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Selma Cook

Traditional Approach to Family Mental Health2In Thailand in the early 1990s the AIDS epidemic had already reared its ugly head throwing individuals and families into chaos. The stigma attached to AIDS drove mothers to abandon their babies, families to ostracize their relatives and individuals to isolate themselves and die alone. In this atmosphere, Sony Pathan became more than curious about this desperately sad phenomenon that she was witnessing. She spent much of her time with such patients, watching them grapple with their reality. This, she says, was a turning point in her life. She committed herself to helping people through traditional medicine.
Most traditional medicine in Thailand is formally practiced in Buddhist temples where people of all races and religions are welcomed. It was to these temples that Pathan went to watch and learn about illness, treatment, pain and death. ‘What touched me most,” she said, “is the emotional and spiritual pain that people go through that is often as bad as or even worse than the illness itself.”
Raised in a family that practices Islam as a way of life and that also embraces traditional healing methods, Pathan became passionate about the interconnectedness of the body, mind and spirit in terms of healing. “Traditional health is a part of Islam,” said Pathan, “there is no contradiction. When I’m treating patients, I make Du’aa and ask Almighty Allah to heal this person through my efforts. In the end, the healing and comfort come from Allah.”
After being actively involved on a volunteer basis in many of Thailand’s Traditional Medicine facilities, she became more and more committed to working in this field. All her life she has cared deeply about people and human suffering and she is driven to be a part of the healing process. She studied at the Thai Traditional Medical School and learned about Reflexology, Thai Massage and later, Acupuncture.
With more than fifteen years of experience in Thai Massage and Reflexology, and six years experience in Acupuncture, Pathan has helped a lot of people. “It is not just about massage and acupuncture; when I treat people I also talk to them and try to help them be more positive and see things differently. When people give up on life, illness comes quickly,” she said.

Pathan believes that many people see problems as a pressure and something that is completely negative, but she believes that we must learn to step back, understand the situation and learn how to face the problem and find joy in solving it. “A problem is a task and our job is to find a solution for it. We have to look at problems in a positive way,” she said.
During her years of working with people, Pathan has met individuals who have experienced tragedy, trauma and a variety of problems but she finds that many people pass the time and ignore the blessings that exist alongside the problems. “When we ignore the blessings of life,” she says, “we are ignoring life.”
Pathan believes that if people have a problem but feel positive, they have a much greater chance of finding a solution. For example, she sees that financial problems are not just a lack of money but that they often exist because we have too many desires and this makes us weak in our thinking. So, in order to fix the problem, we have to change the way we think.

According to Pathan, the challenge is to implement the verse of Qur’an that means, ‘with every difficulty, there is ease.’ She commented, “We have to learn to surrender to the hardship; accept it as our destiny, find a way out of it and recognize the ease that is there if we take the time to look.” In the end, it is Almighty Allah who sends the relief, the guidance and the insight to survive and learn from our experiences.
“Some people know how to find happiness. A positive mind looks at the one who has less than him,” she said.

Throughout the many years she has spent trying to help people Pathan has found that an ill person should be treated as a body, not as a machine. A therapist has to know and be convinced that Almighty Allah is the one who heals and that their role is to listen more, feel more, and understand more – the feelings, the symptoms, the pain. A therapist should develop a relationship with the patient making the individual feel more secure.
Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that illness comes about because of blockage in the energy channels of the body, so it works through the meridians. It works through the muscles, energy, lymphatic system and circulatory system. It seeks to control breathing and facilitate more oxygen in the body. The same applies to acupuncture and pressure points.
Pathan sees that many people only look for what they want, not for what the others want. She observed, “We have to work out how to solve this together. Your problem is my problem because we have to live in this world together.”

Sony Pathan can be contacted at sony_heat@hotmail.com

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