Sunday, May 11, 2014

Psychology: A Jewish alternative through Torah Eitzah and Mussar - Rabbi Yosef Epstein

בדורותינו
בדורות שלפנים, היתה חכמת העצה נדרשת מפי חכמי תורה ויראה, מפי זקנים שבעי הרפתקאות ונסיון ׁ(עי' שמו"ר ג:י כל מי שנוטל עצה מן הזקנים וכו': ודר"א זוטא פ"ז), וזיוה הי' נאצל מזיו עינים הבהירה של גדולי הדורות מנהיגי האומה.
אולם בדורותינו אנו, הלכה חכמת העצה ופשטה צורה ולבשה צורה - מעט מעט עברה מרשותם של חכמים וזקנים לרשותם של מדענים, עולי ימים, מקצוענים, מהם גם כאלה שלא פתחו בה אלא כקרדום לחפור בה.
רמה הוא המעין הימנו שואב הייעוץ בימינו, הן אין זה אלא חכמת הפסיכולוגיא של ימינו - הפסיכולוגיא של "פסיכואנליטיקה" ר"בהייביוריזם" אשר פיררתי· הארסיים אנו אוכלים.
אף המדען או היועץ הדתי, למרות כשרות אישיותו, סוף סוף מקורו המדעי נובע משם. אם בכח העיון והמחשבה שלו לא די עצמאי הוא, ואם הכרתו לא די עמוק ברקע התורה והאמונה היא נעוצה, קל לו לגרעין פורה רוש ולענה להיות תוסס וצומח תחת סף הכרתו, ולהעביר גם טעם וריח אל מוחו של הנוטל עצתו.
יותר מזה, לאור מחקרי הערכה ו"דיררחים" בשדה הפעולה המדעית של הייעוץ  המקצועי והעבודה הסוציאלית, לא רק שהתחילו רבים וחכמים לפקפק ביעילותם של אי-אלה מהם, אלא גם להודות, באיזה ענפים, על קלקול העולה על התיקון ועל הפסד העןלה על השכר, וטוב שלא נבראו משנבראו. (כל זה הוא מהפרסומים המדעיים של אלה, ואכהמ"ל.(
הרואה את הנולד
למרות המבוכה בשדה המחקר של הפסיכולוגיא - יום יום ושיטותיו הסותרות אשה את רעותה, למרות הטלת הספק בעצם האפשריות של קביעת שיטות וכללים כלל-אנושיים בחכמת הנפש, למרות האכזבה בהישגי הייעוץ המקצועי והעבודה הסוציאלית, ולמרות המשבר המוסרי המאיים בעולם המעשה האוכל את פירותיהם, של איזה מהשטות, הולכים ממסדים אלה הלוך והתבסס, הלוך ופרוש את מצודתם על החיים.
והמצודה פרושה גם על מחננו אנו. מחנה שומרי התורה והמצוה. גם אנו מתרגלים לפנות אל ה"כתובת" של ה"פוסקים" ה"מומחים" בבעיות נפש, יועצים מקצועיים ועובדים סוציאליים. להסתייע על ידם בענינים חברתיים, משפחתיים, חינוכיים.
ומה הפלא?
היכן לא נגעה יד הפסיכולוגיא המודרנית. הייעוץ המקצועי והעובד הסוציאלי?
בחינוך - האם יש לך בית ספר, גבוה אר תיכוני, בעל חשיבות שאין על משמרת מוריו ופקידיו, פסיכולוג, יועץ ועובד סוציאלי?
בחברה - האם יש לך מוסד חברתי פילנטררפי מקובל על הרבים שאין מתקיימת על ידו שירות פסיכולוגית. ייעוציה וסוציאלית?
במשפחה - היש לך כתב-עת די נפרץ שאין על עמודיו טור לייעוץ בחיי אישות ומשפחה?
גלגל חוזר הוא בעולם - הפסיכולוגיא, הייעוץ המקצועי והעבודה הסוציאלית מפתחים את הרגישות לבעיות. לעשותנו "מפונקים" לאותו דבר. מה ששוב מגדיל את הזיקה לפסיכולוגיא. לייעוץ ולשירות, וחוזר חלילה.
עלתה דעה בין החוקרים הסוציאליים כי גברה ועצמה בימינו "שכבת הבוגרים" המתרכזת על דרישות עצמיות תוך צמאון לחידוש ותמורה. שורש פורה בעיות נפש ומשברים. אמנם רבה בזה השפעת פיזור הנפש של החיים המודרניים אבל האם אין בזה חלק גם להשפעת הפינוק של הממסדים האמורים?
ובזה עלינו לעמוד על המשמר ולהיות רואים את הנולד!
הנה נוסף על הגורם החברתי של ימינו נוסף גם הגורם של המשטר הממשלתי המודרני ההולך ומתערב ונעשה פעיל ביותר בממסדים החברתיים, פילנטרופיים, וחינוכיים, וממילא גם מרבה לפתח את ממסדי הייעוץ המקצועי והשירות של העבודה הסוציאלית, תומך בהם כספית, ומקרב ומושך את הלבבות להנאתן.
בתהליך זה לא ימלט כי בהמשך הזמן ימסר לממסדי הפסיכולוגיא, הייעוץ המקצועי והשירות של העבודה הסוציאלית גם כח רשמי של כפי'!
כבר הגיע לידי זה שמדברים על תנועה להנהיג חוק על ידו יהא על זוג העומד להנשא להציג לא דק אישור על בריאות הגוף אלא גם על מצבו הפסיכי!
דברים אך למותר לבאר מה המה ה"סיכויים" הצפונים בזה להשפעתם של הפסיכולוגיא השימושית, הייעוץ והשירות הסוציאלית, ומה משמעותה השלילית של השפעה זו ליהדות!
האם מתבוננים אנו בזה? האם אנו עושים מה בזה בעוד מועד?
האם רואים אנו את הנולד?

26 comments :

  1. Wow! Someone has on the one hand a good point, and on the other, is very paranoid!

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  2. Got some professional trainingMay 12, 2014 at 3:52 AM

    Outside of the quality of the writing (which I cannot fairly judge being less than fluent in Ivrit), I find the content of this article to be junk-mussar. It is actually an oft repeated diatribe, coming from those who sorely wish they could counsel without harming, yet brainwashed that the words of our chachomim "יש חכמה בגוים" are non-existent. Anyone in the professions, particularly mental health, but even others, is fully aware that all knowledge and wisdom is found in the Torah. I have yet to meet a talmid chochom in the current era who can fill cavities with Torah knowledge, or can transplant a heart or liver with pilpulah d'Oraysa. There are hundreds of fully observant mental health professionals in E"Y, America, and many other countries. Among these are those who simply frum, Torah observant, and many who are legitimately talmidei chachomim whose lives are run by their Torah. They continually seek the direction and guidance of gedolei Yisroel, and bring questions of halacha and hashkafa for clarity and direction to these gedolei Yisroel. Articles such as the one above do NOT reflect the stricter adherence to the mesora, but rather to the foolhardy ignorance of reality, that HKB"H has granted us the capacity to pursue the knowledge enabling us to further our expertise to restore neshamos that are stuck in misery to positions of health.

    The philosophical underpinnings of many areas of advanced education have historical value, at the very greatest, but are ignored by most or possibly all the practicing professionals. The focus for quite many years now has been on "evidence based practice", pointing to the departure from the shitos and philosophies, even the theoretical approaches.

    In fact (here comes the accusation), there is far more harm done by the practicing rabbonim in guiding individuals with personal problems, whether anxiety, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, marital conflict, etc. than is done by the average professionally trained therapist. The therapists I know continually bemoan the fact that they are busy undoing the damage wreaked by the well intended but ignorant Rov.

    When any reader of the above article is ready to take his malfunctioning car to his Rov for repair, than considering that Rov competent to respond to psychological issues would be appropriate. Until then, I will seek the trained professionals for guidance. I have yet to meet a mental health clinician who has problems of apikorsus.

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  3. GSPT - you wrote powerfully sobering insights into the problem of ignoring חכמה בגוים for mental health issues. Your third paragraph was particularly sharp. The need to "undo the damage" of well meaning but woefully ignorant of חכמה בגוים Rabbonim is a phenomena I too know well.

    But your last line unravels everything! There ARE mh clinicians who have these problems, big time. It IS a concern that every sincerely frum yid must be careful not to be affected by when s/he pursues mh studies.

    Please don't throw the baby out with the bath water. These Rabbonim are WRONG in many ways, but the ESSENCE of their concern is valid.

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    1. Got some professional trainingMay 12, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      In every field, you will find those who are incompetent. Yes, every field. I know medical doctors who are incompetent, plumbers, car service drivers, musicians, etc. No career is without its dunces. I am personally aware of some who work within the mental health field who should not even practice with pets. Having said that, this article (book) is throwing out the baby with the bath water, and purports to invalidate the field of mental health, and that is destructive. The concern that the clinicians are apikorsim is ridiculous. They might lack skills, or they may have their own personal issues. There certainly are those who work within the fields of mh that are imbued with philosophies that are foreign to a Torah based lifestyle, but that is not because the schools put them there, but rather personal choice. We know of many in numerous other careers who suffer from similar issues, so don't blame mental health.

      Shall I name administrators of yeshivos who throw children to the streets and public schools over financial issues? Tell me that such an approach is in any way consistent with a goal of teaching Torah to the younger generation. How about rabbonim who have no fear to engage in major crimes of committing fraud or violence - is this compatible with being talmidei chachomim or marbitzei Torah? We can go on and on. The study of mental health is not the problem. Incompetent individuals? Just like you'll find anywhere else.

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  4. I'd love to get itMay 12, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    Where can this sefer be obtained? Is it in print?

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    1. Don't know - none of the stores I tried in Jerusalem had even heard of it.

      it was published in Brooklyn,I would try the stores there

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  5. I can give some advice to the author to write the book in English or Yiddish and then ask some one to translate it into Hebrew.

    The mistake the author makes is the failure to distinguish between 'asking for advice ' and receiving therapy. There are plenty of competent community Rabbis out there and also Rabbis who have made a name for themselves as being extremely perceptive and helpful. I went to a Rov here in Israel who is unfortunately not with us who used the name of the person and the birth-date as tools in his decision making. But these meetings , maybe 20 minutes are one time only meetings.

    The Chareidi community reluctantly welcomed the help of professionals after so many kids began leaving the fold and more problems with shalom bayis.

    As mentioned above there are professionals who are also Talmidei Chachamim.

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    1. Important point - would you like to write a guest post about this?

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    2. Got some professional trainingMay 12, 2014 at 8:10 PM

      There is an immense difference between therapy and seeking advice. Most therapists do not dispense much direct advice, but rather work to help the individual reach the ability to make constructive and rational decisions. Similarly, the rabbinical professional, aka Rov, is trained to apply halacha to the questions posed, and to impose his decision of right and wrong. That is appropriate for many things, but destructive for others. For instance, a couple who are struggling with the shalom bayis brings their argument to the Rov. If the guidance given is to agree with one and disagree with the other (in other words, pasken who is right or wrong), then he has become part of the ongoing problem. The decision about what to do might be made by this imposing third party, but there is still no shalom bayis. The "wrong" side will simply lose trust and faith in the ability of the Rov. For the therapist, there is rarely a "right vs. wrong" as part of the therapy. Rather there is a goal of bringing the sides together to jointly decide what is best for them. The frum therapist might then intervene to point out if that decision is against halacha. However, the therapist does not serve as the posek. Advice as well as shailos for psak halacha differ greatly from the content and direction of therapy. There is a place for both. Confusion about this results in books such as the one that is the subject of this post.

      I find it a shame that many who are great thinkers and possess great Torah knowledge make such silly comments and take such baseless positions like this book. Fortunately, these are offset by many who can richly apply Torah to the range of issues that therapists confront, and who make themselves available to give such guidance to these professionals. There are quite many books today that are completely Torah based that provide vast amounts of knowledge and inspiration to the many frum professionals who tend to the struggling people within our community. We should recognize them and support their efforts.

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    3. GSPT - you've clarified your position well. I appreciate the incisiveness. I still believe that you're not fully aware of how common mh training does have a certain strong pull towards apikorsis. Those who invest themselves into it as a belief system can easily bite into the forbidden fruit of thinking you KNOW the inner life; you KNOW what the soul needs to be healthy. And that knowledge has nothing to do with H'....

      Please don't misunderstand me. Psychic well being does not necessitate a conscious belief in HKBH. But as the 12 steps teach, a sense of a certain "Higher Being" calling the shots is crucial.

      Too many mh ppl see their psychological sophistication as their higher being....

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    4. Got some professional trainingMay 13, 2014 at 2:55 AM

      I strongly disagree. Would you say that the scientific study of astronomy would risk the student falling into belief systems that the mazalos control the universe? Would the study of zoology or veterinary medicine make someone believe in evolution? How about the study of literature being the cause of someone developing other faiths?

      I fail to see the connection. There is nothing in the schools of clinical psychology and social work that smells of forbidden fruit. Decades ago, the universities saw themselves as purveyors of philosophical futures for the world. The core course material was benign, but there were mandatory courses in comparative religions, and other shtusim. There continue to be crackpots on many campuses that push their agendas, but in ways that address the social climate of the campus, not the coursework. There is little reason to fear the education in today's colleges. There is every reason to be frightened by the toxic environment that reeks of liberalism and every form of ta'avah and to'eivah anywhere it can.

      Just why would knowledge of mental health be any more an ingredient of self worship than the doctor who plays G-d, or even the politician that gets all full of himself (herself)? Me doth believe that there is a hefty dose of paranoia here, and it is completely baseless.

      I will add, probably stated earlier, that I know a great many mental health professionals from many disciplines (psychiatry, psychology, social work, coaching, counseling, etc). There are good ones, and there are dunces. My eyeball assessment of this field is close to identical to any other career. The ratio isn't bad, but someone can fall in with the wrong one. Have you ever been duped by an auto mechanic? How about a car salesman?

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    5. It seems like I'm constantly meeting people who do this or that Aveira and then go out of their way to tell me they do the Aveira and justify doing the Aveira by saying something like, "My therapist says it's OK" which, for them, ends all conversation -- nothing more to discuss. It's a throwing down of the gauntlet, and is often a non sequitur to what is is being discussed, as if the person is obsessed. Any attempt on my part to even gently and/or tangentially make a point that would imply that they are doing a serious Aveira elicits a reaction similar to if I told them they worship a false god.

      It goes so far in some cases that ANYTHING I attempt to say past their proclamation is cut off by them, as if there's a morbid fear on their part that I MIGHT try to contradict them.

      In other words, sometimes people who are in the grips of their Yetzer Hara go to a therapist to find "validation" of their evil behavior; anyone else who doesn't validate their behavior becomes the enemy.

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    6. Got some professional trainingMay 13, 2014 at 1:52 PM

      Joe Orlow:

      A good therapist does not validate someone's behavior if it is wrong. The clinical decision may be to not admonish the client for behavior that violates halacha, and doing so is a judgment call - which itself is consistent with halacha. I refer you to the Mesilas Yesharim - Perek 20, in which he clearly states that the role of tochacha (commonly translated as rebuke, perhaps better translated as guidance away from aveiroh) is contingent on the outcome. This means that if someone is not ready to abandon the aveiroh behavior, and might even become further steeped into it, then the mitzvah is to refrain from intervention. However, it is erroneous to consider this "approval". A good therapist will not validate behavior that is against halacha, though a client, in their impaired state might interpret it that way. That fact that the individual claims, "My therapist said it's okay" is not indicative of that therapist subscribing to values that are against halacha, nor is it reflective of hashkafos that are not Torah consistent.

      I also observe the "witch hunt" against trained professionals among those who believe they understand human behavior. The typical Rov is classic. The fact that the Rov has the capacity, even a great one, to give shiurim, say divrei Torah every Shabbos, and even be nice to congregants, is easily misleading that he has a full grasp of human behavior and its foibles. Perhaps this Rov won't "validate" behavior that violates halacha, but will generally lack the capacity to help such a person heal. The true therapist will also not "validate the behavior, but will use the client's strength to heal instead of wallowing in the guilt. The latter is the Torah derech, and has been expounded upon by countless baalei mussar.

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    7. can you be more specific ?

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    8. Why are other people's aveirot your problem???

      If you are their rav, tell them it's an aveira.

      If you are not - how is it your business?

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    9. @Patience did you ever study Torah? There is a clear mitzva of tochacha. That is referring to rebuking others for their sins. There is also a principle of arvus. As described in the medrash - people are traveling in a boat and one person decides to make a hole in the bottom of the boat. Should the other passengers simply say - it is not my business it is just a hole in his section of the boat?

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    10. @Allan Katz wrote:can you be more specific ?

      what were you responding to?

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    11. I refer you to the Mesilat Yesharim cited by Got some training, but even Kitzur Shulchan aruch says that tochacha should be withheld when it will not be followed, since it might transform a beshogeg into a be mezid.

      In general terms, I don't think that people like Joe Orlow or yourself have a business going around and telling people what to do or what not to do.

      By the way: I also think that you, the blog owner, lack the capacity of ahava that is necessary for tochacha - if it should be successful.

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    12. @patience you are simply an ignoramous who is propounding your own views as if they were Torah. There is no blanket heter to avoid criticizing someone's public pronouncments which are against Torah. There is no heter to ignore anti-Torah rants that people like yourself make on this blog just because you might be upset to find out that your views are not Torah views.

      Your opinion about what I or other people should do in the name of Torah obligations is not based on any knowledge of what the Torah says.

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    13. can JOE be more specific as to the aveiros the therapists are validating.
      validating usually means acknowledging/ empathic understanding for a problem or a solution to the problem , but not that it is acceptable or the long lasting solution we want

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    14. Allan,

      That's a tall order. I intended my comment for those who have independently arrived at the same conclusion as I have. I'm not sure if I can successfully clarify my comment for others. Also, if I mention a specific case, even with hiding the identity and changing details, someone who knows me may figure out who I am referring to.

      That being said, may I have your permission to build a hypothetical case? For example, let's take a teenage girl in a day school that bills itself as Modern. Let's call her "B.Y." for Bas Yisrael. I am making this up in a way that is consistent with the kinds of outcomes I've encountered. Correct at will.

      B.Y. [sitting in therapist's office]: Uh, so...how do we start?

      Therapist: Why don't you tell me what brought you here.

      B.Y. [vehemently]: My parents! [almost spitting out the words] They forced me.

      Therapist: [raising eyebrows slightly, look of intent concentration]

      B.Y.: So it started out fine. I invited him to come to my house to do homework.

      Therapist: Him?

      B.Y.: Didn't my parents tell you ANYTHING?! My boyfriend...only he wasn't my boyfriend then. Just a classmate. We had a project due, and the teacher put us on the same team, so I said, 'Let's work on it at my house' and my parents were like, "OK."

      Therapist: I'm sensing anger.

      B.Y.: I AM angry. A few months before my parents had sat me down and we had a talk. They treated me with respect, answered all my questions -- I felt... [pauses]

      Therapist: Yes?

      B.Y.: ...I felt, you know, empowered! They were so sensitive and polite. We'd never had a conversation like that before.

      Therapist: Do you want to tell me what you spoke about?

      B.Y.: It was a candid and honest talk [voice drops to a whisper] about sex.

      Therapist: Oh.

      B.Y. [sparks flying] They said they TRUSTED me! They told me I was now expected to take on RESPONSIBILITY for my decisions!! [starts crying]

      Therapist: [after a time, gently, not prying, almost like wondering to himself] Anything else?

      B.Y.: [now composed] So, last week I told my parents that I wanted the same boy to work with me on some homework, and they said "No."

      Therapist: [repeating] 'They said 'No.'"

      B.Y.: "No." [catching herself] I mean, yes, they said "No." [Drawing out the words] So I said, "Why in the world did you talk to me about relationships if you didn't want me to have a relationship??" [puffing out cheeks, pouting, folding arms, withdrawing into herself]

      Therapist: [silent]

      B.Y. [after a long time of staring into nowhere, quietly, in a low monotone] The answer was they were trying to "prevent" me from having a relationship. [clams up again]

      Therapist: So first they communicated with you in a way you understood to mean you had permission to have a boyfriend, while their intention was the opposite.

      B.Y.: Oh, no. They DEFINITELY were signaling that they were willing to allow sex at home. I KNOW that because I found a link on their computer to an article that used the E X A CT same language they used in our original talk. Stuff like, "need not be a green light for promiscuity but can be a red light for undeclared, unpredictable, unsafe activity." They just changed their mind later when they were faced with the reality.

      Therapist: Ah.

      B.Y. [suddenly, looking up questioningly]: Do you you think that was right of them to act that way?

      Now, Allan, I put it to you: what can the therapist possibly respond that is both professional and that will absolutely preclude the possibility of B.Y. saying to her friends: "My therapist says it's OK to have a boyfriend"?

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    15. I think I hear you. My 2 cents worth -Maybe the therapist can answer – I hear where you are coming from and sort of understand how you are feeling , but I would appreciate it if you could tell me more , I want to get a better understanding of your concerns and perspective. The boyfriend is only one solution to the kids concerns.

      About your parents decisions – I think it would help if we could first get a better understanding of their concerns and perspectives

      This will help the kid see the problem from the eyes of the parent and understand the consistency of their decisions. – if one finds oneself in a situation I can trust you to be responsible , but until marriage it is best build friendships with girls

      A solution would be to take into account the concerns of both parties . When the concerns of parents are addressed we are setting limits. Sometimes a solution would be to give a kid more autonomy in another area to compensate

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    16. Move the above discussion to a separate post

      http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2014/05/the-myth-of-therapisttherapy-neutrality.html

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  6. Commenting on the post above by Got Some:

    I may be mistaken, but doesn't refraining only apply to a Rabbinic enactment or to less well known D'O'Rysa Halachos? For example, perhaps one should not rebuke someone about Shat'nez if they are unaware of the Mitzvah and unlikely to start keeping it -- yet one might be obligated to rebuke the same person regarding adultery because the prohibition against A'ry'os is well known to virtually everyone.

    "However, it is erroneous to consider this 'approval'. A good therapist will not validate behavior that is against halacha, though a client, in their impaired state might interpret it that way."

    Exactly. It is interpreted that way. And furthermore, Jewish clients sometimes go to non-Jewish or non-learned Jewish therapists. Are these therapists in any position to even evaluate what is and what is not allowed according to Halacha?

    "...but will generally lack the capacity to help such a person heal. The true therapist will also not 'validate the behavior, but will use the client's strength to heal instead of wallowing in the guilt. The latter is the Torah derech, and has been expounded upon by countless baalei mussar."

    I maintain that what is often labelled "mental illness" or similar terminology ("dealing with an issue", etc) is possibly related to someone's struggle with the Yetzer Hara. The Mussar book you quote, Mesilas Yesharim, specifically says that the remedy is keeping the Mitzvos. In my experience, this approach is undercut by attitudes such as the one you've outlined, which is subtly communicating to the client that the Torah approach "lack[s] the capacity to help...heal."

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    1. "is possibly related to someone's struggle with the Yetzer Hara. The Mussar book you quote, Mesilas Yesharim, specifically says that the remedy is keeping the Mitzvos."

      Well, this might apply to some cases, but don't forget that the mental health professionals see a concentrated sample of cases where the problem does not lie there and might even be exacerbated by an injunction to "keep more mitzwot" or to keep mitzwoth more strictly, or better, or more chumrot.

      Take the example of obsessive compulsive behavior and kashrut. Sure, it is possible to live a kosher life without developing obsessing compulsive behaviour towards food or bugs in salads, or whatever. But when someone has developed this kind of trouble, "keep more mitzwoth" will obviously not help.

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