Interview with Rosa Khorshidi (Excerpts)

NEAFAST is eager to highlight the work of its members, and are honored to introduce Rosa Khorsidi..

Rosa has worked with individuals, couples, and families since 1991 in Iran and America. Relationships, especially couples therapy, is her focus. She is the world's first Iranian/Muslim Certified EFT Therapist. She is also the only Muslim LMFT of MA and the only Iranian LMFT of New England.

Jeremiah Gibson: How did you become interested in doing couples therapy?

Rosa Khorshidi: My parents were two amazing individuals, but very distant as a couple. My mom was quiet and passive, whereas my father was dominant and had the final say. And I never remember them being having fun together. For some reasons, it impacted me more than my other siblings. Once when I was possibly eleven or twelve, it was a hot summer in Tehran, and I was playing in the neighborhood.  I’m talking about maybe 40—45 years ago. I felt thirsty and rushed in to grab some water and go back to play with our neighbor’s kids. The radio was on—it was my mom’s habit that always left the radio on no matter what—and I was spelled, I was amazed, I was shocked, I was…something magic happened to me when I heard a man—to this date I don’t know his name- talking about family dynamics. I even remember what he was saying. And I just froze over there. I listened. I also forgot I wanted to drink water and just listened to the end—it was a talk show on the radio. At the end of his talk, I had already made my decision: I want to be what this man was without even knowing he was a family therapist.

Because of my family climate, and its impact on me, I decided to do what that man was doing—as an occupation, I mean—and help people have better families. Later on, when I came to the United States in 2009, I had to repeat my degree…and they didn’t also accept my license, so I had to redo all of them. After graduation, while I was working as an in-home therapist at the Home for Little Wanderers, Nancy Knudsen just out of the blue, told me: “Rosa, why don’t you go into EFT?” And EFT back then was mostly about couples therapy; now it expanded to individual and family therapy as well. Despite being a marriage and family therapist, I barely even head about EFT.  Long story short, I listened to her and was utterly blown away by EFT. It’s been over five years since I started my first course in EFT. From day one, I knew that I found my cup of tea; this is who I am.

Jeremiah: How did you find yourself practicing differently in the U.S. than in Iran?

Rosa: Wow, way different. To be honest with you, I’m happy that they made me get another master’s degree here. During a course named “Contemporary Theories in Family Therapy,” I was exposed to Michel Foucault’s ideas in post-modernism that literally changed my whole world. I vividly remember this sentence that again totally blew me away: he says, “There’s no reality; there’s no truth out there. Reality is socially constructed through  language by the dominant power.” Wow, that was one of those eureka turning points of my life. So, then I realized I was very judgmental in Iran without even being aware of it. I realized that while giving consultation in therapy, ,I stuck to my values and imposed them to my clients!  I felt like in  the therapy sessions; I was more often an instructor, a teacher: “You should do this, you should do that.” There was a right or wrong way of doing everything; everything was either black or white, nowhere in between. And right now, when I look back, I cannot believe it was me because I’m way far from those days. Here, I learned to be a different therapist. Before becoming a certified EFT therapist, I was a certified Narrative therapist. Narrative Therapy also changed my practice tremendously. And learned to meet people where they are at; I just walk with them, maybe one step ahead, but mostly shoulder to shoulder, with acceptance, empathy; I just accept them as who they are. Not in my wildest dreams I could ever imagine that a gay couple would come to me, see me: a practicing Muslim. And right now I have a polyamorous triad as my clients and they’re very happy. I’m very happy too.

Jeremiah: How have you found the process of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy?

Rosa: The foundation of EFT is attachment theory, which is meta-cultural, meta-racial, meta-generational it’s above everything. It’s above history, above genetics, above everything. That was my missing piece of the puzzle. I wrote an article about it on ICEEFT’s Newsletter with this topic.  Of course, I always say that I add some Middle Eastern/Iranian spice to the EFT recipe. But the foundation completely works for every culture. By the way, not all of my clients are Iranian and Middle Eastern. Right now, I think my client population is 50/50 Americans and Middle Easterns, including Iranians.

Jeremiah: In your experience, what are strengths of Middle Eastern couple relationships that can inform the ways that couples therapy is effectively practiced?

Rosa: Strength… Um, it’s a collectivist culture, and they highly value family. They usually do their best to keep the family together because they care about what others think of them, and that can be something to invest in. And, um, The Middle Eastern women are more flexible. What else can I say about them? Yeah, they believe in family more than I have seen in my Western couples.

Jeremiah: What feedback would you give to new couples therapists?

Rosa: Go and learn EFT—it really works for couples. If you have further questions, let me know.

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