Most families seeking therapy lack intimacy in their relationships, says Muslim welfare group PPIS

Out of 1,572 cases of families and couples seeking therapy seen by the Singapore Muslim Women's Assocation since 2015, 95 per cent can be attributed to the lack of understanding and the practising of intimacy.
Out of 1,572 cases of families and couples seeking therapy seen by the Singapore Muslim Women's Assocation since 2015, 95 per cent can be attributed to the lack of understanding and the practising of intimacy.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The most common underlying cause driving families to seek therapy is the lack of intimacy in their relationships, a Muslim welfare organisation has found.

Out of 1,572 cases of families and couples seeking therapy seen by the Singapore Muslim Women's Association (PPIS) since 2015, 95 per cent can be attributed to the lack of understanding and the practising of intimacy.

To address this, the association is holding a two-day symposium at Concorde Hotel on Wednesday (April 11) and Thursday to encourage discussions about intimacy and culture.

The event aims to bring intimacy to the forefront of conversations among practitioners working with families, PPIS said in a statement.

Participants will discuss intimacy across cultures and the importance in expanding the concept of intimacy to multiple contexts such as addiction, in working with families. They will learn ways to nurture intimacy in couple and family interactions, and find out about new research and writing tools in the practice, PPIS added.

At the event, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, told reporters: "The most important thing is to get into the dynamics of a family. I think we have to go down to the basic fundamental level - what brings couples together, and what is it we can do to help them to strengthen their relationships."

PPIS, a non-profit organisation that helps women and families by providing family services, student care and early childhood education, started a Family Therapy Institute to offer family therapy services in 2015.

Madam Maimunah Mosli, the clinical supervisor and principal family therapist leading the PPIS Family Therapy Institute, told reporters the definition of intimacy must be expanded beyond that which is sexual in nature.

Couples must be more willing to express their emotional vulnerabilities to feel safe discussing their perceptions of intimacy, she said, adding that this problem is not exclusive to one particular ethnic race.

"The struggle with our community is that people wonder, 'Can I express intimacy in the presence of other people?'", said Madam Maimunah.

She observed that instead of a caring touch, couples might become brusque with their interactions, or misinterpret each other's affection for sexual desire.

Madam Maimunah said many people are not well versed in the rich and complex language of intimacy but families must discuss their emotional, psychological and religious intimacies in order to be in tune with one another for healthy relationships.

Another keynote speaker at the symposium on Wednesday was Mr Terry Real from the United States, an author and family therapist of more than 25 years.

He gave tips to social services practitioners on how to effect lasting change on people they work with, in a more precise and effective manner.

Professionals from fields such as social services and healthcare said they hope to gain greater knowledge on the issue of intimacy from the symposium.

Mr Udhia Kumar, 48, a social worker, said: "I realised that we have to know and be aware of our own intimacy experience and needs, and how it shapes us when we are in conversation with others."