With a demeanor that radiates calm, it is no surprise that Bobbi-Jo Azzouzi has found her career path along the sometimes restless road of Human Services. As a Muslim woman, and a clinical social worker, she provides supervision for 9 case managers and 2 nurses at a large, Twin Cities- based human services organization, and helps restore a sense of balance to her clients' lives.
"Many of my clients have many crises and often cause injuries to themselves and/or others," comments Azzouzi. She says that her Islamic faith is an important self protective measure to help her make sense out of the suffering she sees in her clients. Azzouzi's primary role is to clinically assess the client for dangerousness to self or others. She also helps guide their treatment planning with case managers.
She performs diagnostic assessments on clients at the agency and provides individual psychotherapy. Azzouzi uses her faith as a personal strength, while also respecting the client's faith during the treatment process.
"Depending on the client, I try to incorporate the client's faith with their healing," she says. She notes that a clinician must be careful to meet the client where they are, both mentally and spiritually. Working in clinical social work has made Azzouzi more acutely aware of the inner struggles that people deal with.
"Everyone has their own struggles and inner turmoil, it is to what degree these struggles affect their ability to live a full life that I continually access," notes Azzouzi.
Azzouzi remembers the early events that lead her toward her career choice.
"As a young child, I helped a refugee family resettle into my small, rural Minnesotan community. I saw early on the struggles they faced as they attempted to acculturate into their community."
Over the years and through her travels, Azzouzi developed an interest in personal struggles, especially those of disadvantaged and underserved persons. She sees the field of social work as something important in which Muslims should participate.
"I would strongly encourage any young Muslim to get into the field of human services. Muslim clinicians are greatly needed not only for our own Islamic community but for the community at large, especially if they are a Muslim from a minority group," she says.
To young people who are interested in the field of human services, Azzouzi recommends to talk with people in the field and learn the requirements, and options for their desired work. Azzouzi notes that the current western mental health system often falls short in addressing the needs of diverse populations.
"Western medicine identifies the patient and then treats that patient, separate from their environment, family or community. In short, western medical treatment fits with the American individualistic society, where it is viewed that the patient is an entity in and of themselves," says Azzouzi.
She continues that persons who have been raised in a more collective society would respond better to treatment if all aspects of their lives were included in the treatment planning.
She imparts, "This includes, but is not limited to, using traditional healing methods such as spirituality, story telling, singing, ritualistic dances, and family participation along with westernized medicine."
When asked what issues Muslims should be focusing on as a community, she says that learning to be more united, with the foundation that Islam teaches, should continue to be the focus.
"We have a wide variety of cultures and identities within our community, and creating a strong Muslim community is going to have to entail making sure all persons are invited, have equal say and feel comfortable enough to speak up on community decisions," she offers.
She reflects, "I believe that in my heart, I was a Muslim long before I took official shahadda. In Islam, I found a religion that upheld and taught all the values I wanted to impart on my children."
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