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Habiba Zaman: On Helping People Align with Who They Really Are.

Just merely talking with Habiba Zaman made me leave the conversation feeling seen and heard. Her desire to learn more about people’s shared humanity, her curiosity for the world, and her commitment to healing herself and others has led Habiba to not only become a trauma therapist but now a published author. We talked about her book Beautifully Bare, Undeniably You and so much more. Can you tell me about your background? I have a pretty colorful background. I was born here but I was raised in Bangladesh by my grandparents. I’ve been in Atlanta for twenty-five years. I went to Georgia State University for my Undergraduate and Graduate degrees and pursued my passion in counseling.

What led you to know counseling was for you from a young age? I’ve always been interested in humans. I love being able to be part of people’s stories and be a witness to everything. The trust that people put in my hands is very important to me. I feel honored. Even when I was a kid, I was always an advocate. I fought for everyone’s rights, even at five years old if someone was bullying someone, I would stand up for them. My grandparents nurtured that in me. My father was a freedom fighter for the revolution so, fighting for what you believe in, is in my blood. As I grew older, being so sensitive to humans and what they’re going through and internalizing a lot of what they’re feeling became a lot for me to take in. There was a lot of change and upheaval when I was growing up. I really was in a dark place and there was a lot of trauma. There were many things I couldn’t cope with at a young age. I’m so grateful that my own son’s outlook and worldview on life, and on mental health and humans, is so different than what my worldview was at his age. My school counselor was the one that steered me in the direction of counseling. Her name was Mrs. Bunch. She came up to me and she yanked me by the arm and she just stood there and looked at me, as if she was looking into my soul. Me being the human that I am panicked. I went mute. I wasn’t used to having a voice or to speaking my thoughts. She said ‘Whatever it is, it won’t matter in five years.’ I was so good at being invisible, but she could see I was struggling. For her to see straight through me, it struck me to the core. On top of that, she made me feel like I could change things for myself. I started taking the steps I needed to take to get out of the situations I was in. I knew without the shadow of a doubt I wanted to do that for others. How did being raised in Bangladesh impact your life? I was there from when I was two to eight years old. I lived in a house where the grandparents were the queen and the king. There were so many people living in the same household. There was this sense of family that was so different than what I witnessed once I came to the U.S. There was always someone there. There was never an emptiness. On the other hand, I always wondered why everyone had their parents and I didn’t. Coming here to the U.S., I had my mother and father, but I would come home from school and I was alone.

Can you tell me about your work as a therapist? I’m a trauma therapist. I chose this profession because of personal experience and knowing there were lots of things to heal from, like attachment and identity issues. There were parts of me that felt like I didn’t belong, even in my own family. I knew I had to heal that before I could heal others. From an early age, I integrated myself into services where I could help people feel less alone in their own community. Not just in a sense where you look different,