the pandemic and people have had to find alternate ways of developing cues of safety. One example is organised religion and how regular activities such as congregational prayer have been affected. The group at the PACT Conference told me that women and children would not normally attend the Mosque for prayer; during Covid as regular prayer has moved into homes rather than in shared spaces, families have now started praying together and developing rituals in their homes which has been a positive experience for many. Perhaps this new routine has provided some families with an extra sense of security as they face the uncertainties of Covid.
There were some important take home points from my experience of presenting at the conference. The UDM seemed relevant, applicable and is flexible enough to allow for cultural sensitivity and adaptions to be incorporated. The challenge for me was presenting the model to a group not simply from a different faith, culture and background to me, but actually located in that setting while I was in my attic room! Maybe I have taken for granted the impact of shared experiences and structures that come from being in the same location as others. I think this forced me into a more open position; curious, receptive to learning, and holding the model tentatively out for this group to see how they used it and allow the similarities and differences to reveal themselves.
I very much appreciated the opportunity to present at the PACT conference and it was very thought provoking for me to see how the Uncertainty Distress Model could be applied transculturally, and also flexibly, integrating resources that people may already have, such as their faith.
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Unicorn team: @Covid19Study Layla Mofrad: @Fevvers Saiqa Naz: @saiqa_naz BABCP Equality and Culture SIG: @BABCP_Equality