Sunday, August 18, 2013

Torah Psychotherapy: Learned from Torah or doesn't violate Torah?

 Update:8/18/13 I'd like to summarize what I understand Ploni is suggesting regarding developing a Torah therapy. 1) It is desirable to have psychotherapy based upon the insights of those who contributed to our Mesorah instead of either a purely secular therapy or one that the therapist hopefully selects elements that are compatible with  Torah and avoids those elements which are against the Torah. 2) There is also at the present no clear guidelines for the goals of therapy. Ploni is suggesting that we identify Torah appropriate goals and avoid inappropriate goals. 3) Before a true  Torah therapy is developed it is important that there be some official psak as to what secular therapy is appropriate for use with frum Jews.  4) Therapy needs on going rabbinic supervision as well a prescreening by rabbis.
My simple response to this is a practical one. I don't think it is feasible because it is essential creating mashgichim for therapy. In Ploni's future I can see that we have Bedatz therapy and therapists and OU therapy and therapists. Who are these mashgichim going to be? By and large rabbonim who don't understand therapy - but think they do. So why should they supervise it? In addition it would seem that each client would need not only to find a therapist but also a rabbinic supervisor to assure that therapy is going on in line with rabbinic approval. I find this rather intrusive and counterproductive as well as cumbersome. An alternative would be that only rabbis would be allowed to be therapists. This also is not a good idea because many talented therapists are not capable of learning properly while many Torah giants would simply relate to a client as they do a shtender. We see how child abuse has been handled with rabbinic supervision and I don't have reason to think therapy would be handled any better. I find the idea of total rabbinic supervision rather depressing. Furthermore while I think theoretically it is possible to build a Torah therapy, I am not convinced that a Torah therapy would actually work better than a selective use of secular therapy or developing new neutral techniques which don't claim roots in halacha or hashkofa.
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There have been a number of heated discussion about the issue of Torah psychotherapy. Part of the problem is clearly defining what is meant. Equally important is whether the "Torah therapy" is actually derived from Torah sources in the Hirschian sense - or whether they are simply translation of secular language and metaphors into Torah terms? In other words, does the Torah define what a good marriage or child rearing is - or are secular standards used and Torah is simply used as a tool. Does Torah prescribe ways to reduce anxiety or become more sociable or outgoing  - or is it derived from Dale Carnegie or Freud?
Update: See additional discussion about frum self-help books

Update: This is more than an academic question. A friend was informed by an activist in a major Torah community that 50% of community charity monies are now going to provide psychotherapy. Most of it was spent on frum therapists who had received at most a years training in a frum therapy program. The askan was not only upset about the amount of money being spent but he said he had no idea of whether the therapists were competent and had no way of determining whether the money was being well spent.

Update 8/14/13 If in fact the therapy is truly Torah therapy - then it would seem that there could be no excuse to use secular therapy. However problems clearly exist when Torah principles of what constitutes proper education or the ideal marriage clearly are inconsistent - not only with modern secular values but also that of the vast majority of Orthodox Jews. 
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Conclusion - Update 8/16/13 It is apparent from the comments to this post is that there is no such thing as Torah Psychology or Torah Therapy that was given at Sinai. There are psychological insights which are found in our Tradition which can be used in therapy - but they don't constitue a program of therapy. A psychology or therapy based primarily or exclusive on Torah sources might be desirable - but it doesn't exist at present and it clearly is not part of our Tradition from Sinai.
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There are a number of possibilities. 
1) Mental health achieved by prescribing Torah activities.  A person with low self esteem might be told to make a siyum to build his self esteem. A person who is shy, might be encouraged to do chesed to be less self-conscious. A man who has anxiety and depression by being in an adulterous relationship with another man's wife is told to stop sinning and do teshuva. A person might be told to pray at the graves of great tzadikim.

2) Therapy done by a rabbi or rebbetzin.  Some believe that any therapeutic technique that is done by a religious authority is Torah therapy. This may or may not include using religious language and examples. Thus there is absolutely no difference in the technique - only the person doing the therapy. An example is Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein's declaration that while psychologists have techniques for evaluating whether a person is a pedophile or child molester - only a talmid chachom actually knows.

3) Traditional secular psychotherapy techniques that don't violate halacha OR HASHKAFA [Ploni's correction]. A secular therapist once told me that the cure for the depression for his  yeshiva bachur client - was to get a girl from and engage in sexual relations. Obviously this was not acceptable. Another example is that some therapy is predicated about speaking lashon harah about parents and friends. A Torah therapy would seek a cure without using such techniques if at all possible.

4) Techniques developed from classic Jewish sources such as mussar or chassidic writings- without reference to secular sources. These typically involve using a conceptual framework of spirituality that if found in seforim such as Mesilas Yeshorim- often kabbalistic ideas are utilized.. No reference is made to secular psychology at all. However a secular therapist will typically recognize these techniques as variations of secular therapy.
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Thus ultimately the question is whether there is an inherent Torah approach to curing mental health problems. To answer this question it should be sufficient to observe whether great Torah scholars are also great therapists? I personally think the answer is no. Rav Moshe Feinstein is quoted in the introduction to the 8th volume of the Igros Moshe that being a gadol in Torah doesn't make one a successful politician or provide other wisdoms. Gedolim typically tell people with psychological problems to go the therapists. It is really no different than a medical problem. While there clearly are rabbis who have an innate talent for therapy - it doesn't seem that this is the result of studying Torah. There are in fact wise people from all sorts of backgrounds who are able to give therapeutic advice and direction.
A corollary of this answer that there is no inherent Torah therapy is the reality that advice from rabbis is not beyond question. One rosh yeshiva told me about a friend of his who was having marriage problems. He said it was obvious that the couple should never have gotten married. However since he was a student of Rav Moshe Feinstein he went and asked for advice. Rav Moshe told him emphatically that he should remain married. The man suffered for 5 more years and finally couldn't take it any more and got divorced. The rosh yeshiva - who was close with Rav Moshe - said his friend wasted 5 years of his life.  I have heard this regarding other gedolim such as Rav Steinman. Rabbis - even amongst the greatest - are known to have bad marriages or messed up children. This is readily stated in the Talmud.

Update 8/15/13 From Rav Wolbe's article on Psychiatry and Religion it is clear that there is no independent Jewish psychology or psychotherapy given at Sinai - but psychology which has been adapted or filtered to be appropriate for a religious Jews. this is from page 77.


היחס של היהדות הדתית אל הטיפול הפסיכיאטרי.

ידוע הוא יחס התורה של חכמת הרפואה בכללה: הרשות ניתנה לרופא לרפא - "ורפוא ירפא" כתיב  - וחיוב מוטל על האדם:

"ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותינם"  ~. ויש מרבותינו הסוברים כי פקודתו של רופא יש לה דין של "מצוה מדאורייתא" בכל החומרות שלה. והי' צריך להיות מובן מאליו, כי לפסיכיאטרי' מגיע אותן מעמד כמו לשאר ענפי הרפואה. הרי דבר פשוט הוא: כל הפרעה רצינית, אם נוירוטית אם פסיכוטית, צריכה לבוא בהקדם האפשרי לאבחנה פסיכאטרית ולטיפול מתאים. למרבה הצער, האמת הפשוטה הזאת אינה נחלת הציבור הרחב, וזאת משתי סיבות: נפוצים משפטים קדומים בכל הקשור למחלות-נפש, וגם שוררת אי-ידיעה ככל השייך לתחום זה.

ישנם משפטים קדומים רבים בענין, הראשון - המחריד ביותר: יש החושבים, כי חולה-נפש מהווה כתם על המשפחה כולה. בעיני ראיתי, איך משפחה טובה מאד התכחשה לבן יקר שיצופרני; בתחילה התכחשה לאבחנה. אחר-כן. עם התקדמות המחלה, התעלמה מהחולה עצמו, שעזב את הבית והתגלגל במסדרון של איזה מוסד בחוסר כל ובלי שום טיפול. כמוכן, כל מי שיש לו השפעה על משפחות החולים, חייב ללחוץ על המשפחה שיביאו את החולה לטיפול פסיכיאטרי, ובהקדם! - משפט קדום שני מכוון נגד האישפוז: על מי שהי' מאושפז פעם, מוטבעת גושפנקא של "אינו מן הישוב", וזה מערים קשיים על עתידו אפילו אם הבריא לגמרי. עוד זאת חוששים קרובי החולה, שהאישפוז עצמו יגרום הרעה במצב החולה. גם בזה יש צורך בהסברה לציבור הרחב, כי הרופאים מודעים לאפשרות זאת, והם עושים כל אשר ביכולתם למנוע אישפוז מיותר. רצוי שהציבוו ידע, כי היום עומדות לרשות הפסיכיאטרים תרופות חדישות שחוללו מהפכה בטיפול במחלות פסיכוטיות. [...]

בעיות אלו משותפות לציבור הדתי ולפסיכיאטרים. יש צורך דחוף בארגון קורסים לרבנים בפועל ולמחננים, במטרה להפיץ ידע בסיסי על הסימפטונים של נוירוזה ןפסיכוזה ודרכי הטיפול שלהן בקווים כלליים, כדי שידעו להפנות חולים בהקדם אל הרופא. ידיעה בסיסית היתה מסלקת הרבה משפטים קדומים!

174 comments :

  1. My position is that there is no Torah therapy, or guidance in Torah sources on how to deal with mental illness.
    BTW, it is important to distinguish between diagnosis and therapy (in all illnesses).
    whether Neviim had insight is also not clear - since Neviim did not see everything, and often were lied to by people, hence they could not read others' minds.

    If there isn't a Torah therapy, or a Diagnostic Halacha, then I am interested to ask again about a previous sevara made on DT, that if certain mental illnesses didn't appear in historical teshuvot, perhaps they did not exist.
    Perhpas they did exist, but were not recognised or diagnosed.

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  2. No way - cognitive behavioral approaches - which happen to be in line with the Torah perspective, are by far the most effective.

    Just google "efficacy of cognitive therapy in treating sexual offenders" and you'll see plenty of studies to back this premise.

    One example: A meta-analysis at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2924729/

    There are however several shortcomings. Not the least is the problem with MOTIVATION. How do you motivate the abuser to deny himself the pleasure of his deviant thoughts and instead accept the need for "reduction of cognitive distortions; the development of effective problem-solving strategies; improved social and victim perspective-taking; improving sexual and social relationships; managing affective states; reducing deviant sexual arousal; and developing adaptive thinking processes, affect, and behavior" (Taken from https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=207006)?

    This is where spirituality and religion can help. Positive Psychologists have recognized the power of what they call "a life of affiliation", where a person finds happiness in living a meaningful life that gives him the opportunity to be part of something BIGGER than his own (perhaps wretched) life.

    Mainstream psychology considers Spirituality to be a type of alternative therapy. I think mainstream psychology considers the most powerful aspects of Religion as taboo. They tolerate religious practice and some accept the palliative effect of a "kinder, gentler" religion. But they see the "absolute Truth" part of religion - where one is ready to die for his beliefs - as absurd. This "absolute Truth" part of religion happens to be it's most powerful aspect, since it gives one the motivation to withstand the powerful pull of deviant habits, because of the belief that a Higher Power is watching and Helping.

    Being a "practicing" religious person isn't enough, since religious practice is often motivated by habit or by extrinsic factors. Studies stress the importance of an INTRINSIC religious lifestyle, based on a deeply held belief system that's protected from societal misconceptions.

    Yes, it's hard work, but it's possible. In the final analysis, I'm convinced that a robust protocol of cognitive behavioral therapy coupled with a clear, detailed course on religious thought based on original religious texts can be extremely powerful.

    Lest someone think that I'm coming out of "left field" with some irrational approach, please note that over thirty years ago Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shimon Schwab, Rav Avigdor Miller and Rav Yakov Weinberg all gave their endorsement to Rabbi Avrohom Amsel's book on the subject called "Rational Irrational Man". His approach is very similar to that which I have just noted.

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    Replies
    1. the book is horrible.
      See a review - Rational Irrational Man: Torah Psychology by Avrohom Amsel
      Irwin I. Mansdorf
      Tradition
      Vol. 16, No. 4 (SUMMER 1977), pp. 149-152

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    2. Amsel views mental illness as being the result of sin

      This attitude is discussed in depth by Dr. Moshe Spero as well as the review in Tradition I mentioned above.

      http://bjpa.org/Publications/downloadPublication.cfm?PublicationID=1616

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    3. Yeah. But he also writes "Judaism, like psychology, insists upon acceptance and impartiality as the basic attitude of the therapist toward the client. The therapist's operating tools are sympathy, empathy, understanding and compassion". (pg. 264).

      Don't forget - he's a Baal Musser. So we are ALL sinners, and still we can do Teshuva and bask in Hashem's grace.

      He told me that people misunderstand him.

      I agree with most of what R' Amsel writes, although I think his actual treatment plan isn't the strongest. I believe that his points on free will, concept of Mazal and the difference between the Jewish vs. the psychological unconscious are all valid. He wrote his book when Freud's pschoanalysis was still in style, but much of what he says applies equally to today's psychodynamic overemphasis on early childhood problems and blaming parents for all evils is definitely overblown. After all, the Rambam in the beginning of Hilchos Dayos mentions FIVE sources of character traits. Why do contemporary therapists ignore four out of five?

      His point that mental illness is usually a continuum of normalcy and not something distinct and should be treated as such is also solid and backed by many contemporaries.

      However, I think his treatment plan – although cognitive by nature – mostly focuses on overcompensating for bad traits by going to the opposite extreme, based on the Rambam. It's a difficult path (see Arvei Nachal on Parshas Vayishlach) and I think that there's much more to be done, like the "life of affiliation" that I mentioned earlier – which we would call Devaikus – and all the cognitive processes entailed in making this possible. Additionaly, there's harnessing the evil urge for good, which is how the Maharsho, Alshich, etc. explain the Gemara in Shabbos that האי מאן דבמאדים יהי גבר אשיד דמא א''ר אשי אי אומנא אי גנבא אי טבחא אי מוהלא.

      Please point out what else I'm missing.

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    4. OK. I glanced through Spero's thesis, and I'll freely admit that most of what he writes goes over my head. What I won't admit – is his preoccupation with the import of whether or not mental illness is caused by sin or causes sin, etc.

      Why is it irrelevant? Because Judaism is basically behavioral, so the question is really "what works"? We happen to be standing at a juncture in time when EBT's (Empirically Based Therapies) happen to line up nicely to the Torah approaches to dealing with sinful thoughts, while psychotherapies still don't have a strong evidence base. So why are we still looking for solutions in all the wrong places?

      A case in point is Eating Disorders, – the most deadly of all mental illnesses. Psychotherapists continue to ignore all the up-to-date research and stubbornly stick to therapy, causing untold suffering.

      PS: I don't like Spero's backhand comment about Mr. Wikler's "mysterious Rabbinic authorities and R' Amsels' limited familiarity of psychology. Did he fail to notice R' Amsel's impressive Haskamos? Is Rav Moshe only good we WE want him?

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    5. excerpts of book review of Amsel's Judaism and Psychology which appeared in Tradition 1977

      Part I
      Amsel is correct in accusation that many Orthodox Jewish therapists have become so imbued with Freudian thinking so as to distort the Torah's view of rational man. More important is that, in attempting to alleviate patient problems, some therapists subscribing to analytic theory tend to totally ascribe the causes of behavior to unseen and unconscious (what Amsel calls "irrational") motives. In doing so, outwardly committed Jews may be ignoring Torah views on personality and behavior, which stress, for the most part, personal responsibility for behavior. To this end, Amsel has made a contribution. Far too many psychotherapists have for too long viewed psychoanalytic ritual as a science which can do no wrong. This, however, has long been recognized by many psychologists, and Amsel's views on the matter are hardly original and certainly not "trail-blazing" (as the jacket description would have one believe) . His contribution could. well have been delivered in a different framework, one which does not take a distortive and viciously antagonistic attitude toward all of psychological theory simply because of some errors of psychoanalysis.

      Amsel proceeds to indict psychology for a series of alleged inconsistencies with Jew thought. His discourse is professionally immature, in that he attributes certain characteristics to psychology which most Psychology I students would recognize as false (e.g., claiming that behaviorist theory agrees with psychoanalytic principles). An extensive analysis of the book, given its wholesale misrepresentation of psychology, is beyond the scope of this review. Instead, several (of many) examples of Amsel's distortions will be pointed out.

      Amsel places far too great an emphasis on the influence Freudian psychic determinism has on psychotherapeutic practice. While inconsistencies with Jewish though: may indeed be present, one must separate the theory from the practice. Many psychoanalysts, for example, might contend that while they do not subscribe to questionable areas of psychoanalytic theory they find its techniques useful in practice. Moreover, as noted by Mischel,1 Freud did not necessarily believe that all of one's actions are irrational and impulse driven. In fact, a healthy ego would preclude such behavior. More important however, are the advances in behavioral and social learning theories of personality in the last twenty years which have been totally ignored by Amsel. As a "trail-blazing" theorist, Amsel should know quite well that the influence Freudian theories of personality have onr contemporary psychological theorizing is far from widespread. That is because current psychological thought, as most scientific thought seeks to be descriptive, not explanatory. Scientific (including psycho logical) determinism, thus, slmply means that any given event is caused by events which precede it ls this any different from the view of the Vilna.Gaon,2 who says,

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    6. Part II
      The strict, rigid determinism of Freudian theory, as well as other deterministic theories, is not totally accepted in psychology, and is a matter of strong debate (see Carpenter,a pp. 68-77).

      Because of Amsel's initial erroneous equation of Freudian theory with all psychological theory, his subsequent contention that psychologists focus on determinants of behavior which negate individual free will and self direction is also in error. The entire burgeoning field of behavior therapy, for the most part, (as noted by Rimm and Masters+) does not actively concern itself with hypothesized internal and uncontrollable states of behavior. They tend to concentrate on the particular maladaptive behavior in question. Furthermore, most social learning theorists (e.g., Banduras) indicate that individuals play an important active, rather than passive, role in producing the various behavioral contingencies with which they come into contact.

      Amsel's strong focus on the internal ("rational") motivations in man does not give justice to Judaism's and behavioral psychology's view that external contingencies can influence behavior and modify it. By showing that behavior (includng criminal behavior) may be in part controlled by external events, one does not have to conclude (as Amsel does) that these events caused the behavior, thus justifying it. Correlation, as most scientists know, does not imply causation.

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    7. Part III
      Hence, in Judaism, we have the concept of seyag latorah, an external contingency applied without regard to an individual's internal controls. Other types of external contingencies may function to cause anxiety and fear, which may manifest itself as a phobia. Such anxiety and fear, according to Amsel (p 16) is strictly a case of one's not having emunah, and is a sin. It has long been demonstrated, however,

      · (e.g., Watson and Rayner") that a fear can be acquired through an unpleasant association, a classical conditioning phenomenon. Thus, one who walks in a street and is bitten by a dog may develop a fear of dogs. Is such a person a "sinner" according to Amsel? If so, what is the onesh?

      Rabbi Amsel's selective use of Judaic sources also bears some mention. In discussing Rabbi Moshe Feinstein's7 ruling on shoteh, he brings R. Moshe's comments that a shoteh l'davar ehad can effect a divorce, as evidence that such a person is responsible for his actions. Rabbi Amsel fails to note, however, that R. Moshe (citing among others, Maimonides) differentiates between a kinyan (as divorce) and mitsvot in general. With regard to a kinyan, which divorce is, he is responsible, but in the greater realm of responsibility, as in mitsvot, he is not responsible.

      Amsel spends considerable time on the relationships between physiology, pharmacology and behavior. For example, he contends that Judaism does not believe that physiological and chemical agents can strip man of his free will. This entire treatment of physiological in- fluences on behavior is questionable. One wonders if Amsel would recommend seeking treatment from practitioners who believe (as Amsel cites from Talmudic sources) that the spleen controls laughter and the kidneys cognition. As to the inability of chemicals to influence behavioral choice, what would Amsel say to the Talmudic discussion of נכנס יין יצא סודו
      Does this not indicate an altering of choice? Moreover, the Midrash Tanhumah discusses the influence alcohol has on behavior change in discussing Noah. It mentions the limitations one must place on such imbibing and states

      שותה יותר גדי נעשה כחזיר

      While there are certainly questions in the areas of psychology and Judaism, Amsel's treatise is not the answer. Its pretentiousness and egotistical style, its lack of citations for incredible remarks, and basic nisrepresentation of psychology is misleading and unfortunate. His point that Jewish values must be considered in therapy is well taken, but his indictment of psychology as a whole is largely incorrect arid erroneous. The subject matter covered by this book is interesting, but requires one who is a psychologist (which Amsel is not) or familiar with psychological theory (which Amsel is not) to give it justice.

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    8. Firstly, I approach this subject with more than a bit of uneasiness. The endorsements of Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shimon Schwab, Rav Avigdor Miller and Rav Yakov Weinberg for R' Amsel's book are right there for all to see. Why does the reviewer fail to mention this fact? Is he alluding to the unspoken belief among therapists that they know more about the subject than these illustrious Rabbonim? Did he fail to notice what Rav Moshe wrote, that "His views regarding life and the dynamics of the Soul are in accordance with those of the Torah"?

      At the very least, the reviewer should openly state that he doesn't believe that these Rabbonim – including Rav Moshe Feinstein – know what they're talking about when it comes to mental illness! R' Amsel told me that Rav Moshe's son actually found a source of funding for putting R' Amsel's theories into practice. (It didn't work out at the end, for reasons that will remain unstated in a public forum). Should I think that he's lying?

      Insofar as the review itself – The reviewer defends psychiatry based on the idea that clinical practice doesn't hue closely to Freund's psychoanalysis and that Freund himself did not necessarily believe that all of one's actions are irrational and impulse driven. I've already mentioned that R' Amsel "wrote his book when Freud's psychoanalysis was still in style, but much of what he says applies equally to today's psycho-dynamic overemphasis on early childhood problems and blaming parents for all evils".

      The reviewer main line of attack against R' Amsel is that he vilifies all of psychiatry because of the sins of psychoanalysis. He writes that Amsel claims "that behaviorist theory agrees with psychoanalytic principles" and that "The entire burgeoning field of behavior therapy, for the most part, (as noted by Rimm and Masters+) does not actively concern itself with hypothesized internal and uncontrollable states of behavior… most social learning theorists (e.g., Banduras) indicate that individuals play an important active, rather than passive, role in producing the various behavioral contingencies with which they come into contact".

      I do not see R' Amsel attacking either behavior therapy or social learning theory. To the contrary, R' Amsel's emphasis on HABIT fits very nicely with Bandura's self-efficacy model, which is based on planning moderately challenging tasks, reinforcing effort and giving frequent, focused task-specific feedback, which are all hallmarks of building good habits.

      I believe that typical approaches widely used in therapy today share many of the concerns that R' Amsel writes about. Therapists might call their approach "eclectic", but in fact therapy usually involves building a therapeutic relationship by assuaging guilt feelings through shifting blame elsewhere – often to places where blame is NOT due. Worse, the cognitive "heavy lifting" is often absent, with the therapist taking the role of friend and perhaps cheerleader, hoping and waiting for transference to do its magic, often to no avail.

      Perhaps worst off all, the client never learns about alternative sources of happiness and "adaptive thinking processes and affect", which can be powered by a "Life of Affiliation", namely: the Power of the Neshama is forgotten.

      In essence, I think the reviewer uses a classic "strawman" argument. He attacks R' Amsel from easily defendable grounds, while ignoring the strengths of R' Amsel's main arguments.

      I'll end with the words that Rav Avigdor Miller wrote in his approbation to R' Amsel's book:
      It is to be hoped that the honest ones among the mind-healers, particularly orthodox Jewish practitioners, will be encouraged to use the practical Torah methods of therapy and counsel which can cope with the ills of individuals and our contemporary society. Amen!

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    9. It is obvious that Rav Moshe did not read the book and was entirely relying on what somebody told him. Thus his haskoma tells us absolutely nothing about the quality of the book - either as psychology or Torah. Rav Moshe was known to give haskomas to almost anyone who approached him.

      Not sure why you assume that Rav Moshe knew about mental illness - why should he? You have rabbonim sending people to Mondrowitz - why should it be assumed that they know anything about the topic? there are other rabbonim who have served as therapists - such as Weberman - who obviously knew nothing about the topic. Obviously there are rabbis who are good at counseling - but it is not because they studied Torah. There are many rosh yeshiva, mashgichim and teachers who have caused much psychological harm - in spite of the fact that they are competent talmidei chachomim.

      I also find it difficult to understand what Torah therapy means when it is clear that there is no such thing. There is therapy which is consistent with Torah values but there is no independent concept of therapy such as we have. It is also interesting to note that the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe went ot Freud

      Furthermore I find it outrageous that he states that mental illness is a result of sin.

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    10. DT writes: Not sure why you assume that Rav Moshe knew about mental illness - why should he?

      Ploni wrote: "Well, Rav Moshe says that he knew about mental illness, by specifically stating that R' Amsel's "views regarding life and the dynamics of the Soul are in accordance with those of the Torah".
      ==============
      Please! Rav Moshe is making no such assertion. Again, Rav Moshe did not read the book which is in English. He relied on someone telling him what the book was about. On that basis he said R' Amsel's views are in accordance with Torah. He doesn't say anything about his knowledge of psychology!


      Ploni wrote: "I know that there's been a heated debate here about Rabonim's knowledge of mental illness, but I think this statement is beyond the pale. Do you consider Rav Moshe to be some two-bit Rabbi that spouted anything that sounded right without thinking?

      How many other Haskomos did Rav Moshe give on psychology texts? Please show me even ONE that uses psycho-dynamic therapy. "

      I am embarrassed by your naivete. Rav Moshe gave haskomas to almost everyone who came to him. He didn't read the books. He even gave a haskoma to a recording of cantorial music! Rav Moshe himself said that being a gadol in Torah does not necessarily give you expertise outside of Torah. Rav Moshe never claimed to know about mental illness.

      See the haskoma that Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky gave to Travis's book on marriage counseling where he explictly states he doesn't know anything about marriage counseling. Why should you assume that Rav Moshe knew more about psychology than Rav Yaakov?

      The fact that Rav Moshe didn't give haskomas to psycho-dynamic therapies is simply because no psychoanalyst in their right mind would have thought to ask for it. There are also no haskomas on refrigerators or cars!

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    11. There is no such thing as Torah therapy - i.e., therapy which in the Hirschian sense springs forth from Torah. There is definitely therapy which quotes from Torah texts.There is therapy which has been modified to exclude elements which are problematic from the view of halacha. The fact that writes such as Rabbi Dr. Twerski, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin and Dr. Miriam Adahan adopt secular psychological technniques and use Torah to explicate it - doesn't make it Torah psychology in the Hirschian sense. It is simply secular psychology which has been adapated for a Torah culture.

      There are even techniques which have been inspired by chassidic or mussar texts. But not everyone who has mastered these texts sees the "Torah therapy" within in them.

      Why does Rabbi Dr. Twerski get excited about the 12 steps? Which gemora or mussar text provides the basis for it? Once one knows the techniques the therapist can "discover" the ideas in the texts. But "Torah therapy" is not generated by the text.

      Delete
    12. Ploni why don't you write a guest post describing 1) what Torah therapy is and you criteria for saying it is Torah therapy 2) your basis for saying that gedolim are knowledgable in secular psychology. The subject obvious would benefit by its own discussion instead of one tacked on to another topic.

      I am totally shocked by your outburst and criticism of my comments - which are simply expressing ideas which are common knowlege in the world of the frum therapist.

      Delete
    13. It seems obvious to me that just as Chazal, Reshonim, Achronim, Gedolim etc. have no special insight into physical illness and treatment (otherwise we would still do Hakozas Dam) they have no special insight into mental illness. In general I would seek advise from Gedolim on non Torah matters because I believe they have excellent analytical skills (Shoailas Chacham), but I would leave it to professionals to give the most current medical direction.

      Delete
  3. > whether there is an inherent Torah approach to curing mental health problems

    From what I see in the Jewish news daily it seems an inherent Torah approach often does the diametric opposite!

    > Rav Moshe Feinstein is quoted in the introduction to the 8th volume of the Igros Moshe that being a gadol in Torah doesn't make one a successful politician or provide other wisdoms.

    Kefirah! What happened to Daas Torah?

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    1. Rav Dovid Feinstein told me he never heard his father claim that he should be listened to because he had Daas Torah. As he notes in the introduction to the Igros Moshe he claims his authority is based on the validity of his sevora - nothing more.

      In the Igros Moshe he noted in a teshuva that he never claims he is always right but since he worked hard to develop the sevora it should be taken seriously.

      Delete
    2. What I'm saying meshes well with what R' Dovid told you - Torah is the search for truth. Rav Moshe proposed his understanding of truth for others to critique. He also critiqued other Rabbonim's critique of his Psokim, sometimes saying, based on his understanding - that this was a grey area and other times "calling foul" to what his counter-party said.

      In other words, his critical thought process included deciding what was "grey" and what was "black and white".

      This is what Torah is about.

      Delete
    3. "Furthermore I find it outrageous that he states that mental illness is a result of sin."

      Have you actually read the book? He's not R Shalom Arush or anything (Just do hisbodedus and everything will be fine.) He says mental illness comes from having an unhealthy psyche which would not have happened without sin. He admits that meds work- similar to diabetes.
      He also says he's in complete agreement with the psychoanlysts that we are no position to judge the person.

      Delete
    4. Yes I read the book - I even bought the book. My rosh yeshiva Rabbi Friefeld didn't like the book either.

      There is simply no evidence that mental illness is the result of having an unhealthy psyche which is the result of sin. It is a disgusting burden to place on someone that their schizophenia, bipolar, ocd etc is the result of sinning. Whether he judges a mentallly ill person or not - it sure provides a double burden to the person suffering from mental illness - the "knowledge" that it wouldn't have happened if he hadn't sinned!

      Have you ever told an anorexic or severely depressed person who just tried to commit suicide that it was because of their having sinned?

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    5. No, of course not. I'm simply saying that he doesn't do that either. He simply says that's the real cause.
      Honestly, I don't understand what you're getting so upset aboput. According to many sources in your own book DAAS TORAH, cancer is also the result of sin. Az Mah? Are we discussing what is true or what to tell someone who's suffering?

      Delete
    6. Interesting point. Would you say that all psychological problems are the result of sin - or just major ones such as bipolar or severe depression. Are shalom bayis problems or low self-esteem the result of sin?

      Bottom line, just like you don't treat cancer by telling a person to do teshuva - you don't provide psychotherapy by telling the person to repent.

      Delete
  4. many of these issues were raised in the discussion of shalom bayis therapy

    http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2012/10/shalom-bayiswhere-is-source-for.html

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  5. Regarding knowing whether you have a true Torah therapy see the following

    http://in.bgu.ac.il/bgi/iyunim/DocLib1/%D7%9E%D7%92%D7%93%D7%A8_%D7%91%D7%99%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%9C,_%D7%99%D7%A6%D7%97%D7%A7_%D7%94%D7%A8%D7%A9%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%91%D7%99%D7%A5.pdf

    It is a discussion of the attack made by Rav Menashe Klein against the Torah marriage counselling approach of Travis - despite the fact that Travis had a strong haskoma from Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky. It is clear that Rav Klein is correct.

    Thus an approach in therapy provide by a rabbis is not necessarily Torah therapy. Even if a gadol certifying that it is a Torah therapy - it is not necessarily consistent with Torah. Even if gemoros or medrashim are cited - it is not necessarily a Torah therapy.

    At most the meaning of Torah therapy is that it a therapy which is not inconsistent with halacha and Torah values and that it contains examples and descriptions from Torah literature.

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  6. I refer to the last paragraph of the post and I feel that R' Moshe ZT"L has been slighted. Let's give him the credit of knowing his own limitations as cited in the post that R' Moshe himself writes in the introduction to the 8th volume. So his advice was given in spite of this awareness. A reasonable explanation would be that when someone truly can't take it anymore, he gets divorced and asks no advice, as the individual in story eventually did. Before reaching that point, the person is himself not . If he will get divorced at that early stage, he will never be sure if he did the right thing. And who is to say that it is the right thing, if the person himself can still tolerate his marriage somewhat. He still needs to grow and the situation needs to develop until a new phase is reached.

    About Rabbis with messed up children or marriages, that does not necessarily discredit their advice. He can be objective for others, but his Nisoyon is sized by Hashem just for him and Ain Chovush Matir Atzmo.

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  7. Part 1:

    I'm sorry I'm late. Some days my workload doesn't leave me extra time to comment on the blog - although I DO believe that the subject is of utmost importance.

    A few comments on DT's possible defintions of "Torah Psychology": DT wrote, a possible definition as….

    1) Mental health achieved by prescribing Torah activities. Perhaps – but the client usually has a problem being able to that, so achieving this objective needs the proper tools, which hopefully the frum therapist will prescribe.

    2) Therapy done by a rabbi or rebbetzin. – Totally agree that this is NOT Torah Psychology. See my comments about the importance of "Torah Based critical thinking". An overriding concern in Chazal is fighting "hidden" evil. Even assuming that the quasi-therapist is well-meaning, he can be doing

    3) Traditional secular psychotherapy techniques that don't violate halacha. – This one should be modified to include "that don't violate halacha OR HASHKAFA". I believe that numerous practices incorporated in common "heimishe" therapy sessions DO violate Hashkafa and some violate Halacha. I have to apologize that time constrains don't allow me to elaborate now, but I've already mentioned many in my past posts.

    4) Techniques developed from classic Jewish sources – DT writes "These typically involve using a conceptual framework of spirituality".

    This is probably the main point of our disagreement.

    Mussar and chassidic writings are NOT limited to a conceptual framework of spirituality. Much can be learned concerning proper and improper cognitive processes. In fact, much can be learnt from them concerning the overriding emphasis of the "search for truth" and all that this entails, including "critical thinking skills" used to understand what the Torah wants from us and yes – also including the limits of Rabbinic authority.

    Here's one definition of "critical thinking" (mostly from Wikipedia):
    >Critical thinking is a way of deciding whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or false. … It is a part of formal education and is increasingly significant as students progress through university to graduate education, although there is debate among educators about its precise meaning and scope.[1] Skills:The list of core critical thinking skills includes observation, interpretation, analysis, inference, evaluation, explanation, and meta-cognition. In addition to possessing strong critical-thinking skills, one must be disposed to engage problems and decisions using those skills.
    >Critical thinking employs not only logic but broad intellectual criteria such as clarity, credibility, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, significance, and fairness.[3] In sum: "A persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends."[4]
    >Habits or traits of mind: The habits of mind that characterize a person strongly disposed toward critical thinking include a desire to follow reason and evidence wherever they may lead, a systematic approach to problem solving, inquisitiveness, even-handedness, and confidence in reasoning.[5] In education, this includes developing intellect and values. When one presents a point to which a counterpoint or counterargument comes to mind (e.g., "But what about X?"), such points need to be addressed. When there's a lack of good data, this needs to be reported. When speculating based on imperfect data, this needs to be done transparently. When complex or abstract ideas or information is involved, the mental effort is put forth to achieve a deeper understanding to correctly interpret such information.


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    1. by saying "conceptual basis of spirituality" I am not saying they only are relevant for spritual issues. The use of terms such as neshama or yetzer harah etc obviously can be used to deal with psychological problems of all sorts. A spirtual framework can deal with behavioral issues or cognitive ones.

      Delete
  8. Part 2:

    I believe that anyone using critical thinking skills will note that the Torah DOES have a lot to say in issues that intersect mental health, Torah Giants like Rav Feinstein most definitely should be taken seriously, no less than any teshuva regarding hashkafic matters that he would have written. This means that others familiar with Torah hashkafa should use their critical skills to engage in debate BASED ON THE PERTINANT DETAILS.

    The problem that I and many observers see is that the mental health professionals do not necessarily employ Torah-based critical thinking and frown upon those that attempt to do so. In fact, many "top-of-the-line secular scholars say pretty much the same, just omitting the words "torah-based". I believe that the mental health community demands "black box" trust in their methodologies, way beyond what the profession's track record would deserve.

    DT writes: "it should be sufficient to observe whether great Torah scholars are also great therapists? I personally think that faulty reasoning is being employed here. Therapy entails convincing others to change. The Torah Giant may not be a great "marketer" or "convincer", but he is the authority on what may and may not be "marketed", used as motivation, what the definition of change should be, and he can surely add insight on Torah based motivations that secular practice tends to miss.

    Professional are exhorted to "do no harm". The Torah Giant defines what that means, based on a torah true outlook.


    As to DT's invitation to do a guest post, the most that I can say is that I'll IY"H try - time allowing, and based on the amount of clarity I can IY"H muster concerning this all-encompassing subject.

    Meanwhile, some "frum" Non-Jews address the question about defining Religious Therapy. See " INCLUDING GOD IN PSYCHOTHERAPY: STRONG VS. WEAK THEISM" By BRENT D. SLIFE et al., Journal of Psychology and Theology 2010, Vol. 38, No. 3, 163-174

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  9. Part 3:

    In essence, I think that perhaps the core of the problem is a common misconception concerning the definition of Daas Torah. To be blunt, neither the "blind trust" faction nor the "the Rabbis didn't know what they're talking about" are right.

    The most fundamental fact is that Torah is primarily about searching for Truth, with all the messy, time consuming effort that involves. Thousands of Teshuvos are written from that perspective, where the minutae of Halacha (and sometimes Hashkafa) are debated, until the truth arises. Torah Giants instinctively approach EVERYTHING from a TORAH BASED critical thinking perspective.

    The Rav doesn't "own" Torah – the Torah based Truth does. That's we have a mitzvoh of תוכחה when we see a Rav disobeying Torah.

    There are exceptions to the above-where a Rav is on the level of אליהו בהר הכרמל we trust him blindly, although he seems to be contradicting Torah. Some use a less stringent terminology of רבך דומה למלאך אלקים צבאות to permit the same. I believe that this concept has been widened and thereby debased, with devastating results. Multitudes are confused as to what Torah entails. The Chillul Hashem is mind-boggling.

    Another exception is what concerns communal matters and גדרים וסייגים. Communities need leaders, and not every communal decision entails clear-cut Halacha or Hashkafa – but some do. Here again, we need to use a TORAH BASED critical thinking perspective to decide.

    We need גדרים וסייגים, but since we lack widely accepted united bodies of Rabbonim, deciding on גדרים וסייגים gets very messy these days. Witness the ongoing debate about internet usage.

    Refrigerator repair, cars that DT mentioned…. USUALLY doesn't intersect Halacha or Hashkafa. Here again, we need to use a TORAH BASED critical thinking perspective to decide.

    I believe that mental health often DOES intersect Halacha and surely intersects Hashkafa. I believe it's time we used TORAH BASED critical thinking to sort things out.

    A problem that concerns many sincere Rabbonim, is their inability to change things and their well-founded fear of being severely persecuted if they speak up.

    I know I'm short on details – details take lots of mental effort…… and that's often hard to muster!

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    1. Why didn't Torah based critical thinking lead to doing something about child abuse? As Rav Belsky told me when I asked him why he was on top of scientific issues and other rabbonim are not. He replied because he took science studies serious in high school. Other rabbonim do not have elementary scientific knowledge.

      This applies not only the chemical and biological processes for kashrus. But it applies also in the realm of psychology. Critical thinking which lacks the the empirical data as well a basic undertanding of research techniques is not going to produce useful results. Just read Rav Menashe Kleins teshuva on child abuse to see a clear example.

      One poske told me that until recently he hadn't been aware of the devestation that child abuse causes.

      Bottom line - you can't have critical thinking without quality data and conceptual understanding!

      Delete
    2. Plony, you are talking around the subject, with your own interpretation Torah, and of Psychology.
      However, you have provided no evidence that there is such a thing as Torah Psychology, or shown how it is practiced, how effective it is, and whom it has benefited.

      For example, what would the treatment be for schizophrenia? Is it based on medicines derived from species mentioned in the Torah?

      Delete
  10. r'dt,
    are you myasheiv your original "Thus ultimately the question is whether there is an inherent Torah approach to curing mental health problems. To answer this question it should be sufficient to observe whether great Torah scholars are also great therapists? I personally think the answer is no" with "Bottom line - you can't have critical thinking without quality data and conceptual understanding!"? By that I mean do you understand that a great Torah scholar could learn all of Torah and deduce a (unique?)Torah based psycotherapy (much as IIUC R'YBS did for his philosophy) or not? I've always been somewhat leery of saying one could learn nuclear physics in this way, but it is a claim I've heard. It's simple enough to say, yes we can but it's easier to open a textbook, but here I think there is a real conceptual and practical nafka mina.

    KT
    Joel Rich

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    1. I don't see that a great Torah scholar could deduce a unique Torah based psychotherapy.

      My Rosh Yeshiva - Rabbi Friefeld was very successful in helping people. I once questioned his judgment in dealing with some of the students. His response was that he acknowledged he made mistakes in dealing with people. But he said that the primary source of helping people came from the community he had created - not his individual interaction.

      Does that mean that he discovered the Torah basis for group therapy? Or community therapy? I don't think so. He was ultimately a pragmatist who tried things to see if they worked.

      I once asked him why it was necessary to go to college since all wisdom was supposed to in the Torah. He replied, "It is true that all wisdom is in the Torah. However we don't know how to access it."

      Delete
  11. My stepfather z"l was a psychiatrist. He would have been outraged (even before he became religious) to read of "a secular therapist [who] once told me that the cure for the depression for his yeshiva bachur client - was to get a girl from and engage in sexual relations."
    He would have thought it was very bad therapy.

    It also would have pained him greatly that he wasn't surprised.

    Regarding the posek who "hadn't been aware of the devestation that child abuse causes": had he been asked to pasken on child abuse related issues? If so, what did he do?

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  12. Rabbi Eidendohn, can you explain what R. Zilberstein means when he says only a Rav can recognize a molester? I hope this is not something that will keep us in the Dark Ages and make victims suffer.

    As for Amsel, I personally know someone who suffered greatly from reading his book, blaming himself for his ADHD and his emotional struggles. He later was helped greatly by medication and accepting his challenges. I fault too the rabbanim who wrote the haskomos without knowing what they are talking about. My mashigiach is yeshiva told me he would warn students to stay away from the book if the topic ever came up.

    -bendov
    1honestlyfrum.blogspot.com

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    1. here is the recording - it is about minute 34

      http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2011/08/rav-zilberstein-only-rabbis-can-decide.html

      Delete
    2. R' Amsel may not be the one to blame - but rather the reader's interpretation of "sin".

      I think many people see "sin" as a "dead end", while we forget that Rabeinu Saadya Goan considered himself a sinner EVERY day, based on his new insights. It hardly got him depressed....
      So too, תוכחה went out of style these days, for the same negative connotation.

      Numerous sources in Chazal see תוכחה as a tremendous Brocho - I think that secular therapists that stress resilience, self efficacy and self-control aren't so afraid of תוכחה as the psychodynamic types, because they value growth more.

      Delete
  13. I agree with Ploni that there is such a thing as Torah therapy. Bravo to him for stating it, even if such a truth is unpopular among some circles, esp. among frum mental health practitioners.

    The problem however is, that today, many people's knowledge of Torah is limited. Their study of Torah is unbalanced and not holistic. Parts of the Torah that are especially rich in elements related to therapy, such as sefer Mishlei, are studied by a relative few. With such a lack of balance, how will they get the full Torah wisdom on the subject? Naturally, they end up significantly lacking in it.

    R. Eidensohn's comment that since some Torah scholar's have on occasion seemingly given bad advice is proof that there is no such thing as Torah therapy holds no water. Would he say, with the same logic, that since some traditional psychologists have messed up patients at times that proves that their science is non existent and a fraud?

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    1. Thank You for your kind comment.

      And your point on the lack of serious study of the "Parts of the Torah that are especially rich in elements related to therapy, such as sefer Mishlei", is unfortunately very true.

      An additional problem that I've found is that the Talmeday Chachomim that ARE fluent in these Seforim are often very far removed from the secular mental health field.

      Secular practitioners often use benign buzz words, like "love" and "self-realization", but assign meanings to these words that Talmeday Chachomim would never agree to. It takes a critical thinker to dig into the deeper meanings.

      I believe very powerful and multifaceted therapy programs could be developed, based on many Rishonim. Excellent examples:

      Rabeinu Yona on Mishlei
      Sefer Hayoshor L'Rabeinu Tam
      Sefer Hamaspik L'Rav Avrohom Ben Harambam
      and of course: Chovos Halvovos.

      It would take effort and time to "manualize" and turn into a step-by-step process. But I'm sure it could be done, slowly and painstakingly.

      Delete
  14. P.S. There are books with the title Torah therapy by R. Bulka and another writer. Ayen sham.

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    1. Here is an online resource for R' Bulka's book:

      http://www.kilibro.com/en/book/preview/1222430/more-torah-therapy

      It is actually just a weekly parsha book, with a tiny bit of psychological spice thrown in. The "therapy" is not about mental disorders, but just the benefit of having a weekly parsha explained to you.

      Delete
  15. R' Plony,
    Do you understand that there is one unique Torah therapy that can be deduced from Chazal?
    KT
    Joel Rich

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    1. No. There will still be many possible approaches and combinations of approaches.

      But I believe that we'll have much more clearly demarcated lines between what's "Black", "white" and grey. So much of the "black" will be relegated to the waste-bin, where they belong. And people will feel more confident "roughing through" the inevitable "bumps" that therapy entails, if they're using stuff from the "white" list.

      Right now most "consumers" have no idea what they're getting into.

      As I've elaborated later on, I also believe that "consumers" are also often spending lots of money on therapies that are questionable - even by secular standards.

      Delete
  16. An excerpt from R Amsel's Rational Irrational Man. This is not my experience in dealing with psychologists nor is it an accurate representation of our Torah knowledge about man. It is a caricature
    ==========================================
    Case Study

    A 21-year-old young man, below average in intelligence, took his studies very lightly. He realized late that he was a failure in both his Hebrew and secular studies program and subsequently began to manifest severe neurotic headaches, especially when his successful learned brother married. A noted psychiatrist after many sessions of psychoanalysis succeeded in getting this young man to hate his learned father and blame him for all his failures. In the Judaic view it was acutally his own free will, his disinterest and his poor ability that were factors in creating the patient's problem.

    In case after case of so-called learning problems which came to our attention, our therapists claimed the problem to be, the fact that the client had an emotional problem and proceeded to make the children into enemies of their parents. Yet, could it be otherwise considering their view of Man? We are reminded of a workshop we attended where a distinguished psychologist presented some "approaches, insights and techniques in helping children with learning disabilities." The stress was mainly on changing the environment making it conducive for the child to learn. The psychologist then nonchalantly slipped in a statement, that she and the entire audience of professionals apparently took for granted. She stated, "We have to understand one thing clearly, that if the child does not know his work, it is the teacher's fault, not the child's."

    This statement shows a distorted view of Man. Certainly a teacher should dedicate himself to his important task of pedagogue and utilize the best methods and techniques to make the subject matter as clear and as easy as possible to grasp. But when all this is done, there is still no guarantee the child will learn. In Judaism's view, a child, as does an adult, has free choice. If his evil inclination will incite him not to listen, not to concentrate, he may still not learn, no matter what the teacher does.

    But the aforementioned psychologist does not even know that this child has an evil inclination. He knows that a child is more interested in playing than in learning. But in the main a child is regarded as a robot, cause-and-effect machine, that can be manipulated. If one uses the proper techniques on him he "must" know. If he does not know, it is the fault of the teacher. But the problem is, a child is not a machine. He has an evil inclination and if he chooses to listen to the evil inclination he will not learn no matter what the teacher does ...

    In the Judaic view, we are aware of all the factors that influence behavior such as heredity, predisposition ("Mazal"); and society with its numerous subdivisions such as parents, siblings, peers and teachers. Moreover, we are aware that the factor having the most basic effect on behavior is, in the last analysis, Man's ability to choose freely between right and wrong.

    Above all, Judaism is cognizant of the degree each of these factors influence behavior. One may be aware of all the factors that converge on behavior, but if one misjudges the proportionate effect on behavior of each of his factors, he will arrive at quite a different diagnosis and treatment approach. It is only the Torah view of Man emanating frorn Sinai, that teaches us the degree of influence each determinant has on his behavior.

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  17. The following quotation is from Samuel Hahnemann. He was was still professionally active until his death in 1843, so he and R' Yisroel Salanter overlapped to some extent. Hahnemann is probably a good example of what advanced physicians in the 1830s thought about mental illness.

    "If the mental disease be not quite developed, and if it be still somewhat doubtful whether it really arose from a corporeal affection, or did not rather result from faults of education, bad practices, corrupt morals, neglect of the mind, superstition or ignorance; the mode of deciding this point will be, that if it proceed from one or other of the latter causes it will diminish and be improved by sensible friendly exhortations, consolatory arguments, serious representations and sensible advice, whereas a real moral or mental malady, depending on bodily disease, would be speedily aggravated by such a course, the melancholic would become still more dejected, querulous, inconsolable and reserved, the spiteful maniac would thereby become still more exasperated, and the chattering fool would become manifestly more foolish.1

    1 It would seem as though the mind, in these cases, felt with uneasiness and grief the truth of these rational representations and acted upon the body as it wished to restore the lost harmony, but that the body, by means of its disease, reacted upon the organs of the mind and disposition and put them in still greater disorder by a fresh transference of its sufferings on to them.

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  18. Part 1:
    First of all, I'd like to express my gratitude to DT and other commentaterson this blog for allowing this important topic to be discussed here in a public forum. Also, I'd like to excuse myself for not being able to fully participate in the discussion because of my other obligations.
    Before I can atempt to properly address the task that DT thrust upon me: To describe 1) what Torah therapy is and my criteria for saying it is Torah therapy 2) My basis for saying that gedolim are knowledgable in secular psychology, I think that we need to first establish a framework to this discussion. I believe that one important prerequisite would be to understand: What exactly are we comparing this "Torah therapy" to?
    Many commentators here seem to believe that the debate here goes back to the old, familiar debate of Torah vs. science and all its emotional and Halachik ramifications. I beg to differ.
    Using the foundation of critical thinking, to which I assume the participants in this debate all agree, I believe that there are good reasons to question whether popular psychological clinical practice should indeed be characterized as "science".
    I am proffering this information using the same premises of that critical thought demands; namely, an openness to listen and sift through opposing evidence and an honest effort to use careful analysis to reach conclusions, using a minimum of rancor.
    I will be using what "goes on" at the the American Psychological Association, (APA), as a vehicle to deal with into this question of whether or not popular psychological intervention can be characterized as science.
    Why the APA? In the words of wikipedia, "The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is the main professional organization of psychiatrists and trainee psychiatrists in the United States, and the largest psychiatric organization in the world.[1] Its some 36,000[1] members are mainly American but some are international. The association publishes various journals and pamphlets, as well as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM codifies psychiatric conditions and is used worldwide as a key guide for diagnosing disorders."
    So I believe that to a large extent, in can be said that the APA "controls" mental haelth therapies in the USA.
    Why use a USA organization? I'm assuming that the American approach to psychology is the most widely used approach internationaly (see "Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche by Ethan Watter on that point).

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  19. Part 2:

    In chapter 1 of his book "Destructive Trends In Mental Health" the auther, Nicholas Cummings, an "insider" and a past president of the APA, notes that the animosities between clinical/practicing psychologists and academic/research based psychologists are deep and go back almost 3/4 century.
    One practical application of this deep animosity is usage of evidence based therapies EBT's, which the academic psychologists have championed and the clinicians continue to reject as having no credible applicability in the real world. With the advent of managed care, ED T's have become part of what clinical therapists are forced to deal with. Yet, the reality remains that most clinical work does not clearly follow EBT guidelines.
    The researchers argument goes something like this: "“Most of the treatments used in clinical practice have not been evaluated in research.  Also, many of the treatments that have been well established are not being used.”. These are the words of Alan Edward Kazdin, John M. Musser Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University and director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic - impressive?
    Three specific cases:
    1) On treating OCD - One comentator on a piece in Time magazine (http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/27/can-branding-save-talk-therapy/) writes:
    "I have serious OCD. I spent more than a month on a fruitless search for a new therapist who practices ERP (exposure and [response prevention]). It is the only treatment recommended by the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation and other organizations, and it is the treatment with which I have had the most success.
    And yet, here I am, in a city with perhaps the highest number of therapists per capita, and I am unable to find an ERP therapist who takes insurance. Instead, I’ve encountered therapists who claim to treat OCD with everything from traditional talk therapy and hypnotism".
    I believe that this is a case of clinical practice either IGNORING science or at the very least misleading consumers into thinking that they're getting treatment based on "settled" science, which is in fact at the very least open to a forcefuldebate between clinicians and academics going back almost 75 years.
    2) On treating anxiety disorders - Cummings (pg. 191) quotes a study Done in 1999 by Goisman et al. That revealed that that the proportion of patients with anxiety disorders have received either a behavioral or cognitive-behavioral therapies - interventions found to be a efficacious for such conditions - has actually declined slightly from 1991 to 1996.
    This decline is ironic in view of increasing evidence for the efficiency of these therapies during that time. Goisman et al. further found that patients with anxiety disorders most frequently received psychdynamic therapies, which have not been shown to be effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Please remember that Cummings is a past president of the APA - not someone on the "fringe".
    Another case of clinical practice not exactly following science?

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  20. Part 3:

    3) On treating anorexia - Thomas Insel, director of the US Govt. National Institutes of Mental Health writes in a February 24, 2012 blog post:
    What is the most fatal mental disorder? The answer, which may surprise you, is anorexia nervosa. It has an estimated mortality rate of around 10 percent .... the treatments for eating disorders are changing. Traditionally, anorexia in adolescents has been viewed as a “family systems” problem requiring a “parentectomy” — exclusion of the parents or caregivers from the teen’s treatment plan. But research at the Maudsley Hospital in London, which was replicated in the United States by Le Grange and Lock, has shown that outcomes appear much better if parents are empowered and included, rather than excluded, from the treatment.
    Good luck finding mental healh and medical practitioners that will support parents in following his advice. It's almost non-existant. Don't forget that the writer is the director of the US organization IN CHARGE of Mental Health in the USA, not some lunatic!
    --------
    These are not isolated comments. There are surely dozens, and possibly hundreds of books taking similar positions: "“Most of the treatments used in clinical practice have not been evaluated in research ... many of the treatments that have been well established are not being used.”. For the sake of brevity, I'll hope this will suffice to make my argument - just based on "critical thinking" - without the "Torah Based" part.

    So now, let's go back to the original question: What exactly are we comparing this "Torah therapy" to? We are comparing "Traditional CLINICAL secular psychotherapy techniques" to our understanding of Halacha and Hashkafa. Some CLINICAL practice Is settled "science" (or at least close to that), some is not.
    I therefore posit that cases where we find Halacha/Hashkafa conradicting clinical practice can be divided into THREE types:

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  21. Part 4:

    Type 1) Clinical practice is found NOT to be based on science AND contradicts Halacha/Hashkafa, while no EBT exists on the specific disorder: I believe a Torah true Jew would discard cilinical practice, knowing that history is replete with all kinds of commonly held beliefs that were later disproven.
    Type 2) Clinical practice is found NOT to be based on science AND contradicts Halacha/Hashkafa, while EBT DOES exist on the specific disorder AND is IN AGREEMENT with Halacha/Hashkafa: I believe both Torah true Jews AND reasonable Non-Jews would discard cilinical practice, knowing that history is replete with all kinds of commonly held beliefs that were later disprove.
    I believe that many parts of a large proportion of "heimishe", oft used "pstchodynamic" therapy should unfortunately be discarded for THIS reason. I also blieve that cognitive and behavioral-cognitive therapies do NOT suffer from these same issues, but would neverthless be much more efficacious if therapists got together and organized Halachik/Hashkafic MOTIVATORS, which I believe could be "game changers" if used in "Community Settings".
    I admit that I haven't yet proven my point, since that would require delving into the (often shifting) minutae of eclectic clinical practice vs. Torah Halacha/Hashkafa. I hope that any heimishe clinicians reading this post will be kind enough to let the discussion continue, without rancor. And of course, I hope that Hashem gives me the ability to present my thoughts clearly and effectively!
    Type 3) Type 2) Clinical practice is found NOT to be based on science and contradicts Halacha/Hashkafa, while EBT DOES exist on the specific disorder and IS IN AGREEMENT with Clinical practice : THIS would be where the debate of Toarh vs. science could possibly come into play.
    One more caveat about EBT's: Life is complicated, so the definition of valid "evidence" is also controversial. Clinicians say "case studies" count, while researches want blind or even double blind studies. They divide "evidence" into "strong" and "weak", based on number and types of studies. Since I don't "own" the TRUTH, all I can say is that clinicians can't say that science is settled, based on their "case studies", when EBT's say differently. At the very least, it leaves the science "open", and type 2 above would still be valid. I believe that so would type 1, based on research that shows that "case studies" in ANY field are often subjective and may reflect the clinician's biases.
    I"m wondering if we can move forward, based on these premises......

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    Replies
    1. Ploni - 3/4,

      Not sure your arguments are really going anywhere. Perhaps you are "breaking through an open door". You have established that Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate amongst mental disorders. OK, so what does this have to do with Torah and Psychology? Are you saying that having Hemishe Chollas and cholent is the cure for this condition? Presumably there will be a disease which has the highest death rate, and you have identified one, so well done, but what is your thesis, and what does this prove or disprove?

      It is like me telling you that in America, Hep C kills more people annually than HIV/AIDS. But this is just data, and it doesn't support any of the arguments in this blog.

      Next, in my PhD research we spend a lot of time looking at case studies and the problem of generalization. So in Psychology, just like in both physical sciences and social sciences, there are case studies and there are other more general research methods. Again, what exactly is your argument? If you wish to make a comparative study of say clinical practice and "Torah Therapy", then you have to design a research program to see the efficacy of one versus the other. The problem is there is not really a Torah therapy data set, since by and large no such thing exists. And if it does, gaining access to the data is not an easy thing.

      Next, you make an error in assuming that Psychology is analogous to engineering, chemistry, solar energy cells etc. Psychology is still a social science. Some Universities such as Israeli ones, have "exact sciences", but psychology is not one of them. Even medicine is not always successful, whether surgical or pharmaceutical.

      And nobody is claiming a 100% or even 50% cure rate in psychology.

      Next, you don't give your reasons for stating that psychology is forbidden by Halacha. It depends on which man's halacha you go by. Since the same people who hate Psy, also hate YU and Universities in general, then it could equally be stated that Medicine is forbidden by halacha. Do you know what kind of apikorsim the Pharma manufacturers are? Now it is funny, or sad, that many Rabbis spend their careers bashing secular studies, and when they or their relatives become sick, they are suddenly at the mercy of a bunch of University trained at best MO and at worst secular scientists and doctors. Even Rambam was secularly trained medic.

      If you want to develop your argument, then you should also present one for "Torah medicine". After all, more people die from physical illness than mental.


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    2. I'll be charitable and say that you didn't have the time to read my posts from the beginning of the thread, because the only other option I can think of is that there's a bit of a reading comprehension problem here – and a PHD student with reading comprehension problems is baaaad.
      CN writes " You have established that Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate amongst mental disorders. OK, so what does this have to do with Torah and Psychology? … but what is your thesis, and what does this prove or disprove? "
      Elemental, Watson…. I was proving (as I wrote) that Some CLINICAL practice Is settled "science" (or at least close to that), some is not, since – among other things - it's next to impossible to find clinicians that treat life threatening anorexia using EBT's.
      CN writes " If you wish to make a comparative study of say clinical practice and "Torah Therapy", then you have to design a research program to see the efficacy of one versus the other. The problem is there is not really a Torah therapy data set, since by and large no such thing exists. And if it does, gaining access to the data is not an easy thing."
      Oy vey! Is it so hard to see that I wrote " Before I can attempt to properly address the task that DT thrust upon me: To describe 1) what Torah therapy is and my criteria for saying it is Torah therapy 2) My basis for saying that gedolim are knowledgeable in secular psychology, I think that we need to first establish a framework to this discussion. I believe that one important prerequisite would be to understand: What exactly are we comparing this "Torah therapy" to?"
      We didn't yet define Torah Therapy clearly – although I've thrown around bits and pieces here and there…. Definitions come before data sets… wouldn't you say so?
      CN writes " Next, you make an error in assuming that Psychology is analogous to engineering, chemistry, solar energy cells etc. Psychology is still a social science. Some Universities such as Israeli ones, have "exact sciences", but psychology is not one of them. Even medicine is not always successful, whether surgical or pharmaceutical."
      No – I don't make that error, I simply stated " he definition of valid "evidence" is also controversial. Clinicians say "case studies" count, while researches want blind or even double blind studies. They divide "evidence" into "strong" and "weak", based on number and types of studies. Since I don't "own" the TRUTH, all I can say is that clinicians can't say that science is settled, based on their "case studies", when EBT's say differently."
      Your definition of "science" doesn't mesh with that of many other professionals. See what Division 12 of the APA has to say on the subject (at http://www.div12.org/position-statement/) – they support RCT's for mental health – just like the "hard sciences". (Sorry your instructors didn't tell you that – You can say that I told them to give you a refund on the steep tuitions…) So IF Torah contradicts it, it's not necessarily contradicting science…
      I won't try to issue a point-by-point rebuttal on the rest… Please do your homework first..
      Hey, I'm sorry you had a hard day, but please find someplace else to vent. OK?

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    3. Plony - Unfortunately you continue in your line of misrepresentation. The link you provide is not a definition of "science", rather a mission statement of the APA. Now, they might claim to use rigorous scientific method, but they have not defined what "science" is. But obviously you have no knowledge of the distinctions between hard sciences, and soft or social science. In economics, they may also use scientific methods, sophisticated equations and models. This does not make Economics a "science" on par with physics, chemistry, biology etc.

      SO quit with the gaavah and pretending you are an authority on everything , when you are not.

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    4. I think that our disagreement centers around the different definitions of the word "evidence". Here is a piece(among many other similar ones) written by Aldo R. Pucci at http://nacbt.org/evidenced-based-therapy.htmthat elaborates on this issue:
      "While it might seem to be the case, evidence-based psychotherapy is not new. The term "evidence-based" can be defined two ways:
      1) An approach to therapy emphasizes the pursuit of evidence on which to base its theory and techniques, as well as encourages its patients or clients to consider evidence before taking action; or
      2) An approach to therapy is supported by research findings, and those findings provide evidence that it is effective.
      In relation to the first definition, practitioners of virtually every approach to counseling or psychotherapy think that their approach is evidence-based (at least to some degree). Each approach to psychotherapy is based on the assumption that it is correct in terms of its explanation of human behavior. Therefore, practitioners of each approach believe that they have "evidence" that their approach is correct, or they would not waste their time practicing that approach.
      However, cognitive-behavioral therapists seek to acquire evidence to determine the accuracy of their theories and effectiveness of their techniques. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapists believe that their explanation of human behavior (that "learned" behaviors and emotions are caused by one's thoughts) is correct. Rather than assuming that their theory is correct, they base this assumption on psychosomatic research that in fact proves that the assumption is indeed correct.
      Cognitive-behavioral therapists take into the therapy session this interest in gathering evidence and assessing it. CBT'ers ask questions to obtain a clear, accurate picture of the client's experience. CBT therapists also look for evidence in relation to their clients' thoughts, and encourage clients to base thinking on the FACTS (the evidence).
      Therefore, cognitive-behavioral therapy has always been "evidence-based" and will continue to be so whether or not there is an emphasis by managed-care or governmental agencies to be so.
      However, not many approaches to counseling or psychotherapy are evidence-based in relation to the second definition. Many approaches to psychotherapy do not lend themselves well to being researched and proven effective because they either utilize techniques that are vague and difficult to repeat with consistency, or the approach attracts practitioners that are not very interested in testing the effectiveness of it."
      End quote.

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    5. Part 2:
      I believe that Division 12 of the API were pioneers in using the second definition - using research findings.
      I believe that since the advent of managed care here in America this second definition has become the common usage. Managed care may be driven by an agenda to save money. It makes no difference. The pendulum has already moved in this direction.
      Welcome to the year 2013.
      I quoted Alan Edward Kazdin - a past president of "your" APA, who said that “Most of the treatments used in clinical practice have not been evaluated in research. Also, many of the treatments that have been well established are not being used.” He also adheres to this second definition.
      So basically they are trying to hold the soft sciences to "higher" standards of evidence . I think that you are following the footsteps of your mentors that don't want to do so. Fine.
      I've mentioned that Rabbonim are not "owners" of the TRUTH, and that they're therefore obligated to offer well reasoned rebuttals to valid - Hakachic and Hashkofic - opposing points of view.
      So to are mental health professionals - or ANY professional, for that matter - not "owners" of the truth. I believe that we shouldn't be using a redefinition of what constitutes science, based on a redefinition of what constitutes "scientific evidence" which is NO LONGER BEING WIDELY ACCEPTED, to guide our decisions, either from a religious pov or a practical one.
      If you believe that any of my assumptions are incorrect, please be so kind as to clearly state why, and I would be happy to try to address them.

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  22. Oops! I forgot to spell-check my submissions (most of which where done using Windows 7 Speech recognition)! Such an ignoramus has the gall to critique the exalted mental health profession!!

    נו... נו.. מכל מלמדי השכלתי!

    Please don't judge a submission by it's spelling and grammatical errors....

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  23. I agree with your post and admire your courage in saying all you said. My esteem for your integrity and good sense keeps on growing, and I am not one to be overly generous with praise.

    There are cases where the identification with some particular group within Orthodoxy especially when combined with a style of dress etc. can be helpful in cohesing a self that has difficulties in holding itself together. Kohut suggests this in his later essays. This isn't exactly a cure or therapy but it is a practical solution.

    I am pleased you wrote about this...it confirms a post and responses to comments I wrote on my old blog, which you might enjoy reading. Baruch shkivanti.
    http://evanstonjew.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_archive.html (12/31/06)

    ej

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    1. I greatly appreciate your positive comment.

      Which post do you mean? The Dec. 31 one is about sex before marriage. Am I correct to assume that you mean the Dec. 26 post about Self Help?

      I think you made excellent points.

      I want to comment on what you ended off with "If you ask a rabbi, what about humility, is that important? He’ll, of course, say yes. Ask him ten minutes later about self-esteem, he’ll also say yes. Is this a crisis? Do we need a Slifkin of musar to reconcile the two? How there can be two parallel contradictory discourses/languages, and whether or not there’s any need for integration is an interesting topic".

      THIS is the problem. Someone searching for truth - and believing that Torah definitely HAS the true answer - would refrain from taking ANY of the two stands, either for "self esteem" or for "humility" - because he knows that the contradiction must first be resolved, otherwise his position would most probably be skewed.

      Personally I think this is an excellent example of how the Rishonim help us avoid the problem altogether. According to my understanding of the Chovos Holvovis humility CAUSES proper self esteem - as long as we use the religious "modifier" of Bitachon.

      It would work something like this: Awareness of one's shortcomings (humility) in relation to one's tremendous obligations (Shaar Avodos Elokim) and awareness of Hashem's mercy, regardless of the dichotomy between the last two - brings AHAVAS HASHEM (see perek 3 in Shaar Ahavas Hashem), which is a motivator similar to self esteem but much more resilient.
      The common conception of self-esteem is probably NOT ok - see Shaar Haknia Perek 9. It's also a weak motivator, because it's based on externals that shift, and for other reasons you and your commentators note.

      PS: How can we touch bases... trade email addresses?

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    2. Yes I mean the self help post.
      As for getting in touch, I don't want to put out my working email, and my blog is shut down. I am a frequent commentator on Rabbi Maryles's blog. BTW I write as an observer/kibbitzer; I have no special professional knowledge or torah competence.

      I am pleased that you found the post stimulating.

      ej

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  24. I haven't read Amsel's book, but regarding a line in one of the comments: "Amsel views mental illness as being the result of sin."
    The Gemara seems to say the opposite: "No one does an aveiro unless a ruach shtuss enters him." i.e. Sin is the result of insanity. Not that mental illness is the result of sin.

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  25. I was thinking about the various claims, and also how certain events might stem from mental illness, and this could ultimately be suicide.
    As my limited knowledge of Halacha suggests, suicide is deemed a big aveira, and may even result in not being buried in a mainstream Beit Kavarot.
    But does halacha look into the causes of suicide, and why it may have a history of mental illness, e.g. depression? If Halacha has nothing to say, then how can it offer a therapy?
    The story of R' Yochanan and Reish Lakish comes to mind. R' Yochanan eventually suffers a serious mental breakdown. Had Chazal any knowledge of psychology, perhaps they would have used it, rather than pray for him to die - which in itself is highly questionable.

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    1. along these lines is the question of why the solution to marital problems is divorce in the gemora and Shulchan Aruch rather than therapy. The solution to educatonal problems is beating the son or student.



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  26. The reason 50% of communal charity goes to psychologists may be due to the exorbitant fees they charge.

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  27. QUITE FRANKLY is this heresy to ask:
    WHO CARES IF positive therapy recommend by professionals is TORAH THERAPY if it works and remediates the mental issues?

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  28. Part 1:
    CN writes: "does Halacha look into the causes of suicide, and why it may have a history of mental illness, e.g. depression? If Halacha has nothing to say, then how can it offer a therapy?"
    And DT says: "why the solution to marital problems is divorce in the gemora and Shulchan Aruch rather than therapy. The solution to educational problems is beating the son or student"
    I believe that if we include "Hashkafa" in the definition of "Torah", it becomes obvious that 1) the Torah DOES have alot to say about the causes of illness, and that 2) divorce or 3) beating sons and students is only a small part of the solution that the Torah offers.
    I'll only attempt to address the first issue - Does the Torah have anything to say about the causes of suicide - in this post. I'll also attempt to use this as a possible example of "Torah based" Therapy.
    1) Allow me to quote what the Chovos Halvovis writes in the introduction to his Sefer, to explain the basis of his monumental undertaking. He states that:
    "It is clear to me that the duties of the limbs would not be complete without the accompanying will of heart and soul to do that, without the heart's strong desire to carry them out. And if one could imagine that our hearts were not bound to embrace and desire to service of God, our limbs could not then be bound to perform the commandments which we are obligated to perform, for no act is complete if the soul does not desire it. Since, clearly, the creator has obligated our limbs to perform the commandments, it would not then, have been fitting [for Him] to ignore our souls or our hearts-which are our most noble parts-and not obligate them to serve him according to their ability; for without heart and soul, the service of God is incomplete. We have therefore been assigned both outward and inward duties, so that our service be whole and complete and both the outer and the inner life be included [in our devotion] to the Creator, may He be exalted". (From Daniel Haberman's translation, Feldheim1999, pg. 13).
    According to my understand of what we learn from the CH, not only does authoritative "mainstream" Hashkafa TALK about causes for actions that contradict Torah - it actually OBLIGATES us to delve into these causes. The CH clearly says so, when he writes "We have therefore been assigned both outward and inward DUTIES" (my emphasis].

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  29. Part 2:
    I think we can all agree that based on Halacha, suicide is a serious transgression עבירה \, since Hallachiclly our bodies don't belong to us.So our INWARD DUTIES would REQUIRE someone with suicidal ideations to "reeducate" his soul and heart, so that his limbs do not end up doing something prohibited.
    Looking from the positive side of things - What can this person do? Besides PROHIBITING suicide - does the Torah offer any solutions on this "reeducating souls and hearts"?
    Think about the שש מצות תמידיות-the Six Mitzvohs that apply at every waking moment-aren't they ALL "soul and heart" Mitzvohs? Can any of them be useful in this fellow's "reeducation" process?
    Let's examine secular psychology to see if any of the tools used for suicide prevention also agree with Torah. Bingo! We'll find the emotion of LOVE high on the list of interventions... Suicide interventions are "big" on statements like "Think about your family, think about your children"; it's all basically about the power of LOVE.
    Does love always work? Nopes. Very often this suicidal fellow is ANGRY at his family and often estranged from them. So we have a pretty good intervention, but not without it's often insurmountable flaws. This matches the Torah view. The Rabeinu Tam in ספר הישר (Fifth Perek) points out that TRUE love has to be of the type that "לא תתחלף ולא תשתנה לעד" - of the type that is stable and never changes, and that אהבת החברה ורעות has this deficit.
    Now back to Torah SOLUTIONS. Do the שש מצות תמידיות-the Six Mitzvohs have anything to say about LOVE? Of course they do: ואהבת את ה' אלקיך is one of the six. It's fair to say that someone consumed with love to Hashem won't jump off the Brooklyn Bridge...
    Does love of Hashem always work? If we don't delude ourselves, the honest answer would have to be NO. We're talking emotive love here, as the cold, intellectual belief that I NEED to love will do absolutely nothing to avoid suicide. And honestly - how many of us feel the emotive love to Hashem on an ongoing, "on demand" basis (the kind that someone would need to counteract his sudden feelings of despair before he "jumps")?
    But the CH's "inward duties" obviously don't mean the intellectual type either, as that would NEVER affect "the limbs". So does that mean that we're back to square one?
    My answer would be - most empathetically NOT. The CH dedicates שער אהבת ה' to the intricacies of HOW to reach EMOTIVE love. He also makes it clear that Love of Hashem CANNOT be attained directly, without various prerequisites.

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  30. Part 3:
    I'll quote from the third Perek in Shaar Ahavas Hashem:
    "What is the way to love of God? I say in response, that this quest becomes possible for the seeker only after many preliminaries. Once these preliminaries has been achieved, love of God, may he be exalted, will emerge from them. One who aims for it directly, however, will not be able to reach it".
    The CH's then goes on to list many of the preliminaries including humility, self accounting, reflection and devotion. We won't elaborate on the detail here, that's what the CH is doing...
    I think the line "One who aims for it directly, however, will not be able to reach it", is extremely important. The CH is making it clear that the EMOTVE state of Love of Hashem has prerequisites.
    >Based on the aforementioned, I think that I can finally attempt to address the first question of the two questions that DT thrust upon me: To describe 1) what Torah therapy is and my criteria for saying it is Torah therapy.
    >A "working definition" of "Torah Therapy" might be: Forging a therapeutic alliance with the client towards exploring and fulfilling the prerequisites necessary for attaining an emotive state of Loving G-d".
    >Now unto part two of the question, namely "What are my criteria for saying it is Torah therapy"? My "working" answer: My criteria is that my therapeutic approach should be considered Torah Therapy since it is being used in fulfillment of the core principles OBLIGATED by my faith, as elucidated by well-established and universally accepted religious texts.
    I'm making the assumptions - which I believe is well grounded in secular research - that the fulfillment of emotive LOVE is a tremendous healer of mental illnesses. And I'm also not using this "Torah Therapy" as a "standalone" intervention, but rather together with a robust cognitive-behavioral approach. But the details of THAT are IY"H for another post.
    This also brings us to why I think that this approach seems so weird to most of us: We all say קריאת שמע every day, and we all KNOW that we're SUPPOSED to love Hashem - but very few of us will delude ourselves into thinking that we feel the emotive love to Hashem on an ongoing, "on demand" basis, of the type that would successfully counteract powerful negative thoughts. So we look at this whole approach as unworkable.
    For that, I can think of at least two answers: I'll only mention one in this post: 1) we shouldn't be surprised, since we only talk about the end result - Loving Hashem, and not the HOW TO involved in attaining that state.

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  31. Part 4:
    Let's face it: How many of us even KNEW that there ARE Prerequisites? How many KNEW that love is NOT attainable without fulfilling those prerequisites? How many have spent time learning the details of these prerequisites and striving to attain them?
    The problem can therefore be rephrased with DT's update: "However problems clearly exist when Torah principles of what constitutes proper education or the ideal marriage clearly are inconsistent - not only with modern secular values but also that of the vast majority of Orthodox Jews".
    There you have it - while NOBODY I know of disagrees with the CH's principles that I mentioned, "the vast majority of Orthodox Jews" don't live that way...
    I posit that, based on the enormous importance of "saving lives" and offering sufferers REAL solutions, we should strive to educate mental health practitioners, rather than allow the current state of disrepair continue.

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  32. Ploni, perhaps you can find the cure to Alzheimers, cancer and diabetes also in some Seforim,
    At the moment you are just making a translational hypothesis, and using your "faith" to prove it.

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    1. I believe I've already addressed that, when I wrote:

      I believe that anyone using critical thinking skills will note that the Torah DOES have a lot to say in issues that intersect mental health, Torah Giants like Rav Feinstein most definitely should be taken seriously, no less than any teshuva regarding hashkafic matters that he would have written. This means that others familiar with Torah hashkafa should use their critical skills to engage in debate BASED ON THE PERTINANT DETAILS.

      And……
      Therapy entails convincing others to change. The Torah Giant may not be a great "marketer" or "convincer", but he is the authority on what may and may not be "marketed", used as motivation, what the definition of change should be, and he can surely add insight on Torah based motivations that secular practice tends to miss.

      As to healing Alzheimers, cancer and diabetes….
      Refrigerator repair, cars [insertion: or alzheimers, cancer] that DT mentioned…. USUALLY doesn't intersect Halacha or Hashkafa. Here again, we need to use a TORAH BASED critical thinking perspective to decide. I believe that mental health often DOES intersect Halacha and surely intersects Hashkafa. I believe it's time we used TORAH BASED critical thinking to sort things out.

      Still, I've seen the diagram that the Chazon Ish drew for a neurosurgeon's brain operation, based on Misechtas Chulan, I think….. So maybe HE could heal Alzheimers and cancer.

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    2. Plony, you sound like someone who might as well come from scientology or a "kosher" version of that. You throw around terms like "critical thinking" without defining this or being open to any views to the contrary. You use platitudes, as if we are meant to see you as some authority on matters spiritual and secular, but what you write is only evidence of your level of indoctrination.
      There is one story knocking around of the CI about alleged brain surgery, evidence of which is not available.
      I mentioned the case of R' Yochanan's madness, and Chazal's decision to pray for his death. So Chazal had no abilities to cure mental illness. however, you do not answer questions, but just refer to your laborious and boring posts, which do not say anything of much value.

      If Chazal were not able to cure mental illness, what is the nonsensical claim that you thinking the CI could do all sorts of medical miracles? No intelligent person can take you repeated phrases , like "critical thinking" seriously.

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    3. Did you ever see Chapter 3 of Koenig's "Handbook of Religion and Health", on research on religion and mental illness? Ever hear about Paul Pruyser.... and read Malony and Spilka's selection of his essays "Religion in Psychodynamic Perspective".

      Funny how you mention R' Yochanon's illness after writing earlier that "nobody is claiming a 100% or even 50% cure rate in psychology"...

      So let's see - YOUR SCIENCE is still okay, even with LESS than a 50% success rate, but you prove that Chazal had ABSOLUTELY no abilities to cure mental illness from ONE SINGLE case (besides - who's to say that it was mental illness)?

      Who exactly is the one that's indoctrinated here?

      Those that have to resort to personal attacks and name calling usually do so because of the weakness of their arguments...

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    4. You throw around terms like"critical thinking" without defining this". Actually, I did define it, please see above.

      "There is one story knocking around of the CI about alleged brain surgery, evidence of which is not available". I already mentioned that I've seen the diagram.

      "we are meant to see you as some authority on matters spiritual and secular". Actually - no. I don't see myself as an authority on either. Do you only have respectful conversations with authorities?

      What happened to איזהו חכם הלומד מכל אדם, מכל מלמדי השכלתי?

      BTW, when you manage to stop "blowing hot air" and get around to actually refuting what I said - let me know.

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    5. "So let's see - YOUR SCIENCE is still okay, even with LESS than a 50% success rate, but you prove that Chazal had ABSOLUTELY no abilities to cure mental illness from ONE SINGLE case (besides - who's to say that it was mental illness)?"

      My science? I already stated that Psychology isn't viewed as a Science in the sense that Physics or medicine might be...

      Perhaps you can do an analysis of all mental illness in the Talmud, and what the success rate was in healing them. That could occupy you for the next few years.

      Regarding the CI, there are a few blogs with the story, and conflicting diagrams of what hew drew.

      In any case, surgery is a technology, so the CI being one of the greatest minds of the last century may have had superior spatial cognition than the surgeon. Remember, it was the surgeon who carried the surgery, not the CI. If the story is true, the CI provided an alternative method for the surgery. A surgeon isn't always a great conceptual thinker, but more of a skilled butcher. If you are good with engineering for example, it is often possible to tell a a mechanic or architect to do a job better than they were about to.

      BTW, they say Cinnamon and Olive leaf extract is good at preventing Alzheimer's. Also, Alhemier's is now being referred to as Diabetes Type 3.


      Delete
    6. Excuse me, Comfortably Numb, but i dont think youre making any sense. Are you saying that since Psychology isn't science it's okay even if it works less than 50% of the time? So how do you know that Torah can't work at least as often?

      You don't make any sense.

      Delete
    7. Observer - no, that isn't a string of connective arguments I was using.

      I just mentioned that Psychology isn't accepted as a Science by it's exact science older brothers. I am not saying Psy has the answer to all ills.

      If it works, then it is good. The point I was debating is that there does not appear to be a Talmud torah based system of psychology, or it might have been employed by R' Yochanan's students. At the same, time, I do accept that Chazal had tremendous psychological insight. Actually, it has been proposed that Freud used some insights from Talmudic literature in his theories, for example the defense mechanism of Projection - which Chazal say about someone who question's another's lineage, should himself be suspect.

      However, I am yet to see of any evidence that Psychotherapy was sued by Chazal.

      It might be further argued that we have an ancient system of dream analysis. Yosef HaTzaddik could interpret these dreams, as could Daniel, Mordechai etc. I've seen some dream analysis in Talmud as well. But, we could also say that dream interpretation has been used by the goyim too.

      If there is a Torah therapy, please provide a method and evidence of it working. i would be happy to see this.

      Delete
  33. Someone I know lives in a very frum area, and very frum apartment block. A young married frum couple moved in next door, and there were a lot of noises coming through the walls. The wife was bruised. So my relative spoke to an intermediary to intervene, and it stopped.
    Now, this also is a form a mental illness, and hopefully in this case it was stopped. But it can have terrible consequences - the authorities might take away the kids for example, or the husband could be jailed.
    Now, who knows if the perpetrator is learned, and has learned CH. There is obviously something wrong, and much deeper.
    Plony's argument is essentially a circular argument, that someone who truly loves Hashem will be perfectly sane. So the only "therapy" for such a person might be to go to some shiurim and learn some more books, perhaps Rambam, to improve his Yiras Shomoyim.
    well good luck, but in the real world there is much more complexity than this little theory would imply.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Actually (in a bit of self-criticism) I believe that my posts suffer from the exact OPPOSITE problem - the solution that I propose so far is TOO complex and involves endless effort. Shiurim won't swing it, no less than a lecture in psychology - lehavdil - won't make mental issues melt away.

    Learning and INTERNALIZING the "prerequisites" to attaining Love of Hashem (which in other posts I tied to the Positive Psychology movement's concept of "Life of Affiliation") or the Jungian theory of a search for wholeness entails change, and CHANGE ENTAILS WORK, any change!

    I was going to put together what I know about "shortcuts" to this issue, but I didn't have time yet..

    ReplyDelete
  35. Part 1:
    DT recently added this update:
    "From Rav Wolbe's article on Psychiatry and Religion it is clear that there is no independent Jewish psychology or psychotherapy given at Sinai - but psychology which has been adapted or filtered to be appropriate for a religious Jews. This is from page 77"
    I disagree. I believe that he is not necessarily saying so, and even if he is, it would not necessarily be authoritative.
    Why?
    His main message is that families shouldn't defer treatment of serious emotional issues because of stigma and shame. He's obviously talking to those that for whatever reason HAVE NOT been successful if finding adequate solutions on their own - whether Torah based or secular. He ISN'T saying that someone can ONLY find solutions in the secular world.

    Why doesn't he just say "learn Chovos Halvovos"?
    Let's just say that my argument is correct, and a "working definition" of "Torah Therapy" might be: Forging a therapeutic alliance with the client towards exploring and fulfilling the prerequisites necessary for attaining an emotive state of Loving G-d".
    I've already made it clear that the solution that I propose so far is complex and involves endless effort. Shiurim won't swing it; just like a lecture in psychology - lehavdil - won't make mental issues melt away. Learning and INTERNALIZING the "prerequisites" to attaining Love of Hashem ... entails change, and CHANGE ENTAILS WORK, any change! I also noted that I believe that shortcuts are available, but they'll still suffer from what DT calls Torah principles [that] are inconsistent - not only with modern secular values but also that of the vast majority of Orthodox Jews.
    The analogy would be: If an old lady was living alone in an apt. on the 20th floor of a tall building had no food in the house, but did have food in a storage unit in the basement. Problem is that the elevator is broken. A good friend implores her to call the supermarket for a food delivery instead of going hungry. Does that mean the friend's advice is "you should always call the supermarket for food? Of course not.

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  36. Part 2:
    But why didn't R' Wolbe point people in that direction? Good question. But that brings us back to whether we should base our lives on "errors of omission" of the Gedolim. As already discussed, the HALACHIK answer is a resounding no. We search for truth. This is no different than not relying on Rabbonim that Pasken about abuse issues without doing their due diligence.
    One could argue that R' Wolbe didn't take into consideration many factors that have recently become crystallized.
    Perhaps he would have searched harder for a Torah Based system, had he known that a past President of the APA (Nicholos Cummings) writes that psychotherapy often CAUSES much harm because it impedes us from helping the patient toward resiliency, self sufficiency, and autonomy he would (Page 11 Destructive Trends In The Mental Health)?
    Perhaps he would searched harder for a Torah Based system, had he known what recent research shows that the "labeling" involved in treatment often causes self-stigma, which in turn WORSENS symptoms?
    Perhaps he would searched harder for a Torah Based system, had he known about EBT's and the empirical data obtained over recent years EBT's that point to the low success rate of psychotherapy?
    I AM NOT ADVOCATING INACTION - ON THE CONTRARY, I"M ADVOCATING THAT OUR COMMUNITY WORK HARDER, AND FIND BETTER SOLUTIONS.
    Many full fledged methods of treating mental illness INCORPORATE religion or can easily be modified to do so. To name a few: Jungian Therapy. Logotherapy. Ethical Humanistic Therapies.... Why are we ignoring THOSE therapies?
    If the evangelical Christians are doing it, why can't we? If the "Survivors Movement" is doing it (those that have been patients and were only helped afterwards by their own methods), why can't we?

    ReplyDelete
  37. "A spirtual framework can deal with behavioral issues or cognitive ones."

    If there ever was a mesorah on how to practically apply the Torah in this way, it was broken some time ago or is so hidden as to make it irrelevant for the large numbers of people who need help NOW.

    It's one thing to say that the Torah contains the theoretical framework for dealing with behavioral and cognitive issues. It's another to bring that framework to bear on the suffering person sitting in a chair across from you. It can take years of practice and much competent supervision to bring a therapist to the point where he or she can responsibly deal with serious problems. Does this in theory require licensure, a professional structure, etc.? No. But that's the way we do things these days. It's not easy or trivial, and it can't be learned from books, even good ones.

    For a seriously depressed person to get to the point at which he could properly consider himself to be sinful, not worsen his depression by thinking that, and then be able to take appropriate action would be a huge accomplishment. Yes, for an outside observer the sin might have been there all along, but as we see from people's experience with the "making amends" step in twelve step programs, it can take a long time to get to the place of constructive action.

    One of the positive features of recovery communities is that they know that and give the accomplishment its due respect.

    A subtext in this discussion is why different communities tend to be susceptible to different sorts of shoddy practices, as in the example discussed here: the penetration of pop psych and other forms of shoddy thinking into the thought and behavior of the religious world. That seems to be part of what Rav Eidensohn is concerned with in his discussion of Amsel's book.

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  38. Yoel writes:
    "t's one thing to say that the Torah contains the theoretical framework for dealing with behavioral and cognitive issues...It can take years of practice and much competent supervision to bring a therapist to the point where he or she can responsibly deal with serious problems."

    Your point is well taken.

    If so, perhaps this project should be divided into two parts:

    Part 1 (duration: approx. six months) What DT mentioned as his option #3) Namely, to ascertain that traditional secular psychotherapy techniques that don't violate halacha.
    From personal experience and communications I know that is not being done properly now. Let's get some sincere laymen and therapists to meet on an ongoing basis and put together a list of practices that are problematic.. let's find Rabbonim that ARE interested in doing well reasoned research and not just pat answers to supply their Halachik/Hashkafic insights.... Is it a pipe dream?

    Part 2) Long term project - Develop a systematic Torah Based approach.

    How does that sound?


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  39. As far as the negative connotation of the concept of "sin" that a Torah Based (TB) perspective might cause - I'm not sure that DT's position is correct.

    One reason why:
    I think a (TB) perspective would include five "legs" that explain or understanding of how to judge sin in most mentally ill patients (those that are not considered with the din of שוטה):
    1) certain character traits surely DO make a person MORE LIKELY to sin, and,
    2) Since character traits can only cause a TENDENCY (at least לפי שיטת הרמבם), the person IS still liable for his sins. According to other Rishonim its more than a tendency, but with the power of the Neshama it can be overcome) and
    3) his punishment is less severe than someone not sharing that character trait, and
    4) His judgement will depend solely on sincere future made to counteract his trait, and on the past we have the "present" of Teshuva, and
    5) Each person has such character traits, to smaller or larger degrees,
    Last but not least - 6) If we DO learn how to deal with distinct character trait we come out much "better off" than the regular fellow SPECIFICALLY in the former area of our weakness. We also have the ability to help others that are in our (original) position.

    Yes - so we sinned. But no - we still have a life ahead of us!


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  40. DT writes: Conclusion - It is apparent from the comments to this post is that there is no such thing as Torah Psychology or Torah Therapy that was given at Sinai...

    DT: Please excuse my insolence, but for the life of me I can't seem to figure out either exactly WHAT your conclusion is or which blog comments made your conclusion so "apparent".

    Are you trying to differentiate between Torah "given at Sinai" vs. "our Tradition" – alluding that the Hashkafic texts of the Rishonim are not "given at Sinai"? I think that would be a rash statement to make – even in MO circles. They just fell into misuse, perhaps analogous to the Mitzvoh of Tefillin in the times of the Sma"g.

    Are you trying to differentiate between "insights…which can be used" vs. "a program of therapy"? I tried to figure out which comments address that, and only found Yoel on Aug 15 at 7:20? Is that all? If so, how about looking at SUCCESS RATES rather than splitting hairs?

    Back to the comments: Comfortably Numb – a self proclaimed psychology undergraduate – at August 14, 2013 at 2:12 AM admits that "nobody is claiming … even 50% cure rate in psychology", and as Observer at August 15, 2013 at 2:09 AM points out " how do you know that Torah can't work at least as often"? So whether we're dealing with "insights" or "programs of therapy" – our INSIGHTS could very well be working as well, or better, than secular PROGRAMS OF THERAPY.

    Another "elephant in the room" is the well researched issue of OVERDIAGNOSIS. The fellow IN CHARGE of writing the DSM IV – Allen Frances – wrote a best seller "Saving Normal" decrying this problem. The guy who WOTE THE BOOK FOR DIAGNOSIS is basically saying that's his book is being GROSSLY misused, and that many perfectly normal people are being misdiagnosed as mentally ill. I would think that this not insignificant number of clients SURELY have a good chance of responding to Torah "insights".

    Please don't let your conditioning get in the way of your intellect. Don't draw brash conclusions based on non-existent comments.

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  41. What's the big deal if "A psychology or therapy based primarily or exclusive on Torah sources might be desirable - but it doesn't exist at present"?

    Why can't we just adapt the good parts of the religious therapies that non-Jewish theologians use?

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    Replies
    1. Confused - In the limited time that I have, that's one of the things that I'm trying to do... I could use some help!

      Delete
  42. Ploni you clearly are acknowleding that Torah therapy or even secular therapy techniques that hav been examined to make sure they don't go against the Torah - do not at present exist. That was my one of my conclusion.

    We also don't have evidence that therapy developed from insights found in various sefarim is more effective than secular therapy. It is also not clear that psychological insights are necessarily more Jewish just because they are found in seforim.

    Similarly we don't have Torah based chinuch or Torah based marriage therapy that is based exclusively on mesorah - and it is not clear that the effort to try and produce it is worth the effort.

    In sum, there is no therapy from Sinai that we have access to at present- and probably there never was. There is no evidence that a Torah therapy developed by tamlidei chachom and/or therapist will be any more effective and valuable than the secular techniques available now. What is the justification for devoting time and energy to try and develop Torah Therapy?

    The only thing of clear agreement is that therapy used should not violate halacha and hashkofa.

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  43. DT: First, we need to define WHAT are the goals of therapy?

    It should be pretty obvious that "religious" goals for therapy defer from secular ones.

    Check out the "The Seven Questions Project" over at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/200811/the-seven-questions-project-introduction - for the varied responses secular therapists give to the question "In your opinion, what is the ultimate goal of therapy? ". The goals mostly deal with self-fulfillment, resolving symptoms, achieving particular ends, a sense of wholeness etc.

    From a Torah perspective (or from ANY "strongly" religious perspective) the goals are VERY different.

    Our purpose in life is to fulfill our G-d granted mission as elucidated in our religious texts. Our zest for life, emotional well being, etc. is all the MEANS to doing so, and NOT an end in itself. (I believe Micha Berger recently posted something similar).

    "Torah M'Sinai often promises Calmness, joy, contentment, tranquility, certainty, security, confidence, peacefulness, etc. to those that strive to PROPERLY fulfill it's commandments. This service of G-d gives us a sense of wholeness, value and meaning. These are MEANS for fulfilling our ULTIMATE goal of serving G-d and NOT vice versa..

    So Torah M'Sinai most definitely DOES fulfill the goals of what therapy "should" be fulfilling. The religious and secular persons may end up with the same inner feelings, but for totally different reasons!

    Seforim like Chovos Halvovos prescribes the necessary values, beliefs and thoughts that DEFINE the thoughts that the Torah REQUIRES in oreder to achieve the aforementioned. CH ASSURES us that those who take the effort to follow his prescription WILL achieve Calmness, joy, contentment,etc. etc. He cites many proofs for the aforementioned premise - FROM Torah M'Sinai – Besides, I believe that the CH itself IS Torah M'Sinai.

    We BELIEVE that the Torah is ABSOLUTE TRUTH. That's why millions of Jews have willingly given their lives על קידוש השם rather than contradict its basic beliefs.

    Therefore, why is "therapy developed from insights found in various sefarim is more effective than secular therapy"? The reason is because the Torah ITSELF guarantees its effectiveness, unlike "iffy" secular therapies.

    Are these "psychological insights … necessarily more Jewish just because they are found in seforim"? Of course they are, because the CH's proofs are from Torah and the CH is AUTHORITATIVE, since the CH itself IS Torah.

    BTW, I only picked CH as an example - the same could be said for ANY RISHONIM, especially since they ALL speak pretty much "in one voice" on these matters – and when many Rishonim say the same thing – without any disagreements – THAT is Torah M'Sinai!

    Last note: If so why don't all (or at least most) religious Jews FEEL the contentment, etc? Because it's hard work – but so is secular therapy. The difference is that Torah Therapy "comes with a guarantee", so based on our "absolute" belief system it's by far the better investment!

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    Replies
    1. I like the link you provided. There is a spectrum of opinions from the various people who were asked the 7 questions. Ultimately, if you asked "Torah" therapists, you would also get 70 opinions.

      This guy is interesting - http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/200901/seven-questions-thomas-szasz

      he says there is no such thing as mental illness!

      Why do u want frum therapists from other religions, what's wrong with frum people from our own? After all, there is R Eidensohn; R' Roll; R Twersky; R' Bulka; and Dr Spero.

      There may also be some frum quacks who don't have professional training but purport to be therapists.

      Delete
    2. Part 1:

      I don't think so.

      The deeper I dig - the more I see a common thread between "theistic" therapy approaches, on one hand and "secular approaches, on the other.

      I don't think 70 "Torah" therapists would help us - they mostly just follow whatever mix of techniques they're trained in, without critically evaluation which concepts contradict Torah teachings.

      Here's a paper I found from one Paul Bergin, who according to wikipedia is "known for his research on psychotherapy outcome and on integrating psychotherapy and religion. His 1980 article on theistic values was ground-breaking in the field and elicited over 1,000 responses and requests for reprints,[2] including luminaries such as Carl Rogers and Albert Bandura".

      In his paper titled "PSYCHOTHERAPY AND RELIGIOUS VALUES" he has a table comparing "Theistic Versus Clinical and Humanistic Values".

      I posit that MOST HEIMISHE THERAPY LEANS MUCH CLOSER TO THE SECULAR/HUMANISTIC MODEL.

      As "theistic values" he lists:

      > God is supreme. Humility. acceptance of (divine) authority. and obedience(to the will of God) are virtues.
      > Personal identiy is eternal and derived from the divine. Relationship with God defines self-worth.
      > Self-control in terms of absolute values. Strict morality. Universal ethics.
      > Love. affection. and self-transcendence are primary. Service and self-sacrifice are central to personal growth.
      > Committed to marriage. fidelity and loyalty. Emphasis on procreation and family life as integrative factors.
      > Personal responsibility for own harmful actions and changes in them. Acceptance of guilt, suffering, and contrition keys to change. Restitution for harmful effects.
      > Forgiveness of others who cause distress (including parents) completes the therapeutic restoration of self.
      > Knowledge by faith and self-effort. Meaning and purpose
      derived from spiritual insight. Intellectual knowledge
      inseparable from the emotional and spiritual insight.
      > Intellectual knowledge inseparable from the emotional and
      spiritual. Ecology of knowledge.

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    3. Part 2:

      Now for the "Clinical-Humanistic values":

      > Humans are supreme. The self is aggrandized. Autonomy and rejection of external authority are virtues.

      > Identity is ephemeral and mortal. Relationships with others define self-worth.

      > Self-expressions in terms of relative values. Flexible morality.

      > Situation Ethics.

      > Personal needs and self-actualization are primary. Self-
      satisfaction is central to personal growth.

      > Open marriage or no marriage. Emphasis on self-gratification or recreational sex without long-term responsibilities.

      > Others arc responsible for our problems and changes.

      > Minimizing guilt and relieving suffering before experiencing its meaning.

      > Apology for harmful effects.

      > Acceptance and expression of accusatory feelings arc sufficient.

      > Knowledge by self-effort alone. Meaning and purpose derived from reason and intellect. Intellectual knowledge for itself.

      > Isolation of Ihe mind from the rest of life.

      Heimishe therapy definitely condone EVERYTHING on the "clinical/humanistic" list..... but I believe that it condones much too much for one not to feel a DEEP and well-founded sense of unease...

      Delete
    4. Sorry mate, what is "Heimishe" therapy exactly?

      You are talking about religious values, not religious therapy per se.
      Next, your bifurcation between humanistic and religious values is hardly authoratative. For example, the Talmud tells us to view the world as if it was created just for us, whilst the torah tells us to conquer and subdue the world.
      So values which you claim are secular or religious could also fit into its opposite category.

      It seems you are on a mission to fulfill someone else's instructions or implied views. In particular, Rabbis Dessler and Shach, who were totally opposed to secular studies and especially psychology, which they deemed as pure kefira.

      Furthermore, R' Shach made the unenlightened claim that Rambam did not study secular philosophy, but "learned" his philosophy from Talmud Torah. R' Lichtenshtein had to correct this error, by pointing out that Rambam states himself that he studied secular books.

      Now you are simply apply R' Shach's historical revisionism to psychology as well. The irony is, that you are going mamash goyishe sources, of treife religions, like Xtianity, which some how you see as more "kosher" than academic psychology, which is much more reliable and follows scientific testing.

      With the greatest respect to our host R' Eidensohn, I once asked R' Avraham Twersky about which school of psychology he comes from or prefers to use, and he said "whichever works". R' Twersky is a chassidic Rebbe, as well as a Professor. Now, you are making something of a mockery of your own stated goals that you end up drinking water from the wells of Xtianity, when a) your goal is allegedly to do "Torah", and b) when there is already some good groundwork being done by frum "ehrlich" Rabbis, who are qualified in psychology.
      It is like trying to create a Jewish mysticism, and using Sufi mysticism as a sourcebook.

      Delete
  44. Also - I'm not disagreeing with you that a systematic examination of the components of secular therapy to "make sure they don't go against the Torah" is ALSO urgently important.

    Using non-Jewish RELIGIOUS therapists critiques might be the shortest "off-the-shelf" solution (while obviously looking out for area where our belief systems clash).

    What do you think about:
    Modern Psychotherapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal (Christian Association for Psychological Studies Partnership) Hardcover by Stanton L. Jones (Author) , Richard E. Butman?

    They're very prominent and their reviews on amazon seem excellent. I wish I knew of something Jewish"!!!!!!!

    I wish I kn

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  45. Thank You for the thoughtful synopsis.
    You raise some not insignificant barriers to implementing the idea of Torah Therapy. However:
    1) Your arguments are basically addressing the TOIL and LABOR necessary to setting up such a system – not the need. The one exception is what you mention at the end that "I am not convinced that a Torah therapy would actually work better than a selective use of secular therapy". THAT'S the kicker – is it worth the extra effort? I already mentioned why I feel that it is: Only a Torah Based Therapy comes with a "full guarantee" to work - backed by nothing less than HKB"H…
    So if the need is there – it would be at least as necessary as food Kashrus supervision. Would you say the same for Kashrus in areas where the infrastructure for supervision isn't yet in place; namely that too much effort is involved – so we should just rely on the manufacturers?
    2) Since each of your remarks could just as well have been applied to food Kashrus supervision, where we do indeed already have OU and Bedatz and all of your argument WERE once valid – that Rabbis don't know food manufacturing, etc, etc. – and B"H no longer are. I think we can also use what B"H already happened to Kashrus as a template of what could happen in mental health:
    Serious Rabbonim learned the food manufacturing processes, mashkichim were trained to know what to look out for, etc. While it's still far from perfect, all these barriers have been overcome. With Siyata Dishmaya, the same can be done for mental illness. Kllal Yisroel has a lot of intelligent, honest people who – once the idea catches on – would see the tremendous importance of this undertaking. Human ingenuity is boundless!! Besides, who says frum therapists wouldn't be CLAMORING for this sort of thing, once it becomes clear to them that current practice is problematic? After all, they're not "bad people!!
    3) Just because we can't have everything, doesn't mean that we should settle for nothing! Let's go slowly and incrementally: A: Let's work through and "filter" non-Jewish religious sources as a starting point to noticing possible problem areas, adding on whatever comes to mind from Halachik & Hashkafic sources. B: Then, let's get some open, honest, frum therapists that are ready to share their techniques and insights (if necessary anonymously-maybe right here on your blog) and allow them to be critiqued.. C: Once issues are crystallized, let's get some top-echelon Rabbonim to carefully respond. I think that it will be much easier to get "strong" Rabbonim on board, once the issues are crystallized and their scholarly work could be clearly focused and effective.
    It's not lost on me that what I'm recommending sounds more like what you're advocating – that therapy shouldn't CONTRADICT Torah. But I'm suggesting using it as a starting point for IY"H hopefully developing a full TB therapeutic approach. In the worst case, we at least covered your concerns about contradiction.

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    1. Ploni wrote: I already mentioned why I feel that it is: Only a Torah Based Therapy comes with a "full guarantee" to work - backed by nothing less than HKB"H…I already mentioned why I feel that it is: Only a Torah Based Therapy comes with a "full guarantee" to work - backed by nothing less than HKB"H…

      ==================
      There is no guarantee that we are capable of determining a Torah based Therapy that works any better than a secular one.

      You seem to assuming that we are capable of ascertaining Truth. If you read the introduction of the Igros Moshe or the Ktzos - they clearly state that even in the realm of halacha - one can put in maximum effort and still not find Truth.

      The commentararies note that if the Torah was accepted with the first Luchos then to the degree you exert yourself - you find the truth. However we accepted it with the second Luchos for which effort and Truth are unrelated.

      Once you remove your "full guarantee" then the gamble you are taking is enormous - with the clear possiblity you will end up with a system that actually makes things worse rather than better.

      Delete
    2. @PLONY "Only a Torah Based Therapy comes with a "full guarantee" to work - backed by nothing less than HKB"H…"

      Now you are getting into serious deep water - and deep heresy.
      You are claiming that your concoction, where you will scavenge a few freak BT type rabbis, and hybridise the views of Christian therapists, to create a Mamzer of pseudo_Jewish psychology, and you are claiming that this effort will have the stamp of approval from G-d, and will be infallible.
      The obvious problem is that you have now crossed the line, into false Prophesy, you are making a false Navi claim. You are creating a new hotch-potch, which you claim is direct from G-d, when in reality it is your own imagination, and merely a kosher style Christianity.
      Are you actually a Messianic?

      The other problem, is that you think that a Rabbi of today can produce a work of Divine inspiration, which chas v'shalom has the same authority as the Tenach, Talmud, and for those who are Mekubal, the Zohar.
      That is not the case. SOmeone who makes such a claim would at best be seen as a nutter, and at worst an apikorus or navi Shekker.

      Delete
    3. I disagree. I believe it's not all that hard to quantify a solid strong framework for Torah Based Therapy. As I alluded to – it could be the COMMONLY AGREED insights mentioned in the Hashkafic Seforim of the Rishonim.
      I think it's more a problem of what they call a "wall of constricted thinking"; judging what's possible based on popular but faulty assumptions, rather than the Sources. Those Seforim are covered with a pile of dust, so when we think of therapy it doesn't occur to us to use them.
      I believe a strong case can be made to pursue the project SPECIFICALLY because Torah M'Sinai DOES promise excellent results CONTRASTED by the fact that most of us don’t actually live this way …
      An analogy would be if someone buys the latest electronic product, only to find that it doesn't seem to work at all. Right before he's about to throw it in the trash a friend stops him and thinks of actually READING THE MANUAL. It doesn't take long to notice that the usage INSTRUCTIONS WEREN'T FOLLOWED.
      Let's stop right here: Should the assumption be made that the product probably isn't working because it's faulty or rather because the instructions weren't followed? You be the judge!
      We have no reason to doubt that a TB method wouldn't work, specifically BECAUSE the instructions haven't been followed.

      Delete
    4. Yes, I too agree with Plony. the only way to get a Torah true therapy, and indeed a Torah true view on anything, is to descend into klipot of Islam, BUddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, the teachings of Jesus, Alawite martyrs, Al Nusra front of Syria, the Church of Scientology, Sefer HaMormon, and to learn from the various hucksters of these disciplines, and only then can we know what Torah says. Chas v'shalom we should bother learning anything Jewish to understand Judaism. That also goes for marx and Freud, apikorsim. After all, this was exactly the path of our master, Shabbetai.

      Delete
  46. Zev Ballen has developed a method of therapy based on chassidic teachings (stressing such things as emunah and hitbodedut). I can't vouch for its effectiveness, but he has many articles and blog posts online, for anyone who's interested in exploring it as a possible Torah therapy system.

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  47. I am very impressed by Ploni's vision and tenacity here, in seeking to improve things, despite the strong opposition and denigration he has encountered.

    What has happened is that in recent decades many frum people have entered the mental health field - I guess they felt it was desirable, seemingly being an umnus nekiyah vekalah, a helping profession, and a nice and respectable, if not prestigious, parnassah - that have heavily invested in the present system, investing much time, funds, and energy into developing careers in it. After being widely viewed with suspicion in the past, they are now, in many cases, accepted parts of the establishment, working with and getting referrals from rabbis. Having achieved such a level of acceptance and presige, naturally, some of them look askance at any questions, challenge, or criticism, overt or implied, seeing it as a threat to their authority, livelihood, status, etc. It is quite understandable, but very sad and unfortunate nevertheless.

    As Torah Jews we must be open to questions and criticism, which is the way to improvement, even if uncomfortable at times. As it says in Mishlei, הוכח לחכם ויאהבך.

    May Hashem give Ploni the strength and wisdom to continue his valuable and very important critiques of the current system, and be able to point the way to improvements. As the GR"A states in his commentary on Mishlei, a wise man doesn't just criticize, but he also shows the proper alternative way (see אבן שלמה ו:ח) - http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14216&st=&pgnum=64

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    1. you could make the same points about rabbanim - they had been taught that they have the answers, that the torah and its representatives can handle anything, that they need to be the final judge. comes along psychology (and life for that matter) and tells them: hands off, there are areas about which you guys are simply not qualified to deal with (at least not if you spend all your time learning yoreh deah).

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    2. Fan of Ploni - You're warm words are GREATLY appreciated.

      The denigration sort of amuses me. The Meiri says האמת כבד על כן נושאיו מועטים.

      One way to look at it - if the [possible] truth hurts and is so time-consuming to find - one solution is to "kill the messenger".

      Of course, even if the messenger dies the truth remains - but now it becomes easier to ignore.

      PS: Thanks again. One rejoinder, though. I"m not running for office so I don't need "fans". "Helpers", however, would be greatly appreciated!

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  48. i don't have time to got through ploni's mega posts so i don't know if this was covered. a search for the relevant words came up empty.

    there is one line that left me bewildered:

    Another example is that some therapy is predicated about speaking lashon harah about parents and friends

    what's the problem? you have someone with a problem, possibly a condition, and he needs treatment. he talks about his childhood and surroundings. mah yesh? לשון הרע לתועלת 100%

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  49. Part 1:

    I see that B"H there's been quite a bit going on here while I was away. I hope only good comes out of this, and we'll be זוכה to what Chazal tell us in מס' קידושין:: שעוסקין בתורה בשער אחד נעשים אויבים זה את זה ואינם זזים משם עד שנעשים אוהבים זה את זה !
    I'll try to address whatever I can.
    To Eddie who first "reads my mind" and writes: "it seems you are on a mission to fulfill someone else's instructions or implied views. In particular, Rabbis Dessler and Shach, who were totally opposed to secular studies and especially psychology, which they deemed as pure kefira."
    And then notes: "The irony is, that you are going mamash goyishe sources, of treife religions, like Xtianity, which some how you see as more "kosher" than academic psychology, which is much more reliable and follows scientific testing."
    Wow! You "כאפט" me at such a סתירה! You may not have noticed, but you actually – inadvertently - wrote the "תירץ", too. We rely only on Torah, but DO bring proof from secular knowledge, based on the Rambam's criteria.
    As you write" "Rambam states himself that he studied secular books". Indeed he did. As the Rambam clearly states in פרק יז מהל' קידוש החודש:
    וטעם כל אלו החשבונות ... והראיה על כל דבר ודבר. היא חכמת התקופות והגימטריות שחברו בה חכמי יון ... אבל הספרים שחברו חכמי ישראל שהיו בימי הנביאים מבני יששכר לא הגיעו אלינו. ומאחר שכל אלו הדברים בראיות ברורות הם שאין בהם דופי ואי אפשר לאדם להרהר אחריהם, אין חוששין למחבר ... בין שחברו אותם האומות. שכל דבר שנתגלה טעמו ונודעה אמיתתו בראיות שאין בהם דופי אנו סומכין על זה האיש שאמרו או שלמדו על הראיה שנתגלתה והטעם שנודע:
    THAT, my friend, is the answer. Did you fail to note that countless times I've advocated a 100% pure TB approach based on Rishonim שמפיהם אנו חיים, who happen to base their words on ש"ס, תנ"ך??? I also agreed to DT's "checking for contradictions" as a starting point towards building such a system. Using "filtered" religious Xtian THERAPY texts is – as I noted - the easiest off-the-shelf solution I know of, to ferret out CONTRADICTIONS. As I noted, I'm saying so with a heavy heart, simply because I don't know of any of our own who have done an exhaustive analysis of contradictions and I DO KNOW OF WELL-MEANING "SHTREIMLACH WEARING" THERAPISTS THAT UNWITTINGLY IMPART SOME VERY IFFY VALUES TO UNKNOWING HEIMISHE CLIENTS.

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  50. Part 2:

    I most obviously do NOT advocate relying on xtian methods, in fact, we probably don't even need to LEARN their METHODOLOGIES. We DO note their lists of CONTRADICTIONS, based on our KNOWLEDGE OF TORAH, which is what the Rambam wrote that ומאחר שכל אלו הדברים בראיות ברורות הם שאין בהם דופי ואי אפשר לאדם להרהר אחריהם, אין חוששין למחבר.
    I think that the situation has gotten so bad in mental health SPECIFICALLY because one camp – those that B"H are "swimming" in the ים התלמוד, have no interest in knowing what psychology says about anything. The other "heimishe" camp – those that have learned psychology- did so under the false assumption that it's like medicine and have never delved into the Rishonims' Sifrei Hashkafa, שמפיהם אנו חיים, and have no inkling that they might inadvertently be feeding their clients poison…
    I think it's time to "call their bluff" and do what R' Yochanon Ben Zakei said in מס' כלים פי"ז משנה ט"ז:
    וְעַל כֻּלָּן אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי, אוֹי לִי אִם אוֹמַר, אוֹי לִי אִם לֹא אוֹמַר: And the רע"ב explains: אוי לי אם אומר. שמא ילמדו ממני בני אדם לרמות: ואוי לי אם לא אומר. שמא יאמרו הרמאין, אין תלמידי חכמים בקיאים במעשה ידינו, ומתוך כך יבואו לרמות יותר. ולמה אמרם, משום דכתיב (הושע י''ד) כי ישרים דרכי ה' צדיקים ילכו בם ופושעים יכשלו בם:
    Seforim characterize the יצה"ר in עקבתא דמשיחא as the last of his seven names in Mes. Sukka "צפוני" – As the Maharal, תולדות יעקב יוסף and others say that denotes his power to deceive. Therapy is a "helping profession" and its purpose is often NOBLE – to alleviate emotional anguish and allow proper functioning. I believe that unfortunately, so many approaches do so by gutting the clients ability to REALLY live a Torah True enjoyable life. The definition of happiness gets bastardized and the "life of affiliation", meaningful, value-based type of happiness gets trivialized. Clients lose their "anchors" and drown in the dangerous waters of self-realization, FALSE individuation and false self-esteem. And we are not learning from our mistakes – because although so many "burn up" we don't blame the MH system both rather the supposed "illness"…

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  51. yeshaya wrote about Zev Ballen's work (it's at http://zevballen.blogspot.co.il/p/about-dr-zev-ballen.html)

    THANK YOU! THESE are the kinds of leads that can be helpful.

    He seems to be into Breslev - which - if it doesn't contradict Chazal - is surely a million times better than the standard fare.

    Not at all to denigrate Breslov, Lubavitch, etc. , but I'd love to be able to look for contradictions based on information that could be coined "pre-company". Something that's שוה לכל נפש because it's based on the Rishonim - that way nobody could say "I'm not Breslov" or I'm not Lubavitsch", I'm not into Mussar", etc.

    As far as choosing a TB method - once it doesnt CONTRADICT Rishonim's Hashkafic concepts - each one to his own!

    I'D love to have Dr. Ballen "on board" for this project!

    Once the basic
    I"ve actually spoken to a big Mashpia in Breslov a bit about this...

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  52. I asked Dr. Twerski if a purely Torah psychology could be developed. He said it's all in the Torah but you would not know where to look, and that all practitioners have secular training. In other words his answer was no for all practical purposes.

    That said, I think the Torah content of Miriam Adahan's books is very substantial. The form may be cognitive therapy but the type of thinking- seeing things from a neshama point of view, as a gift from Hashem- and the behaviors suggested- strengthening mitzvos and midos- is obviously very Jewish.


    ben dov
    1honestlyfrum.blogspot.com

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    1. Dr. Finkleman in Strictly Kosher Reading

      The Haredi encounter with modern psychology is a case in point. Despite fears that modern psychology raises central questions of philosophical anthropology and answers them in unacceptable ways, Haredi Jews remain fascinated by and extensive consumers of Haredi pop-psychological literature, which allows aspects of modern psychological theory to make their way through the commu¬ nal filter.55 In particular, Haredi mental health professionals who have gained extensive general education play the role of cultural agents. As authors, they help determine which aspects of psychology should enter the community by way of their writings. Prolific author R. Dr. Abraham Twerski has dedicated much of his career to spreading the idea that the Orthodox community must gain a richer understanding of psychology and psychiatry in order to treat dysfunctional or abusive behavior. For example, in his book on depression, Getting Up When You're Down, he em¬phasizes that, "Modern medical science now knows that depression and many related emotional conditions are not ... symptoms of weakness. Such judgments [within the Orthodox community] betray an abysmal lack of understanding that most such moods are physical problems that can be remedied with the proper understanding and treatment."56

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    2. Best-selling author Miriam Adahan also uses her secular psychologi¬cal training to introduce the community to new ideas. Author of over a dozen self-help books, she borrows many of her ideas from non-Jewish theories of personality types, modifying them for her Orthodox audience and arguing that the self-awareness which these theories provide can help make people more calm, considerate, and happy in their relationships with themselves, with God, and with others.57 She acknowledges, as we will see more extensively in Chapter 3, that her theory "is not Torah, not 'Absolute Truth.' ... It is simply another way of understanding people and becoming attuned to our Godly essence."58 Still, she claims, "It would be unfortunate for the Orthodox world not to have access to this valuable information."
      For cultural agents such as Twerski and Adahan, the ability to filter in depends on the ability to filter out. When introducing new ideas into a community that claims to fear outside influences, authors must tread cautiously when choosing what to include or exclude. For example, Adahan's book, Awareness, is based on a popular theory of personality typing and self-help called "The Enneagram." This theory divides people into nine personality types, and it provides self-tests to help individuals determine which personality type they match. According to Enneagram proponents, that self-understanding serves as a "guide to psychological and spiritual growth .... The Enneagram shows how you can overcome your inner barriers, realize your unique gifts and strengths, and discover your deepest directions in.life.
      Most literature on the Enneagram associates it with new-age spirituality, multiculturalism, the occult, and Eastern religions, and the theory claims to derive from an eclectic combination of ancient Babylonian wisdom, Greek Neoplatonistm, Sufi mysticism, as well as Christianity, Kabbalah, and Buddhism, among many other things. The Enneagram belongs firmly within late twentieth-century American religion's regular attempts to merge tradition with new-age spirituality and self-help.?' This multicultural eclecticism and religious syncretism seem entirely in¬ compatible with Haredi Judaism and its exclusivist truth claims. Indeed, the Enneagram has been attacked rather viciously by Catholic writers for being incompatible with religious values.
      Adahan prefers to downplay the new-age and multi-religious rhetoric. She secularizes the Enneagram, stripping it of this baggage, no doubt in order to avoid potential critiques by traditionalists who might dislike this borrowing. Instead of elaborating on the self-proclaimed sources of the theory, she briefly explains that, "Though the precise origin of this personality system is not known, it is believed to be quite ancient."63 Filtering out certain aspects of the Enneagram allows Adahan to filter in those aspects that she deems valuable.

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    3. Oh, I love the Enneagram, stems right from the heart of Christian thought. This is precisely what the Frankist movement was trying to achieve in bringing the purity of tumah to Judaism. Thank you!

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    4. Here goes. Gulp.

      My two cents, for whatever they're worth:

      Based on the limited exposure I've had to his writings - My humble opinion is that Rabbi Dr. Twersk's writings ARE NOT immune to the concerns that I've raised.

      If the discussion here continues, which I hope and pray it does, I'll BL"N try to point out some specifics....

      I would be happy to discuss these issues with him. Is he the type to be interested in talking to "nobodies" like me?

      I dunno anything about Miriam Adahan, so no comment.

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    5. I see nothing wrong with using secular sources aligned with Jewish goals. The subject of personality types in Adahan's books came up here. Jewish literature and education tells us we are each unique. It does not, for the most part, describe that uniqueness. Adahan's books seem to me good descriptions of personality differences, from which I learned a lot about myself. That alone is valuable but Adahan's books have the added benefit of explaining how this information can be used for religious purposes.


      ben dov
      1honestlyfrum.blogspot.com

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  53. Ploni you might want to contact Dr. Baruch Shulem who has written a book about A religious alternative to psychotherapy entitled the Jerusalem Formula. We have discussed and disagreed about this for many years

    http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/dr-baruch-shulems-new-book-jerusalem.html

    http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2013/05/jerusalem-formula-jewish-solution.html

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  54. Part 1:

    I'd like to address what Ben Waxman wrote:

    "one line that left me bewildered: Another example is that some therapy is predicated about speaking lashon harah about parents and friends...what's the problem? you have someone with a problem, possibly a condition, and he needs treatment. he talks about his childhood and surroundings. mah yesh? לשון הרע לתועלת 100%"

    Excellent point. I'll try to explain myself looking from my best understanding of a Torah perspective (as opposed to a pop-heimishe-culture perspective). I think that this can be a good example of the insidious effect that secular methodologies have on less analytical folk.
    The first problem, I believe, is that we tend to think IN ABSOLUTE TERMS and also teach our children to do so. We talk a lot about כיבוד אב האם, לשון הרע etc. But we neglect to mention when we should NOT honor parents. We don't mention the mitzvoh of (respectful) תוכחה even to parents, and we know very little about what the CC considers the OBLIGATION to talk what would otherwise be considered לשון הרע where it is לתועלת.
    Without going into the well-intentioned reasons why this is so, I'm convinced that the negative repercussions of these "omissions" are substantial.
    1) What we don't learn we don't know – so we basically end up doing the wrong thing. sometimes.
    2) I think much worse – I think this is one of the main reasons why so many end up as "Social" Jews, or worse.
    I'll explain. For someone to WILLINGLY accept the yoke of 613+ mitzvohs, IT HAS TO RESONATE. It's what the Rishonim call שיתיישב על הלב, it's what the Rashba includes in the meaning of the word שמע in קר"ש – not just hear, but analyze and FULLY ACCEPT.
    It's extremely painful to see thousands of our youth go off the derech, based on their FALSE understanding that parents can be tyrants and we must ALWAYS obey them, or that serial abusers should roam the streets because it would be לשון הרע to tell anyone about them. So, I think we MUST teach exceptions, not just the rules. (Of course – at the right time).

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  55. Part 2:

    3) I think worst of all - If we never learned the exceptions, we most obviously never learn the DETAILED halachos concerning these exceptions. Go to any Rov and he can (hopefully) tell you about putting pots back on the stovetop on Shabbos, but ask about the DETAILS of לשון הרע לתועלת and it usually draws a blank.
    Here are a few relevant points (I'm leaving out some, too) regarding my understanding of the halachos pertaining to saying לשון הרע לתועלת. The Halachos are mostly in CC הל' לשה"ר כלל י' and הל' רכילות כלל ט'.
     A: The issue discussed must clearly be a transgression of Halacha.
     B: The "guilty party" (usually) must FIRST be rebuked, before others are told.
     C: The injustice may not be exaggerated. Doing so – or omitting mitigating factors - constitutes הוצאת שם רע.
     D: Any other methods of obtaining regress should be exhausted BEFORE telling others.
     E: The damage to the guilty party should not exceed what is Halachically sanctioned.
    Back to our therapy session.
    Some cases where issues that are NOT clearly transgressions of Halacha are often considered as such:
    A parent uses "reasonable" corporal punishment for what he judges to be constructive purposes. See http://projectderech.org/free-downloads.html for a list of 30+ Rabonim that condone it. As they write " “Choseich shivto soneh benoh” administered according to the specifications of Chazal, it is an inseparable and necessary part of chinuch and as such, remains a mitzvah that applies for all times".
    Here's a BIGGER surprise: See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporal_punishment for this: "Corporal punishment of minors within domestic (parental) settings is still lawful in 49 of the United States. Delaware outlawed it as child abuse in 2012.[2] In a 2000 survey it was widely approved by US parents.[3] It has been officially outlawed in 32 countries". Interesting?
    The therapist considers it abuse, regardless of the oddity of having to define the law as legalizing "abuse". Why does the therapy thing this way? Probably because the therapist – and most of us – have been CONDITIONED to see it as such. It's fair to see that if the therapist empathizes with the child's "abuse' without noting the halachic and legal back-story – it's Loshon Horah.

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    1. without getting into the specific case (and IMO scarecrow argument) that you bring, i don't believe that there is even one posek in the world who would tell someone suffering from a problem (something real, an issue that prevents shalom bayit, or parnasa, or getting along with people etc) that if he can't fulfill all the conditions that you list, that he should refrain from getting therapy.

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  56. Part 3:

    Another case: A parent has been noted to sometimes experience FEELINGS of anger while disciplining a obstinate child – although he never did any ACTION that would otherwise be condoned. A common "ideology" among frum therapists is that ANY FEELING of anger is a פסול in Chinuch and leaves emotional damage. The סוגיא in Shabbos קה: (see especially פירוש המשניות להרמבם, ואכמ"ל), and the תניא in אגרת הקודש דף קמ: (among others) say otherwise. Feelings of anger are widespread in society, and while לכתחילה we ARE indeed exhorted to avoid them, what turns them into an איסור is "losing our mind", as explained in אורחות צדיקים.
    Another point: The C"C in כלל י' י"ד בהגה"ה mentions another case where one can share his feelings לתועלת – In order to "talk it out" להפיג את דאגתו. This would SEEM to be exactly what therapy is all about. There's only one catch: The humanistic emphasis on "unconditional positive regard" (basically – just be a friend and listen and never ever disagree) flies in the face of his obligation to point out halachic guidelines.
    MANY homes have been turn asunder because of these "little details".
    For the sake keeping the length of this post more manageable (another mega-post?) I'll stop here.

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  57. DT: Thanks for the link. I've added it to my contacts. Is he open to explore the "contradictions" thingy?

    This is from a review of the book at: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/title-the-jerusalem-formula/2013/06/26/

    "There are ten principles outlined in the book, including that aspirations are better than problems; positive questions evoke positive information; character is achieved through self-control; anger is smoke while the fire is always hurt. The final principle encompasses the fact that a helping relationship can be accomplished by almost anyone who is co-operative, positive, flexible and believes in things not measurable. The second part of the book deals with Understanding Psychology – what it is and what it isn’t. Part three is a complete transcript, verbatim, of four sessions that helped a woman, fictitiously named Dalia, who came for help after 25 years suffering from anxiety and self-criticism. It makes fascinating reading. The fourth and final part of the book summarizes the basics for religious helping quickly. There is also a letter to non-religious therapists about Israel; a bio of the author and an article written about him by Joel Rebibo titled “That Reminds Me of a Story".

    My comment would be similar to what I'd said about Dr. Ballen: Probably a million time better than the standard stuff, but how does he deal with basic Hashkofic issues mentioned in Rishonim that INTERSECT mental Health - does he deal with those at all?

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    1. Simple answer is no. He is providing an alternate therapy which doesn't have the halachic pitfalls of standard therapy, generally works much faster and thus saves the client money and doesn't get involved issues of sewer cleaning which often causes more problems then are solved. He will sometimes base himself on a statement in the Mesora which either supports what he is doing or provides as asmachta.

      I think it might be worth your time to contact him and see if he is interested in joining forces with you.

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    2. DT said: "He will sometimes base himself on a statement in the Mesora which either supports what he is doing or provides as asmachta".

      Does he also attempt to resolve any possible statements in Mesora that might contradict what he's doing?

      I'd be happy to IY"H contact him - though I don't know if I should do so before organizing things.

      Does he read your blog? Would he comment here? Would you post contact info, or should I email you privately?


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    3. No he doesn't attempt to resolve contradictions. He doesn't read blogs and he won't comment here. Mail me privately for his email

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    4. For those interested Dr Shulem set up a web page with regarding Torah and Psychology a number of years ago.

      http://shemayisrael.co.il/orgs/torahpsychology/

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  58. Ploni while you are search for the True Torah Therapy which is guaranteed to work - let me remind you that Torah sources are a two edged sword. In the following case, hashkofa considerations caused significant psychological troubles that would not have have occured with plain secular therapy. The rabbis involved caused much anguish.

    This is a case I dealt with and included in Volume I of Child and Domestic Abuse page 213 "G-d's reason for rape and abuse"

    "The following is an illustration of the impact of theological lenses. A young lady once came to me for a theological consultation. This poised cheerful woman told me that when she was 10 she had been raped by two young yeshiva students at a religious summer camp. As a result of this incident she went into severe depression, became suicidal, and was finally placed in a mental hospital for an extended time. She said that baruch hashem, she had recovered and was no longer depressed or obsessed with revenge. Her visit was precipitated by having just seen her assailants walking down the street in Geula in Jerusalem with their wives and children - as if they had never done anything evil. She said there was only one issue left from her experience which she couldn’t come to grips with - Why did G-d want her to be raped?” All the rabbis she had consulted with told her that it was G-d’s will and that while they couldn’t explain it that it must have been good and necessary. She just had to accept it as G-d’s will. Her problem was that she couldn’t accept that she worshipped a G-d that wanted this horrible thing to happen. I answered her that she was being told the dominant chassidic/kabbalistic view. However I told her that the Rishonim had a different view, i.e., that it is possible for a man to chose to hurt another - even though G-d doesn’t want it to happen. That she will be compensated in the Next World for her suffering but that G-d didn’t cause it to happen. She was able to accept that view."

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    1. This approach to suffering, is perhaps at odds with what the Torah says. Regularly, we are told "biarta ha-ra" - to wipe out evil. Thus, it is predicated on a free will being given, and that the evil outcome is not the one desired by Hashem.

      And as already mentioned, which hashkafa are we talking about? Even in issues where there is a mesora, there is expertise, and Gedolim have engaged those issues for generations, there are multiple hashkafos.

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    2. Eddie - Honestly - not EVERYTHING has multiple hashkofos. It often just seems that way, if we don't try to resolve seeming contradictions.
      I think that careful analysis usually yields a lot of agreement on a lot of things - once we're willing to "sweat the details".

      See the רבינו יונה אבות פ"ד מ"ה:

      והלומד על מנת לעשות מספיקין בידו ללמוד וללמד ולעשות ר"ל שדעתו לפלפל בלימוד כדי לדעת אמתת הדברים ורצונו לטרוח כמה ימים ושנים להשיג דבר קטן ולנהוג עצמו על פי האמת הרי זה למד על מנת לעשות, שכל עיקר מחשבתו אין כי אם אל המעשה להיות אמתי, ולפיכך מספיקין בידו ללמוד וללמד ולעשות שהכל בכלל המעשה.

      There's usually a lot of hard work in trying to resolve things.It might take ימים ושנים. But then you see a lot of congruence.

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  59. Ploni Regarding Torah being therapeutic - you might want to see this posting

    http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2010/11/yeshiva-education-causes-low-self.html

    Where Rav Reuven Feinstein acknowledges that the yeshiva world is suffering from a pandemic of low self esteem. He recommends Rabbi Roll's program for build self -esteem. I am not aware of any program for building self-esteem in chazal or rishonim.

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  60. I have a question...when people speak in a Torah context of someone as being deep or understanding the depths of a soul, how are we to understand this notion of deep? Do they mean they have insight into the dynamic unconscious? Is there is a model of the mind analogous to Freud's id,ego,superego in Torah thought? Did chazal or the musar people or the chasidic thinkers know how the unconscious frames our perception of the world? What exactly did the big baalei musar know about chochmas hanefesh?
    ej

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    1. I don't know if this answers your question, but the אורחות צדיקים in שער יראת שמים seems to say that we ALL have endless "depth" and that it stems from our Neshama's thirst for a connection to something "higher". He writes:

      "No one is ever content with what he has, but always seeks more. If he has one thousand, he desires two thousand.... This STEMS from the fact that the neshama does not adhere to these goods but always aspires to far higher levels, BEING HIGHER THAN ALL THE CREATIONS".

      This aligns very much with תורת הבעל שם טוב. Here again the Achronim popularize a concept that the Rishonim already talk about.

      My humble guess would be that NOBODY can have full insight into the dynamic unconscious or the mind, since the mind IS the neshama and the neshama IS a part of G-d. Just as G-d is unfathomable, so too is the unconscious and the mind.

      I may be very wrong. This is just my understanding.

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    2. Clever but I am nnot happy with your answer. Here's why. There is a neo-Platonic picture of up-down,heaven-earth. In it's most sophisticated version it is the kabalistic picture how shefah flows from the eternal through all the intermediate worlds and finally to the material world we occupy. This model is distict from the inside-outside dimension. Musar people post Reb Chaim Velozhin were not operating with a kabbalistic model. They thought they were psychologists or seers who could understand the depths of a person. What did they think they understood? And to make it easy does anyone know of some traditional sefer that works out however roughly the idea of the unconscious, its relationship to dreams, symptoms and the like? Did any Torah figure formulate the idea of a transference to an idealized figure like a teacher or rebbe, and its relationship to the unconscious? If the answer is no, what is this conversation all about? DOes anyone really think there is a coherent, relatively operational other psychology known only to Orthodox practitioners?
      ej

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    3. I wasn't trying to be clever - just truthful.

      "Musar people post Reb Chaim Velozhin were not operating with a kabbalistic model. They thought they were psychologists or seers who could understand the depths of a person."

      Are you sure that they thought they could understand the depths... or perhaps they felt that understanding "the depths" may be enticing, but not relevant to our "job description" - doing the right thing.

      Perhaps they agreed that our explorations of anything "deep" should be limited to a cognitive-behaviorist perspective: Which beliefs/thoughts/emotions will enhance or hinder my ability to "do right"?

      By early Chasidim, this was behind the disagreement between the Baal Hatanya and the Kalisker. Most "polish" chassidus followed the kalisker, but I think even the B"H agrred to what I said - he just understood that the stuff Chabad is "made of" does indeed enhance our ability to do good.

      So what I'm trying to say is that we know our limitations and choose the thoughts that help for practical purposes, because we REALLY know very little...

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    4. I read the multi volume work Tenuas Hamusar, I forget the author's name,and in that work, which I thought was a definitive account of the musar movement, the author said many times that the big baalei musar had deep psychological insights into people, aka chochmas hanefesh. I was wondering how they could have such insight without the concepts of an unconscious and of transference. They might have been intuitive, but did they also have systemic knowledge, i.e. a theory or model of how the mind works, and how neurotic symptoms are formed and cured? Psychoanalytically informed therapy and psychoanalysis proper do have such ideas.
      ej

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    5. It is claimed that in fact Rav Yisroel Salanter discovered the unconscious mind before Freud.

      This claim is problematic since there was a major fascination with the unconscious mind in the 19th century -

      see Whyte The Unconscious Before Freud,

      http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1975/jun/12/not-freuds-discovery/?pagination=false

      http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~kihlstrm/rediscovery.htm

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  61. Part 1:

    DT: When "ALL THE RABBIS she had consulted with told her that it was G-d’s will and that while they couldn’t explain it that it must have been good and necessary" – could they possibly have meant that G-d C"V wants people to go around murdering and raping? Of course not. They probably meant that AFTER the fact, just accept it and know that's "good and necessary".
    When YOU told her "that it is possible for a man to chose to hurt another - even though G-d doesn’t want it to happen", did you mean to say that AFTER the fact it wasn't "good and necessary"? If so, would you also say that the family of a murder victim shouldn't recite the Brocho of דיין האמת, whose purpose, according to Chazal, is to instill the feeling that כל מה דעביד רחמנא לטב עביד – ALL – even murder - is GOOD??? And חייב אדם לברך על הרעה כשם שהוא מברך על הטוב בדעת שלימה ובנפש חפיצה (that’s from Shulchan Aruch ס' רכ"ב). Somehow, we're actually to keep our full facilties…
    In essence, I think there's really no disagreement. This seems to go back to the Rambam and Raavid's point of ידיעה and בחירה. The woman needed to know what YOU told her – that the perpetrators of evil are evil and despicable, until they do proper Teshuva. And that regardless of their Teshuva, they need to be punished according to whatever din applies, and if they're a threat to the public, they should be jailed. It seems that she wasn't getting THAT PART of the picture from those Rabbis.
    Perhaps the Rabbis had weak communication skills. Perhaps they "forgot" the part that you imparted. And perhaps their main deficit was in not being able to make their words RESONATE for a person in pain.
    I'll mention several of the explanations of the "how and why" concerning "all's good and necessary" that can perhaps help make things more understandable and help them RESONATE:
    The Shulchan Aruch in Siman רכ"ב explains WHY חייב אדם לברך על הרעה וכו':
    הרעה לעובדי השם היא שמחתם וטובתם כיון שמקבל מאהבה מה שגזר עליו השם נמצא שבקבלת רעה זו הוא עובד את השם שהיא שמחה לו

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    1. the language of the Shulchan Aruch is one must say a beracha on the bad that G-d decreed as he does for the good that G-d decreed.

      How do you know that a particular bad event such as rape was decreed by G-d? While the Mishna Berura states that all suffering is atonement for sin and thereby reduces suffering in the World to Come - it is not necessarily a punishment. We see that yesurim shel ahava are suffering - for the sake of increasing reward.

      Bottom line the issue is that it is not certain whether this particular suffering was decreed by G-d or happened because of chance, mazel, free-will of man. This is the gemora in Shabbos 55.

      However modern hashkofa based on the Baal Shem Tov is that everything happens by hashgocha protis and therefore G-d decrees all that happens. In the world of Chazal and Rishonim the suffering is not necessarily decreed by G-d.

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    2. My proof from Shulchan Aruch was that regardless of whether or not it was DECREED by G-d, we must most obviously accept it as BEING GOOD.
      My line of thought is that although there's no Brocho for rape victims, there IS one for relatives of someone murdered. The Brocho is based on the basic premise that what happened was GOOD - as in כל מה דעביד רחמנא לטב עביד.My assumption is as atrocious as it is, rape isn't WORSE than murder - so it too must be "good".

      I'm not saying that it was DECREED.

      My understanding of the Besht's מחלוקות is that it pertains to the LEVEL of השגחה פרטית. All would agree to לקבלונא בשמחה based on כל מה דעבדי לטב עביד.

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    3. This raises a major problem. Therapy is to fix or improve - but instead of improving mental health one can work on accepting the problem.

      On what basis does a Torah therapist decide to improve the marriage, or self-esteem and when does he say to accept yourself or others as they are - without changing anything? - Both views are compatible with the rishonim

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    4. I think Torah Therapy would look a bit different. First, the goal would be to appraise the situation, based on Torah valus - Halochos and Hashkofos.

      Analyze - Is anything going on that contradicts those values? Are the parties AWARE that they're contradicting Torah Values and they don't care? Or, are they caught up in pop culture and are oblivious? This would include the necessary research and discussion to ascertain the aforementioned.

      Let's assume that they're oblivious, but EMOTIONALLY they FEEL that things HAVE TO BE a certain way. If so, I think we should most definitely FIX things. How?

      I think an important component of Torah values is to understand the role of COGNITIVE REAPPRAISAL, which is the cornerstone of the mitzvo of ולא תתורו and happens to have plenty of empirical evidence for its efficacy in CBT and DBT studies.

      Next,the goal would be to properly motivate and communicate those values to the client. I think a big part of that motivation would include the גדלות האדם and / or Neshama part - but WITH the understanding that the Neshama only "works" with various prerequisites in place...

      The client should know that perfection is for angels - but sincere רצון to fix what needs fixing is for all of us...

      I know I only addressed ONE scenario.But I don't think counseling usually works this way.

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  62. Part 2:

    So we should STRIVE to be בדעת שלימה ובנפש חפיצה – because accepting one's lot is a mitzvah, and עובדי ה' find joy in serving Hashem. There are some working assumptions here – not the least of which is that we honestly believe that AFTER the fact there's good here, and that I actually feel joy in serving Hashem… Not so simple. Since the Torah is true, let's look deeper – we need to UNDERSTAND what kind of good can realistically come out of such a despicable act, so that it RESONATES.
    Here's what the Rambam in פירוש המשניות says: That many things that seem "good" at first glance eventually end up bringing pain and being "bad". Likewise, many painful things later bring good. Perhaps that would resonate. Let's think AFTER the fact of how she can benefit… What would it be like if this terrible story teaches her RESILIENCE? What if this gives her the tools and knowledge to act as an affective counselor to other people C"V going through traumatizing events. PerhapsTHIS is what "all is good" means? Nobody would ever choose this way of learning resilience…but after the fact THIS is Hashem's plan for her. Still, even so – would this RESONATE? Couldn't Hashem find an easier way for her to learn the lesson of resilience?
    I think the Ran in דרשות הר"ן, דרשה י' enlightens us on this matter. He notes that the usual explanation for "why bad things happen to good people", namely so that they receive their punishment in this "fleeting" world rather than in the World To Come, which is an עולם עומד, doesn't suffice. He asks that if we were given a choice of getting punished for our misdeeds in עוה"ז or in עוה"ב, we'd all rather "push it off" for later and surely Hashem could make the punishment in עוה"ב proportionate to the crime in severity and time etc.…
    His answer is enlightening. He says that Hashem doesn't push it off, because of the inherent benefit that suffering specifically in THIS world has. When things go well, we all tend to gravitate to the כח הדמיון, which often results in עבירות. Painful events act as a wake-up call. The כח הדמיון is weakened, thus allowing the כח השכל to become empowered. So why did Hashem allow this despicable act? After the fact – because he wanted encourage the good that could result at the end, IF she chooses to take advantage of an energized כח השכל that she would probably only notice if she accepted the Shulchan Aruch's dictum that עובדי השם find joy in serving Hashem – and use their energized שכל to search for silver linings….
    I hope that RESONATES. Just my two cents.
    And BTW – Perhaps this could qualify (with the right delivery and "bedside manner") for TB therapy.

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  63. Whether to accept or change a situation is sometimes (not always) a question of daas torah rather than psychology. The goal of therapy would be to enable the client instead of deciding for the client.

    ben dov
    1honestlyfrum.blogspot.com

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  64. "The goal of therapy would be to enable the client instead of deciding for the client"

    In cases where the particulars of a situation clearly intersect Torah Halacha and/or Hashkafa...

    A. Isn't it EVERY Jew's obligation to point out what Torah Halacha and/or Hashkafa requires - gently, em pathetically... bu still point it out? Do therapists have a "free pass" on this requirement? Are we allowed to assume that the client isn't interested in hearing us? Isn't that being דן לכף חוב?

    B. Isn't it EVERY Jew's obligation to use every tool he can find in order to find the best mediums that can MOTIVATE the client to be able "do the right thing" - with desire and passion - as defined by Torah Halacha and/or Hashkafa, instead of being satisfied with perfunctory efforts in that direction? Do therapists have a "free pass" on this requirement?

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  65. R. Yisrael Salanter's famous list of midos improvement was taken from Benjamin Franklin via a Hebrew reworking.

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    1. The Rambam learned from secular books, but only where a. he didn't find anything in traditional sources to fulfill the need, and b. he had no reason to doubt the truth of what the secular sources said.

      My point is that a. we do have traditional sources to fulfill our need, and b. there ARE MANY REASONS to doubt the veracity of the secular sources.

      The Rambam is in פרק יז מהל' קידוש החודש:

      וטעם כל אלו החשבונות ... והראיה על כל דבר ודבר. היא חכמת התקופות והגימטריות שחברו בה חכמי יון ... אבל הספרים שחברו חכמי ישראל שהיו בימי הנביאים מבני יששכר לא הגיעו אלינו. ומאחר שכל אלו הדברים בראיות ברורות הם שאין בהם דופי ואי אפשר לאדם להרהר אחריהם, אין חוששין למחבר ... בין שחברו אותם האומות. שכל דבר שנתגלה טעמו ונודעה אמיתתו בראיות שאין בהם דופי אנו סומכין על זה האיש שאמרו או שלמדו על הראיה שנתגלתה והטעם שנודע

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    2. Ploni wrote:
      The Rambam learned from secular books, but only where a. he didn't find anything in traditional sources to fulfill the need, and b. he had no reason to doubt the truth of what the secular sources said.

      The Rambam doesn't say what you claim. The Gra clearly doesn't agree with your assessment nor does Rav S. R. Hirsch.

      The Rambam that you do cite is simply referring to the validity of secular science for use in halachic matters.

      To apply this Rambam to our topic, "We might once upon a time have had a Torah true psychology - but it has gotten lost except for fragments scattered through our mesora. However secular psychology that has been validated and accepted as working is also legitimate - as long as it doesn't violate halachic paramters."

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    3. " The Gra clearly doesn't agree with your assessment nor does Rav S. R. Hirsch"

      Source, please...

      "but it has gotten lost except for fragments scattered through our mesora."

      Who says it's lost?

      "has been validated and accepted as working"

      How about if it's actually been shown that what's used most often doesn't work, and what works isn't usually used?

      "it doesn't violate halachic parameters

      Wasn't that updated to include all-important HASHKAFIC parameters?


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    4. Contrary to your assertion - the Rambam did not approach secular knowledge only if there was no official Jewish version. The common thread of critics is that because the Rambam acquired wide knowledge from every source - he was in fact influenced by secular studies - including material which was not in agreement with hashkofa.

      Rivash (#45): R’ Meir’s view was that if the person was a mature scholar he would be able to assimilate the good points and reject the heretical… That is why the Rambam cites this verse in Mishlei at the beginning of Moreh Nevuchim. Nevertheless, the Rambam was not able to escape from being slightly influenced by his study of philosophy in a number of his philosophic proofs concerning the Torah… Perhaps the Rambam’s intention was merely to influence people who were strongly under the influence of philosophy - but not that he himself believed these proofs… The Ralbag who was also a great Torah sage and wrote a good commentary on the Torah and Prophets - followed in the footsteps of the Rambam. However, he too was influenced by his secular studies to turn his heart from the true path. … In these matters, he wrote explanations which are prohibited to hear. … Therefore, everyone needs to draw a lesson from these facts. If these two great and honored kings - the Rambam and the Ralbag - could not keep their footing regarding a number of matters, how can we stand firm when we haven’t even seen the light as they did. We have seen many who have stopped praying and have severed themselves from the Torah traditions and mitzva observance because of their secular studies - as Rabbeinu Hai Gaon wrote…

      Seridei Aish (L’Perakim #26): … I want to note that I am concerned with the genuine concept of emuna (faith) and not the emuna of the philosopher that is not deserving of the name. It is known that there were Rishonim who attacked the Rambam and his supporters who had tried to “prove” emuna with logical philosophical proofs. These Rishonim claimed that emuna does not require justification from philosophy which is an inherently flawed and inadequate support. It is quite clear that “emuna” which is based upon proofs and logical rationalization is in fact not included in the concept that we call emuna. The factor of logical proof inherently takes it out of the realm of emuna. Simply put one who bases his faith on philosophical proofs ceases to be a believer and becomes a thinker or intellectual. After emuna dies from the heart of a person, it begins to be in the thoughts. …

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    5. Rambam (Letter to Ibn Tibbon): Aristotle reached the highest level of intellect that man is capable of without the aid of the Divine influence which leads to prophecy for which there is no higher stage.

      Vilna Gaon (Commentary to Shulchan Aruch YD 179:13): Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 179) Uttering an incantation on the wound from a scorpion is permitted even on Shabbos even though this type of remedy is ineffective since the person is in mortal danger. This ruling of the Shulchan Aruch is the view of the Rambam (Mishna Torah Avoda Zara 11:11). The Rambam expressed this view also in his Commentary on the Mishna (Avoda Zara 4:7). However, every rabbinic authority after the Rambam disagreed with him. This is because there are many gemoras describing use of Divine names and witchcraft. The Rambam had such a view because he was influenced by philosophy. Therefore, he writes that witchcraft, use of Divine names, incantations, demons, and charms are all false. His view is completely erroneous since we see many descriptions in the gemora of these things. Even the Torah itself gives examples such as Moshe’s staff turning into a snake. The Zohar also describes these things. In addition, there are too many cases to enumerate dealing with incantations. Philosophy has warped his understanding so that he describes all these gemoras as meaningless or interprets them not according to their plain meaning. I don’t accept the philosophers or their approach. To the contrary, all of these stories are to be taken literally. While they in fact have a deeper concealed meaning, it is not the understanding of the philosophers which is merely a superficial understanding - but rather that of the kabbalists.

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    6. Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 1:17): Don’t think that theology is the only thing that should be withheld from the masses. Most of science should also be kept from them. In fact, we have repeatedly cited the statement of our sages (Chagiga 11b) that Maaseh Bereishis [physics according to the Rambam] should not be taught in the presence of two people. This concealment of information from the masses is not unique to Judaism but was also characteristic of the philosophers and the non Jewish sages of the ancient world. They would conceal the basic principles of wisdom by presenting them as riddles… Now if the secular sages found a need to conceal information from the masses by using figurative expressions and similes - even though there was no danger of loss - surely it is appropriate for the religious community not to express issues which are difficult for the masses to understand or that they understand it different than what is meant.

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    7. Rambam (Shemonah Perakim - Introduction): You should know that the things that we will speak about in these chapters and that which will be mentioned in the commentary are not things that I invented on my own and not explanations that I made up. In fact, they are all things that have been gleaned from the words of the sages - from the Medrash, Talmud and other of their compositions. Material has also come from philosophers both ancient and modern as well as the composition of many men. [My guiding principle has been] hear the truth from all who say it. Sometimes I have quoted whole sections from well known books. There is nothing wrong in that since I am not claiming that I am the author of another’s work. I am proclaiming now that this is not an original work even though I do not identify the actual author in my text. The reason for omitting the source of my material is that listing the source adds to the length of the text without providing benefit. Another reason for omitting the source is that some readers might be upset by a particular source due to their ignorance. They would simply reject it out of hand assuming incorrectly that it was harmful. Therefore, I decided it would be best not to mention my sources, since I am interested in the maximum benefit to the reader and that he should come to an understanding of the inner meaning of this tractate.

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    8. DT:
      I don't see what you see. You write that: "the Rambam did not approach secular knowledge only if there was no official Jewish version". I see no proof from the sources you bring.

      The Rivash's statement pertains to philosophic proofs concerning the Torah – Are you saying that the Rambam knowingly used philosophic proofs even where Torah based proofs were available, and b. the Rambam felt that those philosophic proofs contradict Torah? Of course not. The RIVASH held that they contradict, the Rambam (and Chovos Halvovos in שער היחוד) held that they didn't. The לב טוב brings that the custom is NOT to learn the philosophic proofs. The Rambam held otherwise.

      The same can be said concerning the GR"A on Shulchan Aruch YD 179:13 – the GR"A beleves that the Rambam was influenced… But of course the GR"A would NEVER POSIT that the Rambam would C"V ever KNOWINGLY allow him self to be influenced in any area where a. the Torah is clear or the statement contradicts Torah.

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    9. Rambam acquired knowledge and if it made sense he proclaimed it to be true. he did not first go through all the Jewish literature and if he couldn't find relevant material then go to secular sources. In fact Rav Hirsch claims he was too dependent on secular sources to judge material in the mesorah. His rejection of astrology and magic is an example of something which was clearly accepted by chazal - and yet Rambam rejected them as not being true. This rational secular orientation is used to explain why he rejected kabbla ideas.


      Shemona Perakim: You should know that the things that we will speak about in these chapters and that which will be mentioned in the commentary are not things that I invented on my own and not explanations that I made up. In fact, they are all things that have been gleaned from the words of the sages - from the Medrash, Talmud and other of their compositions. Material has also come from philosophers both ancient and modern as well as the composition of many men. [My guiding principle has been] hear the truth from all who say it. Sometimes I have quoted whole sections from well known books.


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    10. Ploni, this is an interesting turn in the discussion.
      However, Rambam, at great personal risk, rejected certain Chazal statements, eg on astrology, based on his own scientific knowledge and research. The proofs from Chazal were easy and available, and yet he rejected them on grounds of science and philosophical logic.

      He wrote a Letter on Astrology, where he rejects the Jewish scientific viewpoint.
      http://people.bu.edu/dklepper/RN242/rambam2.html

      Now, today, we might wish to take this approach further, eg that the earth revolves around the sun - which contradicts both Rambam's Mishne Torah, and the Talmudic view. Yet, I haven't heard of anyone saying such a view is "apikorsus". Also the concept of 4 elements - which is held by Rambam and the Zohar. Yet, today it is no problem to learn the Periodic Table, it is not considered "assur" to say water is H2O for example.
      So, why is psychology such a holy cow for you?

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    11. Rambam clearly rejected or rationalized parts of the mesora that did not appear rational to him. Thus he rejected magic and astrology.

      Rambam (Letter on Astrology): I know of course that it is possible to search and find isolated opinions of some sages in the Talmud and Medrashim whose views contradict [what I have said.] ... These statements should not trouble you because one doesn’t simply discard a clearly established Halacha and revert to the initial analysis. Similarly, it is not appropriate to discard a well validated principle and simply rely on a minority opinion of the sages instead. That is because the sage [is not infallible and] might have erred by overlooking some important facts or hints when he stated his views. Alternatively, he might have stated his view only concerning a unique situation that had been presented to him and he had not meant to state a general principle. This caution is illustrated by the fact that many verses of the Torah are not meant to be taken literally - as has been clearly established by impeccable proofs. Therefore, they are explained in a way that makes sense rather than taken literally. The general rule is that a person should never easily toss aside his well considered views. His eyes should look unflinchingly forward and not backwards.


      Shomer Emunim HaKadmon (1:13): It is quite obvious to us and is clearly stated in the gemora and medrash in many places that there is a power to names and amulets to do amazing things e.g., Shabbos (61a) and Yevamos (49b)…Rashba (1:220). Nevertheless, the Rambam denies that this is true and strongly ridicules those who believe in the power of names to do anything. We see this in Moreh Nevuchim (1:61–62). Thus, he does not find the testimony of the gemora credible. It is also known that our Sages received traditions concerning demons and witchcraft as is well known from the gemora and medrashim. Nevertheless, the Rambam decided that they are nonsense and stupidity and that all who believe that they are real but the Torah has prohibited them is a fool and idiot and is included amongst the ignorant women and children (Hilchos Avoda Zara 11:16)... Even though the issue of magic is mentioned in the Torah itself in a number of places - nevertheless the rationalists reject their validity and produce far-fetched explanations to these verses in order not to violate their rationalism. They are not concerned with the words of our Sages that are clearly stated in a number of places which clearly acknowledge the reality of demons and magic. Their rejection of these things is that according to the rationalistic understanding it is simply impossible that these things exist. This is the approach of the rationalists. They will simply not accept the validity of anything said by our Sages which contradicts rational human understanding…

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    12. There is also a story in the Talmud, where no less a personage than R' Yehuda HaNasi considers the issue of why springs have hot water at night - and he also rejects the view of the Jewish Sages, and accepts that of the non Jewish scientists of his day.

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    13. Eddie asks “why is psychology such a [un]holy cow for you”?
      Please see my later posts about the problem that in therapy the priority is often living with a sense of wholeness in one’s experiential self, rather than the religious priority of finding joy from living consistently within one’s valuative goals.
      Stanton and Butman explain the antagonism of psychology vs. religion thus:
      in many areas, and especially in psychology, adequate scholarship requires interacting with scientific theories and clinical models that are questionable from a [Religious] standpoint…..First, many of the major proponents of secular approaches to psychotherapy were (or are) non-[Religious] thinkers, with many having large axes to grind against religion …... In this field of study, one inevitably encounters direct and indirect jabs against … faith….
      More often the antagonism against [Religion] is subtle, demonstrated more in the silence about religion in psychology texts, papers and classes than in open antagonism. Kirkpatrick and Spilka (1989), for instance, have documented the almost total neglect of religion as a meaningful human phenomenon in major psychology texts. We are convinced that this conspiracy of silence about things spiritual can be more deadly than open antagonism. [Religious people] are seduced into lowering their guard and being lulled into a secular mindset where faith is neither good nor bad, true nor false, but simply irrelevant. (This has not always been the case. In the first half century of American psychology-1880-1930-religion was a major area of investigation for the field [Spilka, Hood & Gorsuch, 1985].)
      Second, we believe that psychology in general and psychotherapy in particular are especially prone to subtle errors or departures from truth. As theologian Emil Brunner (1946) suggested, sin biases distorts not only our moral behavior but also our thoughts … Brunner went on to argue that sin would have a more subtle and profoundly disturbing effect on belief the closer one gets to the "center of existence," where one is struggling with the core truths of human life. Proportionally, the further one is away from this core, the less the influence sin has on thought. Thus when one is studying the nocturnal migration behavior of the notch-winged red-bellied thrush (if there is such a species), one is not grappling with quite the same core issues that one encounters in grappling with the central motivations and needs of human life. The closer one gets to this core of existence, the further one gets from the facts or data of experience and the more one depends on speculation. Data can be seen as a restraint on speculation (being held accountable to clear and irrefutable facts); in the absence of such close restraint, when the scholar is attempting to propose a grand theory of personality and therapy, one may be freer to drift from the facts into pure speculation and hence error.
      Third, … we believe that there are some very seductive elements of the profession of psychotherapy that can ensnare the immature or unwise [Religious person]. Psychotherapists take great pride in being in a "people-helping" profession and, in most circles, are accorded respect for their skills and professional activities. One can subtly begin to believe that helping people on an interpersonal dimension is all there is to caring for others. It is all too easy to become enamored of the powerful position one occupies in relation to one's clients and to the financial rewards possible in the field (though these have been greatly exaggerated), which can open the door to great error.

      Delete
    14. So the problem with psychology could be BETTER UNDERSTOOD from the Rambams beautiful letter to חכמי פרובינציה that eddie links to:

      Psychology masquerades as one (or several) of the three types of knowledge that should be accepted, while MANY SECULAR SOURCES ALSO AGREE THAT IT IS NONE OF THOSE.

      As he writes "Every reasonable man ought to distinguish in his mind and thought all the things that he accepts as trustworthy, and say: "This I accept as trustworthy because of a. tradition, and this because of b. sense-perception, and this c. on grounds of reason."

      Thanks Eddie!

      I believe that much of psychology became so popular in our circles because it found a way of allowing people to lose any sense of guilt for allowing INSTINCT to trump tradition and reason. And the effects are devastating.


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    15. why are you thanking me, Plony, Pscyhology could fall into both b) and c) of the above typologies - if it is efficacious, and someone feels the benefit from it.

      But you seem to be using circular argumentation, and misrepresenting everything so that it suits you agenda.

      In any case, I am withdrawing from this discussion, as I do not see any point in arguing my case any further.

      Delete
  66. Part 1:

    I think the following section of a report issued by the APA is illustrative of why we should be very leery of secular psychotherapy.

    Basically, I understand that what they're saying is that...

    religions "give priority to telic congruence (i.e., living consistently within one’s valuative goals)"...

    while "psychology give priority to organismic congruence (i.e., living with a sense of wholeness in one’s experiential self)..

    Of course they don't REALLY say that - they're comparing "some religions" to "Affirmative and multicultural models of LGB psychology". It's just that without a doubt Orthodox Judaism belongs to the former, while I'm quite sure that many models used for therapy in our community follow the latter.



    (source: Report from American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, pg. 18)

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  67. Part 2:

    Here's the relevant section, from the Report of "The American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation" pg 18:



    The conflict between psychology and traditional faiths may have its roots in different philosophical viewpoints. Some religions give priority to telic congruence (i.e., living consistently within one’s valuative goals) (W. Hathaway, personal communication, June 30, 2008; cf. Richards & Bergin, 2005). Some authors propose that for adherents of these religions, religious perspectives and values should be integrated into the goals of psychotherapy (Richards & Bergin, 2005; Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006). Affirmative and multicultural models of LGB psychology give priority to organismic congruence (i.e., living with a sense of wholeness in one’s experiential self (W. Hathaway, personal communication, June 30, 2008; cf. Gonsiorek, 2004; Malyon, 1982). This perspective gives priority to the unfolding of developmental processes, including self-awareness and personal identity.

    This difference in worldviews can impact psychotherapy. For instance, individuals who have strong religious beliefs can experience tensions and conflicts between their ideal self and beliefs and their sexual and affectional needs and desires (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; D. F. Morrow, 2003). The different worldviews would approach psychotherapy for these individuals from dissimilar perspectives: The telic strategy would prioritize values (Rosik, 2003; Yarhouse & Burkett, 2002), whereas the organismic approach would give priority to the development of self-awareness and identity (Beckstead & Israel, 2007; Gonsiorek, 2004; Haldeman, 2004). It is important to note that the organismic worldview can be congruent with and respectful of religion (Beckstead & Israel, 2007; Glassgold, 2008; Gonsiorek, 2004; Haldeman, 2004; Mark, 2008), and the telic worldview can be aware of sexual stigma and respectful of sexual orientation (Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006; Tan, 2008; Yarhouse, 2008). Understanding this philosophical difference may improve the dialogue between these two perspectives represented in the literature, as it refocuses the debate not on one group’s perceived rejection of homosexuals or the other group’s perceived minimization of religious viewpoints but on philosophical differences that extend beyond this particular subject matter. However, some of the differences between these philosophical assumptions may be difficult to bridge.

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  68. Part 3:

    Stanton and Butman say the same about Rogerian "humanistic" aproaches:

    "it reduces human growth to the process of pursuing self-actualization by following the direction of one’s INSTINCTUAL organimistic valuing process. Moreover, morality risks becoming a matter of following the instinctual compass rather than being a rigorous and demanding response of the whole person.
    The Rogerian self, they note, has no center or anchor, and if taken to an extreme, can turn into a formless entity defined only by its urges and sensing"

    I see THIS as a major problem in therapy - the priority is living with a sense of wholeness in one’s experiential self, rather than finding joy from living consistently within one’s valuative goals.

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    1. You raise an interesting issue - what is truly the goal of therapy.

      When I was working as a therapist in a social agency - a man came to me with a major problem. He was suffering from high levels of anxiety and depression. He said it was because he was involved in an adulterous relationship and he wanted me to get rid of the guilt he was experiencing from cheating on his wife.

      As an employee of the agency I wasn't able to tell him to behave himself. On the other hand I wasn't interested in helping him sin.

      So I told him that I could help him but he had to realize that therapy would change him in ways that could not be predicted in advance. I asked him whether getting rid of the anxiety and guilt was worth the price.

      He thought about it for a while and said that he felt he could live with the anxiety but he didn't think he could deal with become a different person.

      Rav Sternbuch mentioned this is also in providing marriage counseling to those who don't observe taharas hamishpacha. However he said in modern times if they don't get along with their spouse they will simply find another partner - it wasn't so much an issue.

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  69. This is a profound topic. As an interested kibbitzer w/o professional training, I find it fascinating, and thank "Ploni," Rav Eidenson, and thoughtful commenters. I have read many comments, but have not had time to read them all, so I will be brief, lest I waste everyone's time. But it seems that before considering whether there is or could be "Torah-based therapy," one needs to ask what one means by "Torah" in this context. Rabbi Dr. Spero, in the article DT linked to here, referred to Hashem looking into the Torah before creating the world; in that sense, any objective truth about the world is part of Hashem's Torah, even if not expressly in the Torah as revealed to us, nor (yet?)in the implications we have been able to infer or deduce from it. On the other hand, "Torah" in the sense of the Torah we have, signifies Hashem's instruction directed specifically to Am Yisrael, rather than generalizable knowledge. ("If you hear there is wisdom among the nations of the world, believe it; if you hear there is Torah among the nations of the world, do not believe it.") So if there were to be developed a specific, Torah-based psychology and psychotherapy based upon it, would it be applicable only to Jewish souls? Or, if there is no existential difference between Jewish and Gentile souls, the difference being attributed to Jews' acceptance of Torah, would a putative Torah-based psychology/psychotherapy only be applicable to Torah-believing Jews? Put another way, would we expect a Torah-based therapy to be efficacious for all people, as reflecting knowledge of the human being as created by Hashem, or should the first step of a Torah-based therapy be convincing the patient to accept the Torah? Would a scientific test of its validity require that the patients be believing Jews? [Try selling that "scientific" criterion!] Too many questions, too little time. FWIW, I agree in a simplistic way with Rav Eidensohn; I don't think it's worthwhile to try to go there.

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    1. excellent question. In fact whether a person is a halachic Jew might be determined whether he is helped by the TB therapy!

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    2. ridiculous answer.

      "In fact whether a person is a halachic Jew might be determined whether he is helped by the TB therapy! "

      So you will uproot all accepted halacha, and based on a couple of quacks inventing some man made therapy, and use that therapy to determine if someone is a Jew? Sorry, but this is a complete joke!

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    3. Eddie wrote previously:

      In any case, I am withdrawing from this discussion, as I do not see any point in arguing my case any further.

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    4. correct - the discussion has entered new territory, and my response is about the new alleged methods of determining is someone is really Jewish!

      Delete
  70. Part 1:

    DT noted his response to a client who wanted validation for staying in an adulterous affair and how he dealt with it. His comment was in response to the sources I quoted that point out the contradiction between therapy's priority to imbue a sense of wholeness based on one’s experiential self, rather than religious priority of finding joy from living consistently within one’s valuative goals.

    My bigger concern is in cases where the contradiction in priorities is more subtle - and much more devastating to "our" communities. (I'm working from the hopeful assumption that adulterous relationships aren't so widespread in "our" communities).

    I'll make what sounds like a "wild" claim, which I nevertheless strongly believe is true: I posit that because of this incongruity "heimishe" a therapist may actually end up robbing unsuspecting clients of the ability to life a "life of meaning", besides unfairly denigrating an innocent parent and breaking a family

    Let me explain:

    Picture a scenario where a parent prioritizes living within one's VALUATIVE goals - and encourages his/her children to do the same. As part of this encouragement, he also often lauds a moral, ethical lifestyle and points out the risks of seeking happiness based on the experiential self alone.

    Let's say that he is affiliated with a community that, regardless of all its good points, suffers from certain "blind spots" in specific areas pertaining to ethics and / or morals. "Little" people are routinely crushed, people are discouraged from experiencing a healthy "intrinsic" religion and engaging in the intellectual effort that it entails and financial injustices are routinely condoned or at the very least ignored. The community "establishment" employs intellectual dishonesty to allow these conditions to go on, unchallenged, for years. A strong dose of propaganda has adherents believing that dissenters should be shunned for not being דן לכף זכות, or worse, that they're mentally ill.

    There are communities that not only take an expansive position to דעת תורה, where adherents are taught - erroneously - that the leaders words are NEVER to be questioned under ANY circumstances, but the concept is expanded even further to include the leaders SILENCE - if the leader remains silent on an issue, anyone NOT remaining silent is considered to be מבזה תלמידי חכמים, and even worse - traitorous. Such people routinely lose any claim to "moral authority", and are accused of "making trouble only for personal gain".

    Based on the skewed mentality inoculated by the community "establishment", it's not hard why to understand why dissenters are perceived as "spoiling communal and familial ties". Dissenters are routinely blackmailed, simply for continuing to stridently raise what are in fact valid areas of concern. Standard instructions include the admonition not to enter into any dialogue with the "guilty party".

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  71. Part 2:

    The secular media often reports on the distress of individuals that don't "fit" into tight-knit communities because of their difficulties following community stringencies and they note the resultant strains on family and community ties.

    Does anyone talk about the reverse problem: Those that don't "fit" into tight-knit communities because of the community LENIENCIES, and the resultant familial strains? We're talking about leniencies that clearly contradict both Torah AND universally accepted definitions of morals and ethics, not some far out "chumra"... I don't think it's a popular subject of discussion, perhaps except in the context of sexual abuse whistleblowers - or some BT blogs. I may be wrong...

    Now picture that certain family members end up in therapy for totally unrelated issues. In the process of therapy the issue of the parent's "spoiling familial ties" and "controlling" attitude takes center stage. Before therapy, the family members were inclined to value the parents high sense of ethics, but in therapy, the therapist VALIDATES the NEGATIVE feelings towards the parent and sees the parent as abusive.

    This wouldn't be unusual, since the therapist is highly influenced by and prioritizes the "experiential self " as defined by the norms of the prevalent "heimishe" CULTURE, more than THEY'RE influenced by "living consistently within one’s valuative goals". The family members now see the parent as the source of all their troubles....

    I know of a STRING of "Heimishe" therapists who were recently complicit in precisely such a story. Disaster ensued. Not only was a family are broken up, but the family members lost their "moral compass" and sense of purpose.

    THIS is one of my greatest areas of concern - where therapy actually ends up robbing unsuspecting clients of the ability to life a "life of meaning", besides unfairly denigrating an innocent parent and breaking a family.

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  72. Kevin from Chicago raises a fascinating question.

    "if there were to be developed a specific, Torah-based psychology and psychotherapy based upon it, would it be applicable only to Jewish souls?"

    I'll try to quantify the question and attempt to answer it, at least partially.

    I've mentioned three TB approaches that I'm aware of for dealing with inborn or ingrained negative traits. A: The Rambam who holds that traits are only propensities and the solution is "turning to the other extreme". B: The ר"י בר ששת who holds that traits ARE imperatives, however the Neshama enables one to overcome his trait. C: The אלשיך, מהרש"א that mention harnessing the trait for good purposes, thereby avoiding the question of overcoming it.

    I don't think Kevin's question would apply to approaches "A" or "C". And I'm not sure about whether it would apply to "B".

    Kevin raised the question that "if there is no existential difference between Jewish and Gentile souls, the difference being attributed to Jews' acceptance of Torah, would a putative Torah-based psychology/psychotherapy only be applicable to Torah-believing Jews?"

    Another alternative stance is possible: That there may indeed be a difference between Jewish and Gentile souls, however - since the soul isn't a monolith, but rather a mulch-faceted creation - the Gentile "part" of the soul IS also capable of the overcoming negative traits...

    Another possibility - that a non-Jew would need to observes the seven Noahide mitzvohs and be a "moral non-Jew"... I dunno.

    I'll defer to those more learned in these intricacies, which I am not.

    And in any case, there's no reason to doubt that "a" and "c" can work, I think.

    Some possible מראה מקומות might be the Chsam Sofer about whether medical research done on non-Jews as valid for Jews, the Gem. that explains the reward of חסידי אומות העולם....

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  73. Building on my hypothesis that therapists may unwittingly end up robbing unsuspecting clients of the ability to live a "life of meaning", cause family breakups and cause innocent parents to be unfairly denigrating, etc....

    I think that a pretty persuasive argument can be made that the CRIMINAL JUSTICE system would have an interest in tempering therapists that tend to prioritize a sense of wholeness based on one’s experiential self, rather than finding joy from living consistently within one’s valuative goals...

    Research consistently shows that intrinsic, deeply help religiosity is positively correlated to ethical attitudes in business, while extrinsic religiosity is negatively correlated.

    See: http://business.baylor.edu/tisha_nakao/research_pdfs/Emerson%20and%20McKinney%20JRBE%202010.pdf
    and: http://ejbe.org/EJBE2010Vol03No06p71AYDEMIR-EGILMEZ.pdf
    and: http://business.auburn.edu/media/news_and_research/Walker_Smither_DeBode_2011.pdf

    And even deeply religious people suffering from narcissism have an impaired sense of ethics:
    see: http://ts-si.org/files/doi101007s1055101212390.pdf

    The wrong type of therapy encourages both extrinsic religiosity AND narcissism - based on prioritizing "experiential self" AND prioritizing self-realization and self-esteem.

    Shouldn't the criminal court system care about lightening the case loads and thinning the jails of those accused and convicted of business fraud, etc.? What's about the family courts?

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  74. I'll add a final note concerning the insidious effects of a community that prioritizes the experiential self rather than valuative goals. My observation concerns the possible repercussions that a lifestyle of contradictory values may have on many sincere and sensitive members of a community that loses its moral compass:

    These are the people, who while they "officially" remain "members of good standing" in the community, feel more than a bit of unease over the fact that certain lapses of ethics / morals permeate their day to day existence in the community. Yet, they aren't willing or able to uproot themselves. Much inner conflict is often the result, and the fact that discussion of these issues is highly frowned upon only increases their inner conflicts.

    These sensitive souls, torn by the inconsistencies that they witness, may actually possibly begin to suffer from emotional issues of their own, or have prior emotional issues exacerbated, (something a guess Freud would call the id-ego struggle).

    I've always been struck by the incongruity of certain communities that on the one hand emphasize building and maintaining the proper environment in their community, so that the negative influences of secular society don't seep in, and perhaps rightfully so. But on the other hand they are so adept at minimizing the negative moral and ethical influences that already HAVE seeped in. Dissenters are routinely told "not to be sensitive" and are supposed to be able to "just ignore it".

    How exactly does it work: One IS supposed to be affected by INTERNET usage, but NOT by systematic intellectual dishonesty and deceit? Why?

    Additionally, a larger proportion of community members may experience a gradual, insidious, desensitizing and loosening of their own moral codes. Their religious observance becomes a matter of habit. And worse - they lose the strength of character to withstand whatever עבירות their unique negative traits make them susceptible to, whether it be financial or sexual improprieties. The result is then, ironically, that the community "leaders" who so effectively deflect any criticism against the community, can now find "ammunition" to claim קשוט עצמך ואחר כך קשוט אחרים.

    Dissenters who care, need a tremendous reservoir of character strength to withstand the various types of pressures brought upon them.

    The Chofetz Chaim writes that the END of Nach is most relevant for the END of Galus:

    In the end of מלאכי we find:
    {יג} חָזְקוּ עָלַי דִּבְרֵיכֶם אָמַר יְהוָה וַאֲמַרְתֶּם מַה נִּדְבַּרְנוּ עָלֶיךָ: {יד} אֲמַרְתֶּם שָׁוְא עֲבֹד אֱלֹהִים וּמַה בֶּצַע כִּי שָׁמַרְנוּ מִשְׁמַרְתּוֹ וְכִי הָלַכְנוּ קְדֹרַנִּית מִפְּנֵי יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת: {טו} וְעַתָּה אֲנַחְנוּ מְאַשְּׁרִים זֵדִים גַּם נִבְנוּ עֹשֵׂי רִשְׁעָה גַּם בָּחֲנוּ אֱלֹהִים וַיִּמָּלֵטוּ: {טז} אָז נִדְבְּרוּ יִרְאֵי יְהוָה אִישׁ אֶל רֵעֵהוּ וַיַּקְשֵׁב יְהוָה וַיִּשְׁמָע וַיִּכָּתֵב סֵפֶר זִכָּרוֹן לְפָנָיו לְיִרְאֵי יְהוָה וּלְחֹשְׁבֵי שְׁמוֹ:

    This is the essence, in my humble opinion, of the moral quandary that we face today, where many well-meaning institutions AND therapists get caught up in a "web of lies", that affects our children and grandchildren, ח"ו for many generations to come.

    Wouldn't it be nice to do something constructive to hold back this tidal wave?

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    1. Ploni you have me confused. We were talking about therapy and therapist. Abut the need to encourage consistencies with values for clients. Now your most recent post is a strong criticism of our communities where the leaders and teachers are pushing conformity and compliance with authority - even though it is at variance with values?! Are you proposing to skip individual therapy and straighen out the communities? Does that mean that you think psychologists are better suited for this than rabbis?

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  75. DT: I admit that my last comment was confusing.

    What I meant to say was that many floundering souls have nowhere to turn to to feel "whole". Neither the therapist nor the community will supply the validation and guidance necessary to take the "road less traveled" of high moral standards and resoluteness in the face of injustices.

    I suspect that any change would have to be "bottom up". One home at a time, one shul at a time. Perhaps when the tide of public opinion turns in the right direction then those communities that need to change will find it in their best interest to change, too. Perhaps.

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    1. Ploni I think it is time to get some idea of who you are. Since you insist on remaining anonymous let me summarize what I am hearing from your posts - including the last "Freudian slip" post. I don't claim ruach hakodesh - but sometimes I do get it right. Apologies in advance if I cause hurt feelings.

      You are clearly an idealist with a strong sense of values. On the other hand you have positioned yourself as a mere psychotherapists who has very little leverage to bring about organic change. I get the sense that your values come less from your yeshiva education than from your parents - and my guess is that your father is a rebbe and that you should have been one also. However you don't like dirty political battles - so you switched to clean therapy. However you still think with the broad community perspective of a chassidic rebbe. To try and live up to your heritage you are trying the safeway of trying to reform psychotherapy to be a/the tool for change [bottom up] to counter the corruption and hypocrisy that you have witnessed.

      That is why you are incredibly idealistic about therapy - when in fact your vision is much higher. You are like the drunk looking under the lamp post for his keys that are not there - because the light is better. the fact is your goal for psychology will never work and it really is not the way to go.

      I would strongly suggest you head back where you belong in the world or rabbinic leaders and leave psychology to people like myself.

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    2. Dt:

      No need for an apology - I don't feel slighted in the least. Besides, I'm almost immune to slights, anyway.....

      The only thing you got right was the "the broad community perspective" (minus the chassidic rebbe..) - all the rest wasn't on target - but nice try!

      You wanna hear a story?

      Just last night I was asked to help a marriage on the rocks. The intelligent woman, in her upper 20's has been to therapy and on medication for 21!! years (except for several months that she tried stopping the meds cold turkey, which didn't work). Diagnosed as bipolar 11 yrs ago.

      What started as a marriage issue quickly became a "frieying out" issue, and then an admission that it wouldn't help and unto suicidal ideation. She's gone to numerous therapists, tried cbt and dbt - and felt WORSE THAN A PIECE OF GARBAGE. Relating to her bipolar as a "medical condition" didn't minimize the self-stigma AT ALL!

      But you know what touched her? The אלשיך ומהרשא that I mentioned. She DOESN'T have a problem. Nope. She has a "package of traits". Open up the box and impulsivity spills out - its right on top. Look deeper (and gain self regulation) and the ability to sense unusually strong passion when doing GOOD stuf comes out - remember the "strong emotions" of bypolars?.

      G-d don't make no garbage. She was NEVER broken - she just has to work harder, and she'll gain more than the average person.

      So by reframing her "medical condition" using Torah based Hashkafas - she found some peace.

      And what hurt the most was that she said that in 21!!! yrs. of therapy, this was the FIRST time she EVER heard this explanation.

      Can you tell me why?

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  76. In other words - while you're right that I do have a "larger" vision - which I see a a סניף of what the Ramabm writes by the Mitzvo of אהבת ה' that we should strive for - the problem of therapy is indeed real - regardless of the larger issues of the community.

    One might argue that I shouldn't expect more from therapists than I expect from from their communities. Perhaps.

    I believe that certain things however remain inexcusable - like the coercive tactics often used .....

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