I am a relationship counselor, parent coach, author and speaker. I work with modern Muslims who yearn to find peace and happiness in their lives and are looking for fulfillment and connection in their relationships. I help them discover and practice simple, evidence-based tools to cultivate more love and happiness and decrease negativity in their lives and in their relationships.
Deeply influenced by spirituality, mindfulness, neuroscience, positive psychology and cognitive-behavioural therapy, I love to keep learning and am an academic at heart (a perpetual student some would say!). My approach combines timeless wisdom with current evidence-based psychology to bring simple tools to help those that I work with, speak to, and write for.
I am trained as a social worker and have a private practice (Family Connections International) based in Toronto, Canada. I also serve Muslim clients virtually from across North America and beyond.
And a longer version of my journey from a Bay Street Lawyer to a relationship consultant:
I grew up in Pakistan in a modern yet spiritual family that encouraged questioning, reflection and discussion as opposed to blind ritualistic observance. My parents encouraged me to study and follow my dreams even if it meant going far far away (these were the days when girls seldom ventured abroad to study . . .)
I chose to do my undergraduate in the USA (despite many people advising my father that it was a big mistake and that I may not get married). Immediately after completing my undergraduate degree in the USA, I got married like a good ‘desi’ girl and settled back in the US with my husband, started law school and also started a family.
And so I started my professional career with a graduate degree in Law (LLB) from the University of Toronto, Canada. While I was articling in a large and fancy Bay St. law firm specializing in corporate law, I began to recognize that the practice of corporate Law, as glamorous and financially lucrative as it was, was not a family (or soul) friendly profession.
Because I had two children while I was studying law (crazy, I know! Did I mention I believe in playing full out?), the realization of what life as a corporate lawyer would mean for my family life was beginning to dawn on me. After completing the study and being called to the bar in Ontario, I made the decision to take some time off to raise my (now) three young children.
Around the same time, we moved to England, and while I took the qualification exams and got on the roll of solicitors in the UK, I decided not to go back to work.
Instead, I spent my time pursuing various self-growth opportunities, including studying Quranic Arabic and going to every personal development seminar and workshop I could find. During this time, a few people close to me decided to end their marriages and I began to wonder about why it appeared to be so difficult to keep relationships strong and happy in modern times. The institutions of marriage and family that were so stable just a generation ago appeared to be crumbling all around me. I was determined to find out why this was the case so that I could help alleviate the sadness and suffering that it brought to families.
This was the beginning of a long journey of questioning, trying to find answers through training, research and self-study and finally moving on to professional training in the field of family relationships. While I initially started training in couples work, I was drawn to parenting programs mostly to help me in my own efforts to raise my children consciously while being far away from larger family support systems. I recognized that in order to do a good job as a parent in modern society with all its challenges, I needed to be intentional about creating a healthy, strong and connected family.
What I read about, learnt and practiced turned out to be so helpful to me in my own relationships and in raising a family that I informally began to share my newfound knowledge with friends and family at every opportunity. The informal sharing led to various public speaking opportunities, and then training in family counselling and psychotherapy. The rest, as they say, is history.
Currently, I travel across North America and beyond to present seminars and facilitate workshops. My work centres around my mission to strengthen families by focusing on psycho-education, personal development, relationship skills training and mindfulness. I love working with people individually and in groups to share practical, research-based advice that combines spiritual values with intentional action.
The formal stuff:
• University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario. Masters in Social Work (MSW)
• University of Toronto, Ontario. Bachelor of Laws (LL.B)
• University of Guelph, Ontario. Certificate in Couple and Family Therapy Studies
• Williams College, Williamstown, MA, USA. Bachelor of Arts in Economics and English Literature (BA)
Selected Professional Development and Certifications
• Registered Social Worker (RSW)
• Master Practitioner of NeuroLinguistic Psychology and Hypnotherapy (NLP) Innergize Training, Ontario.
• Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) Level 5 Practitioner. http://www.triplep.net
• PREP Instructor. (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program). https://www.prepinc.com
• Mindfulness Facilitator (with Michael Stone)
• Franklin Covey Facilitator for:
o The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families
o The 8 Habits of a Successful Marriage
o The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens
• Prepare and Enrich Facilitator (Premarital Counseling). http://www.enrichcanada.ca/
• P.I.C.K a Partner Program Facilitator (Spouse Selection)
• Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy
• Imago Therapy
• Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
• Solution Focused Counseling
• Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
• MBSR – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
• Journey Method Practitioner