Does the world have more therapists or clients?
More than 30% of all adults in the USA go to therapy today (an estimated 69 million people). There are approximately half a million licensed therapists in the US (in case you’re wondering, that works out to be 138 people for every therapist). Americans spend about $65 billion every year on psychotherapy and medication. That’s a twelve-fold increase (considering inflation) since 1980. So the numbers are just skyrocketing upwards.
And statistics show that most people stay in therapy longer than they ever expected or should, simply out of habit, desperation or just to be able to unload their chests.
Indeed, some studies show that therapy provides more happiness than money (32 times more, they say), because a sympathetic ear and getting understanding trumps getting stuff.
But with all this therapeutic intervention are we healthier people today?
Long before we entered the modern age with all its gifts and shortcomings, Isaiah the prophet delivered one of history’s most eloquent – and powerful – words of comfort to the Jewish people who had just suffered great destruction. We read Isaiah’s immortal words this Shabbat following Tisha b’Av, Shabbat Nachamu (the “Shabbat of Comfort”), for the Haftorah which begins: “Be comforted, be comforted, my people…”
Isaiah’s words are actually a system – a methodology, offering us a modality of dealing with challenges, comforting our suffering souls and healing our wounds.
Indeed, Nachamu reflects the cycle of life. First came the Three Weeks concluding with Tisha B’Av (last Tuesday) when we remembered the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and many other terrible things that happened on that day in history. But just as things seem to hit rock bottom, the Hebrew calendar moves forward like a spinning wheel, and in its powerful way, teaches us to align our lives to the cycle of growing through uncertainty and loss. Beginning with Shabbat Nachamu, we enter a time (the seven weeks) of comfort and empowerment.
This sermon analyzes the words of the Haftorah of Shabbat Nachamu line by line, demonstrating how Isaiah’s timeless words teach us and provide us all with tools how to heal our own damaged psyches and each other, how to build courage and strength even in times of insecurity, and above all – how we need not be trapped by who we are and our past attitudes; that despite our challenges and fears we have the power to become what we want to be – excellent and great.
Today let us travel back 2600 years to the establishment of the first ever therapeutic model of healing and consolation.