Dear Rabbi J.
A friend forwarded me your last article (True
Communication: The Secret of Anochi). Very powerful
piece. As a therapist I was very intrigued by your description
of true communication, how a soul reaches into another soul.
I see that as the key to all healing. I was wondering whether
you have ever developed any more specific therapeutic guidelines
based on Torah thought, in the spirit of soul communication.
Blessings to you and your wonderful work,
Thank you for your very kind words, and I bless you in
return for success in healing many souls. Here is an excerpt
from a paper that I once wrote titled The Basic Principles
of Therapy, from a Torah perspective. Please see this as
a draft. And I welcome your feedback and comments.
THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THERAPY
(from a Torah perspective)
1. Problems are never what they seem to be. Aggravation
and upsetness is never for the reasons people say or even
2. Inter-personal difficulties originate in intra-personal
3. The root of all conflicts is the dichotomy between body
4. The subjective self is unable to totally rise above
itself to discover the true root of his/her issues. One
needs an objective and intelligent observer to help him
examine himself (the necessary criteria for an observer,
see below #10).
5. Every human being was created independent; a self contained
entity with a unique role. In the image of G-d who is one
6. Every person's soul remains pure and intact. And good.
Abuse and harm - all forms of distortion - can only occur
in the channels that connect the soul to conscious or sub-conscious
experience. The difference between people is not in their
having a soul but in their awareness of it.
7. Every one has the capacity to access their unscarred
soul. Every one must assume responsibilty for themselves
(rather than blame another for their problems). The help
they need is only in accepting that responsibility and unraveling
the distortions and resulting confusion, and charting a
course toward positive growth.
8. The teacher and helper's (therapist's) role is just
that: helping the individual achieve clarity, accept
responsibility and learn the proper method to access their
soul. Like a gardener, who tears out the weeds allowing
the flowers to emerge.
9. Two major obstacles in this process are: a) Denial.
The inability to recognize the existence of a problem, which
of course compounds the problem many times over and has
a snowball effect of adding on layer after layer of new
distortions and complications. Half the cure is awareness
of the illness. b) Confusion caused by the mix of healthy
and unhealthy behavior mechanisms. This makes it extremely
difficult to distinguish between the two, which in turn
adds to the denial process.
10. The basic necessary requirements of a good teacher
a) Care and sensitivity. b) Empathy. c) Wisdom. d) Knowledge
and experience, competence and skill, in the study of human
nature. e) Trusting. f) Humility. g) Absolute respect for
human dignity and independence; that every person has to
assume personal responsibility for his behavior. In Jewish
terms: Complete faith in G-d and the divine soul in each
person created in G-d's own image. h) Total conviction that
all human experiences are part of a process of growth. i)
Flexibility and imagination. Appreciating and respecting
the differences between people and thus not fit them in
to any mold (while not compromising #h). j) Recognition
of one's own limitations and subjectivity. k) Methodology
and technique. l) Acceptance without question of all the
The process of therapy generally breaks down into the
1. Establishing trust and opening a channel of communication.
2. Hearing the problems and helping define them from the
student or client's perspective.
3. Guiding the client to slowly redefine the problems from
a more honest and objective perspective. Including an examination
of the client's responses and blind-spots.
4. Establishing that the client is responsible for himself
[if he is not, than he needs another form of help]. Defining
what that responsibility entails.
5. Specifying and defining unequivocally the roles of therapist
and client. Making it absolutely clear that the therapist
is trained only to help the client help himself. The therapist
provides care and support, but is not a crutch and does
not initiate the cry and need for help. It is not a personal,
reciprocical relationship. These points have to be emphasized
time and again, as deemed necessary.
6. Recognizing if this particular therpaist-client dynamic
is not going to work. This can be for a variety of reasons,
including sometimes the humble recognition on the part of
the therapist that the best therapist can only help one
who is willing to help himself, which often needs the client
to have hit rock-bottom and desparately seek help. No therapist
can replace that cry for help.
7. Developing a process of movement and growth with the
intended goal to rise up above yourself and relate to a
higher reality. This must be done in a step by step basis, timed
at the pace of the client, enabling him to internalize it.
8. Defining the objective in simple terms. Consistently
reviewing the goal and illustrating how all the many elaborate
steps in reaching the goal are but a means to that higher
end. Establishing this is crucial in the process, firstly
because it gives the client (and the therapist) a sense
of direction and keeps him from wandering off due to different
distractions. Second, it treats the client with respect,
knowing that he is being guided to help himself, and empowers
the client with the feeling of control over his own life.
9. Persistence and tenacity, never losing sight of the
10. Consistency in the devotion and care for the client.
11. Assurance and reassurance of progress. Acknowledging
the potential and, indeed, need for setbacks; but recognizing
that the primary goal is not how quick and how far one reaches,
but steady movement rather than inertia. Emphasizing that
any movement, frontwards or backwards, any sensation, pain
or pleasure, anger or joy, is better than lethargy and numbness.
12. Frequent review (with an objective party) of the therapist's
decision-making process. With special emphasis on the therapist's
attitudes and feelings.
13. Recognizing when to let go. When to allow the client
to walk (or fly) on his own, even at the expense of falling.
Only then can he truly learn to walk on his own. Actually
this should be rephrased: During the entire therapeutic
process the client should be walking (and falling) on his
own with gentle guidance from the therapist. The therapist
must recognize if the client is becoming to dependent on
the therapist and then help him become self-dependent.
Pitfalls to be wary of from the client's side:
1. An overly manipulative client who wants to engage the
therapist in battle or enjoys mind-games.
Solution: If the therapist is unable to make any progress
due to the client's attitude - confront (sometimes gently)
the client. Establish the reasons for his attitude and if
it can be overcome. If not - make it clear to the client
why the therapy cannot continue under such circumstances.
2. Overdependence on the therapist. This is a particularly
sticky problem because: a) the client needs to trust the
therapist and often has trust issues with a pattern of no
one to depend on in life, b) of the frequent need for "transference."
Solution: Absolute faith and respect of an inividual's
personal space and responsibilty, recognizing that no one
(even with the greatest effort) can ever enter into the
"alone" space (the most intimate space) of another
individual. That is how G-d created humans. In the words
of Hillel: "Im ayn Ani Le Mi Le," "If I am
not for myself who will be for me." The trained and
G-d- fearing therapist knows that "Im ani l'atzmi moh
ani," "If I am for myself what am I," doesn't
compromise the "I", but only comes to teach us
that with the help of another one can learn to enhance and
access their own "I".
Only with absolute acceptance of G-d can a human therapist
learn to rise above himself and help another with total
devotion, and give the client confidence that his dependence
on the therapist will not compromise the client's "I".
(see also below)
Pitfalls to be wary of from the therapist's side:
3. An overly manipulative therapist. Especially an intelligent
one who can manipulate the client, even if it's in the client's
best interest. Where do you draw the line between healthy
and unhealthy manipulation?
4. The sense of control that a therapist assumes over the
client's life hearing the client's most intimate issues,
without any reciprocity.
5. The affirmation a therapist gets from the client's trust
in him which can lead to a reverse dependence or "counter-transference."
Solution (to #3-5 above): In addition to the obvious methods
of constant case review particularly with an objective supervisor,
the Torah requires of the therapist an uncomprising selflessness,
total egolessness, to the extreme that the therapist has
to be the harshest judge of himself, and he must subject
himself to total scrutiny by someone he respects and trusts.
The therapist's approach in dealing with a client must
be with the greatest awe and humility, recognizing the enormous
responsibilty he carries of being allowed to enter into
the most sacred, intimate recesses of the soul of G-d's
child. He has to visualize G-d standing over him at all
times and watching carefully: how are you dealing with my
child? Nothing less is required of the therapist.