Professional help (marriage, life)

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    The little I know


    I note your conciliatory tone in the last few comments. I remain stuck on a few things you mention that are still indicative of lack of knowledge here. So I will clarify further.

    You draw attention to the trend observed today that there is hyperfocus on trauma and victimization. I agree that this is overdone. I also note the early works of Sigmund Freud in which a great portion of the focus of psychoanalysis was about childhood trauma inflicted by parents. Current thinking has removed that obsession. With full recognition, there remains a huge amount of victimization, and there is nowhere enough resilience to brave such situations. Part of the increase in trauma is directly related to the decrease in resilience.

    You are correct that Torah contains every element needed to build self worth, and that this issue is central to many of the conditions brought before therapists. If we had the means of transmitting this to others, we could go far. This is expounded upon in many of the books from Rabbi Twersky. There are other books in the Judaica marketplace (many might be long out of print) that address the role of Torah in therapy or as therapy. I name Rabbi Bulka from Canada as one noted author. And many of our most recognized and revered Baalei Mussar were vocal on this. With sadness, I note that such approaches to human behavior lack the popularity deserved. And even among Rabbonim and other community leaders, this is not the rule.

    I can relate volumes of stories of individuals seeking rabbinical guidance on personal matters and suffering more than before. It is not for naught that our Chachomim established a line in our Viduy of יעצנו רע. That was set into place long before the advent of psychology.

    It is a mistake to portray the mental health field as basing all pathology on the client being the victim of someone else’s cruelty. That may be a common lay perception, but it is no more respectable than the proverbial comment of the psychiatrist asking, “Do you love your mother?” I haven’t a clue what your personal experience of therapy was. If it was a primitive as your generalizations, I feel sorry that your time and money were wasted. There are good therapists and some lousy ones. There are some good rabbonim and some who just don’t have it.

    You point to a valid distinction, that therapists create their career to give an allotted time to their clients. Rabbonim typically do not have that structure. A frequent result is that the Rov responds to the presenting problem, seeking to give advice, and figuring that compliance will resolve the problem. However, it is rarely true that the “presenting problem” is the real issue. That becomes a decoy, and addressing that misses the point. We have merited having some Rabbonim, including many of the Gedolei Yisroel, whose insight was stunning. They read through the individual immediately and got to the real crux of the matter. Without training or a Divine gift, this is not a “given” for a Rov.

    I welcome a course to train Rabbonim to be more proficient in providing services to their kehilos. Personal problems, marital, individual, parental, etc. abound, and the reality is that many in our community will approach their Rov before seeking professional help. If that Rov could recognize what falls within his domain to help, and what needs consultation and referral to a professional, there would be much to celebrate.

    I note your remark about Torah as an alternative to living as a survivor. I disagree. Torah gives us many reminders of our status as survivors of golus Mitzrayim, referring openly to the suffering there as well as the geula. But we are survivors. What you might have meant to say is the status of victimhood. That is a horrible place to be. And even for someone that underwent severe trauma, remaining the victim is prolonged torture. The goal of treatment is to help the individual rise from that to the status of survivor. That is actually a lofty status, and one the Torah openly guides us to recognize.


    “It is a mistake to portray the mental health field as basing all pathology on the client being the victim of someone else’s cruelty. ”

    This was meant as an example of people I know/ heard about their description of therapy- and they’re still struggling as a result…

    My personal experience was one who was confident that could help me, and let’s just say that I ended up in the hospital because the solution wasn’t what therapist has said it would be, and I diligently followed instructions…

    And then, less dramatic was the cbt which was plainly unhelpful. BH I recovered and emotionally is only because of Torah.


    I guess my point is that people have to take ownership of their own emotional/ mental health and see what helps, and if one Rav isn’t helpful, very likely another Rav may be. Just like in therapy it often takes time and effort to find one that works. The only difference is that Torah uplifts you above the issue in a way that therapy can’t, because it isn’t Hashem based because it’s not Torah

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