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Gulamabbas Lakha

Gulamabbas Lakha

BA, PGDip, MA, MPhil, MSc, CFA

DPhil Candidate & Tutor

  • Neuroscience, Ethics & Society Research Group
  • Ethox Centre Research Group
  • Tutor in Psychology of Religion

Personalised mental health and religious ethics

My current research project is a DPhil in Psychiatry, within the Neuroscience, Ethics & Society team, investigating how faith-based concepts and practices can be harnessed to improve accessibility and adherence to interventions for depression, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and mindfulness based approaches, with specific regard to depression in the UK Muslim population. This process brings together my ministry work as a Shaykh with my academic training in psychology, so as to develop new ways of thinking about faith and psychotherapy, in partnership with patients, practitioners and policy makers. This research employs  an empirical ethics methodological framework, supervised by Professor Ilina Singh (Department of Psychiatry) and Dr Michael Dunn (Nuffield Department of Population Health, Ethox Centre).

This doctoral research has culminated in the development of the Faith Informed Therapy framework, which focuses on ten psychotherapeutic techniques that are central to the major NICE approved interventions for depression and anxiety. This framework facilitates personalised mental health for people from faith communities, as it can be used flexibly by practitioners to calibrate their chosen interventions, ranging from simple ‘external’ presentation of congruence between standard therapies and religion, to deeper ‘internal’ adaptations to interventions, integrating standard concepts and practices with faith adapted ones. In response to the mental health challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic, the FAITH OxCast project will provide ten online videos for six major world religions, in partnership with the Oxford Faculty of Theology & Religion.

I am also interested in the neuroscience of religious experience, having undertaken a pilot study comparing EEG neural correlates of an Islamic mindfulness practice (dhikr) and a common breath-based meditation from NHS approved interventions. Future developments to this research are planned using fMRI neural imaging techniques.

Teaching commitments form a growing component of my activities, including lectures, tutorials, seminars and research supervision for various courses including Mental Health and Religion, Psychology of Religion, Neuroscience & Religion, Islamic Studies, and Medical Ethics, across different academic departments and colleges.

A diverse professional and academic background has created a passion for combining multiple disciplines to develop new mental health treatments, drawing upon my community work over the last decade and recent postgraduate studies in psychology, neuroscience, Islamic studies, history and theology.  My previous research includes empirical studies on how ʾakhlāq (ethical and psychological teachings from Islam) may contribute to treating depression and anxiety.  Prior to that I worked with early Arabic primary sources to investigate the reception history of Al-Ṣaḥīfa al-Sajjādiyya, one of the earliest Islamic prayer manuals, that is rich in positive psychology, commentaries of which had not previously been studied in Western scholarship.

My professional background over the last two decades has been in quantitative finance and I manage an investment firm I founded in 2004, having originally graduated in Economics & Econometrics and subsequently awarded the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.

Community engagement has been a key activity over the last decade and I am actively involved in working with faith communities, particularly the UK Muslim community, which serves as a constant reminder about the need for practical applications of research, particularly with regard to how existing frameworks in daily life (such as religious practices) can be harnessed for therapeutic benefit and promoting mental health.