Harvard Psychologist and Orthodox Rabbi Create Workshop for Spiritual & Psychological Development


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September 28, 2015

Malka Akhenblit

[email protected]


New York, NY — A new 12-week workshop is merging the worlds of psychology and spirituality in a dynamic way.

The Connections Program was developed by Harvard psychologist David H. Rosmarin, PhD, and Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen. Drawing from core concepts in evidence-based psychotherapy and based on the principles of Mussar (traditional Jewish thought that deals with personal growth) the program focuses on the acquisition of concrete tools to increase connection between body and soul, with other people, and with God.

“I will admit that initially I was skeptical about this project,” said Rosmarin, who reported that his training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy rarely touched on spiritual matters. “However, our initial results with nearly 50 workshop participants have been very impressive.”

Those results, which were presented at a national psychotherapy convention in 2014, included statistically significant decreases in stress and worry, and an increased sense of trust and reliance in God. More fundamentally, many participants have reported noteworthy life changes.

One individual – a young woman in her early 20s who asked to remain nameless – had been grappling with anorexia for over a decade before participating in the Connections Program. Since completing the workshop about a year ago not only has she maintained adequate weight, she also has a much stronger sense of self. In her words, “It’s not about loving myself because of how I look or even feel. It’s about loving myself because that is what my soul is here to do… I need to take care of my body and provide for all of her needs and love her just because she’s mine.”

Another woman in her mid-40s wrote, “This journey has been unlike anything I have experienced. I came seeking relief from relentless anxiety symptoms and have achieved that goal to a very significant degree. Along with that though, I have had such consistent and deeper calm and peace. As I go through my days I’m perpetually amazed that I’m staying connected pretty much through just about whatever I’m doing – even through the most potentially harried times like the mad rush in the mornings getting kids to school, driving carpool, getting to work, etc. It is really beyond belief except that I am living through the experience!”

Rosmarin commented as follows, “We must recognize that mental health in America today is in really bad shape. More than one in five women has a full blown major depressive episode at least once over the lifespan, nearly one in five Americans has a diagnosable anxiety disorder each and every year, and in 2013 one in ten doctors visits resulted in the prescription of a psychotropic medication! If traditional Jewish wisdom has answers to these problems, our field needs to take that seriously.”

Initially, the Connections Program was open only to participants in research studies, in order to do an initial test of its effects. However, last year there was sufficient interest to offer participation to the general public through Dr. Rosmarin’s clinical offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn at the Center for Anxiety [www.centerforanxiety.org].

“We started getting phone calls from friends and family of past participants and others who had heard about the program” said Malka Akhenblit, social work intern at the Center for Anxiety and coordinator for the Connections Program. “People are very excited about this!” she added, noting that in the most recent workshop, ten of twelve participants said they would recommend that others participate in the program, and the average ratings for professionalism, workshop sessions and take-home exercises ranged from 4.4 to 4.6 on a scale ranging from 1-5.

The next Connections Program will run weekly on Wednesday nights from 7:30-8:45pm starting later this month (October, 2015) and running through the end of December. The Program will be hosted in the Center for Anxiety’s Brooklyn office at 3692 Bedford Avenue, but remote participation by live webinar is also available for individuals who cannot attend in person. To learn more about the Connections Program, come to a FREE information session, which will outline the details, goals, and structure of the program, on Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 at the above address. For more information or to register please contact Malka Akhenblit at [email protected] or 646.837.5557.