Invisible and Scrutinized

Invisible and Scrutinized

An interview with Dr. Sheila Modir on racial trauma and identity within the Middle Eastern North African (MENA) population. Curt and Katie talk with Sheila about how MENA individuals are impacted by racial profiling, prejudice, and the lack of data on the MENA community. We also explore typical coping strategies as well as how therapists can support MENA clients.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

Interview with Dr. Sheila Modir

Dr. Sheila Modir is a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC). She obtained a combined doctoral degree in Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and her master’s degree in social welfare at UCLA. Prior to coming to CHOC, Dr. Modir completed her doctoral internship at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior where she worked at the UCLA Stress, Trauma, and Resilience Clinic. Her research interests include racial trauma and understanding risk and resilience factors in the context of trauma, and she has presented at conferences and published articles on this topic. Most recently, she has written a children’s book (coming fall 2021) called The Proudest Color, which is a timely and sensitive introduction to race, racism, and racial pride for children.

In this episode we talk about:

  • MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) clients
  • The common mistake of assuming that all MENA clients are Muslim
  • A lack of data on immigration and the demographics of these clients
  • The lack of clinical research and education on MENA clients
  • An invisible community that is greatly scrutinized due to profiling
  • The layers of racial trauma
  • Bronson Brenner’s ecological model: Sociopolitical discrimination, Institutional discrimination, Relational discrimination due to “cultural ignorance”
  • The consistent portrayal of MENA individuals as terrorists, the Middle East as war-torn
  • MENA individuals called terrorists versus white individuals called “lone wolves” who are “mentally ill”
  • The impact of how the insurrection in January is viewed as “white terrorism”
  • What influences racism and bias against MENA clients
  • The typical coping strategies for MENA clients related to racial trauma
  • Resignation, cowering, “getting used to it” leading to depression and anxiety
  • Coping strategies, including education and being a cultural representative
  • The contrast between the Asian American community pushing back against the “model minority” while MENA clients are aspiring to be a model minority
  • The importance of identification of MENA individuals on the census
  • How the Muslim Ban has impacted MENA individuals’ relationship with the government
  • Clients minimizing, denying, not disclosing racial trauma
  • The thirst for appropriate and accurate information on culture
  • The benefit of affinity groups
  • How non-MENA therapists can best support MENA clients
  • The nuance of asking a MENA client to educate you as a therapist
  • Collectivist culture and how it shows up in the room, how it can be complicated
  • The challenge of cultural sensitivity when there is little research
  • A call to action regarding research and education

A Message from Therapy Reimagined:

Therapy Reimagined 2021 – The Modern Therapist Conference

Our Call for Sponsors is out!

We’re looking for right-match sponsors & exhibitors. We are seeking collaborative relationships that support the psychotherapist community. We commit to intensively engaging our audience with our valued sponsors and we love when our sponsors are actively involved in our conference.

Our conference attendees are:

  • #ModernTherapists who understand the value of business and technology
  • Ready to invest in themselves to launch (or scale) their small businesses
  • Building their networks of treatment providers
  • Hungry to engage in the resources in the psychotherapy community
  • Savvy with social media and have (or are in the process of building) an engaged online following
  • Marriage and Family Therapists, Social Workers, Counselors, Psychologists, and other mental health and wellness professionals

Learn more here:

Resources mentioned:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

For more information on Dr. Sheila Modir’s research:

Modir, S. & Kia-Keating, M. (2018). Exploring the Middle Eastern American college student experience: Discrimination, adjustment, and coping. Journal of College Student Development 59, 563-578.doi:10.1353/csd.2018.0053

Learn more about her at:

Twitter: @drsheilamodir

Instagram: @thelittlewellnessbookshelf


Relevant Episodes:

Iran, The News, and Your Clients

White Terrorism and Therapy

Let’s Talk About Race Again

Connect with us!

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Get Notified About Therapy Reimagined Conferences

Our consultation services:

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Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also Past President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapist’s Group


Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

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