Dr. Zev Ballen is the type of individual that you meet once in a lifetime. An expert psychotherapist, he came to Israel for the express purpose of learning Rabbi Shalom Arush's methods of healing the soul. He now bases his mode of therapy on emuna, and his new (but really quite old) method is known as “Emuna Therapy.”
Let's get to know Dr. Zev: he was born in New York City in 1954 and raised in rural Long Island. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oneonta State College in 1976; earned his master's degree in Clinical Social Work from Fordham University in 1978; and was awarded his doctorate in Psychology from California Coast University in Santa Ana California in 2003. In addition, Dr. Ballen studied clinical hypnosis with prominent practitioners from 1980–1984 and received post-graduate training in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the Society for psychoanalytic Study and Research in Rockville Centre New York from 1988–1992.
Dr. Ballen served as the Director of Professional Education at the New York Institute for Hypnosis and Psychotherapy Research of the Morton Prince Center and as Adjunct Professor of Social Work, Adelphi University Graduate School of Social Work, Mineola, NY.
Dr. Zev was a prominent New York psychotherapist for more than 30 years when he discovered the writings of Rav Shalom Arush and the emuna broadcasts of Rav Lazer Brody. Once he discovered the Truth, there was no turning back – he had to have more, and first hand.
Three years ago, Dr. Zev made Aliyah with his wife and children. Since then, he has faithfully been steering people away from secular-based psychotherapy and helping them to find true emotional healing and happiness in the emuna-based teachings of his teacher and spiritual guide, Rabbi Shalom Arush.
Here in Israel, Emuna Therapy and Emuna Coaching were born.
Multi-talented Dr. Zev writes two weekly columns and gives two weekly video lectures geared tohelping families on Breslev.co.il. He is also working on his new book Emuna Coaching, which G-d willing will appear in the near future.
TR: Welcome, Dr. Zev. For the benefit of our readers, could you explain what exactly is Emuna Coaching?
Dr. Zev: Great question Tal, people ask it all the time. Emuna Coaching is obviously much more than telling people to go pray. That may have worked 200 years ago, but today people need much more than that because they are facing much greater challenges.
There actually are some people who Rav Arush has inspired enough to totally break free on their own and are now living truly incredible lives - but the truth is that most people are not going to be able to do that. The challenges of today are just too massive.
We have alot of people come to us and they're already walking encyclopedias on all of the Rav's books and Rabbi Brody's CD's. The only problem is that their lives haven't changed at all - Just ask their wife's and children. People today are being massively challenged in economic terms, in their parenting, in their marriages, and in their health like before. I meet a lot of people who know all about emuna but are still finding it hard to live with emuna.
TR: OK, so we have a big problem, but what do we do about it?
Dr. Zev: Rav Arush asked me to start programs to help people because they've been asking for them. People are looking for a supportive and individualized method not only of practicing personal prayer, but they are looking for somebody who can give them the spiritual wisdom of Rav Shalom Arush within the context of the very best personal change technology that exists anywhere. Sure we teach people how to get the most that they can out of personal prayer, but it's our mission to get them to take huge action to move past what was stopping them. The books and videos wet a person's appetite for what real change would be like, but it's nothing like what we can do in a one-on-one coaching session to shift a person out of his limiting beliefs.
TR: Dr. Zev, let's say that a person would agree that there are advantages to meeting directly with an emuna-based professional. But, frankly speaking - aren't there are other Torah-based therapies and therapists? Why you, particularly? What is so different about what you're doing?
Dr. Zev: That's a key question, Tal. You see most of the therapy that even religious therapists are doing still looks to me like secular therapy that's just been repackaged with some Jewish words. They are still trying to find out what is broken in people and fix it rather than zero in on their G-d given strengths and talents.
I recently saw a feature article on anxiety in a very popular Jewish magazine. It was written by an Orthodox Jewish psychologist who practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. There was no mention of the need for Faith or even of G-d's name in the entire thing. It was the same dry secular stuff that I read for years in psychological journals - this one was just sandwiched into a "Jewish" publication.
TR: That drives me crazy when I see so-called Orthodox publications ignore Hashem and emuna. Tell me something, Dr. Zev – would you categorize today's generation as weak or strong?
Dr. Zev: People are so much stronger than they think they are, Tal. They're stronger than their therapists know too. They just need to have the right goals that really compel and inspire them. Then if you stir up the right emotions in a person and teach them about Faith and Truth you can get them to push past anything and really discover who they are and what they are capable of. People who are really stuck need more than the sympathy and support of their therapists, they need to be faced with the Truth about the decisions that they are making and the consequences those decisions are having on their lives.
Tal Rotem: How about an example, Dr. Zev. How do you do it?
Dr. Zev: Sure Tal. I have a neighbor. Let's call him Eli. He's one of the nicest most personable people you'll ever meet. He's the kind of guy who would do anything for anybody. The Ballen family was no exception. It was really a blessing to have such a handy neighbor when we first arrived in Israel and were setting up our home. Eli is also a Torah scholar and even gives a daily Talmud lecture on an advanced level. I used to kid with him that he was just missing one ingredient - you guessed it - Faith.
One day someone told me that Eli collapsed in shul while he was putting on his Tefillin. He was rushed to the hospital. After a through checkup Eli was sent home with a referral to a psychiatrist. By the time I had heard what happened, from my wife, a week had gone by and Eli had not budged from his apartment. Not only would he not leave home, but his wife told my wife that Eli (who is a Rabbi) was refusing to put on his Tefillin or pray for fear of having another panic attack. His wife said that he was refusing to speak with anybody except me. She asked if I would go upstairs and try to speak with him.
What happened when I got upstairs was nothing less than a miracle. I can't tell you everything that took place because I was with him for about two hours, but I'll give you gist of it. I knew Eli - if he would let me in I certainly wasn't going to get a second chance.
I "psyched myself up" by strengthening my emuna that with the power of G-d behind me I would be able give my friend the Truth that he needed to break free. I told myself that this "crisis" was not something was happening to Eli this was something was happening for Eli. I begged G-d to let me be a messenger of the Divine to help my friend and thereby his sick wife and 10 children who needed him well.
I knew my friend well-enough to know that the script, the internal blueprint that he wrote for himself was that his mission was to be a rescuer. Usually when someone's blueprint is to rescue others they also tell themselves that if their rescue attempts don't succeed that confirms that they are "no good." Usually these people are also not permitted to do anything for themselves. The Yetzer loves this arrangement. It's one of his favorite ploys with Torah scholars who wish to be selfless.
Eli had completely depleted his strength. The night before he collapsed, he was on the phone the whole night trying be help relatives overseas.
When I spoke with him I simply gave him the Truth. This was a wakeup call. The anxiety was not happening to him it was happening for him. I told him that if his blueprint didn't change it was up to him but that following this major panic attack he had a statistically much greater chance of repeated attacks. He understood this. So we looked for the deepest emotional need below his blueprint that Eli was trying to fulfill. We discovered that more than anything he wanted to feel significant. His blueprint of self-neglect and racing around for others was to achieve significance - a basic human need. We discussed how this blueprint had been controlling him to the point that he had shown almost no Faith that G-d could help people too - especially if he prayed for them. He understood this.
I asked him how else he could feel significant since that's what he really needed - not to make himself into a rag. He said by being able to support his family financially (they were in constant debt due to his "rescuing").
This was a highly condensed description of my session with Eli. Suffice it to say that from that day forward, Eli returned to praying with his Tefillin; found a respectable job; began to repay his debts and ultimately earned back the respect of his wife and family - all of these things gave Eli the sense of significance that he had been seeking.
TR: That was beautiful, Dr. Zev. I have one more question. You have said that emuna coaching is based exclusively on the teachings of Rabbi Arush. Did you really learn all of this from him?
Dr. Zev: Yes Tal. What I have described to you here isn't even a small reflection of what Rabbi Arush understands about the emotional and spiritual ills of our generation. Believe me, I searched for more than 3 decades before I found Rav Arush. I was looking for someone who I could study and model myself after who was the best at what he did. In that time, I've spoken with some of the biggest Rabbis and doctors in my field.
Rabbi Arush is the deepest most practical thinker I've ever met. There isn't a counselor or psychotherapist alive who can rival his phenomenal record of success as a coach. I completely agree with Rav Lazer Brody who calls the Rav "the master spiritual doctor of our generation." That's why I've given up my private practice and dedicated my life to spreading his teachings.
Rav Arush has taught me to be relentless in finding the good in every situation. If Eli had gone to an M.D psychiatrist he would have received a diagnosis of Panic Attack with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, been handed some pills and sent home. My diagnosis for Eli was Post-Traumatic Opportunity for Growth. This is not just a cute phrase - it is how the Rav teaches us to live. He drills his students like a spiritual commander until it becomes automatic for us to not see problems just challenges.
TR: Dr. Zev, are you in still in practice? Is it still possible for a person to get an appointment with you?
Dr. Zev: Yes of course - through Breslev Israel. There is special line to call. One of my secretaries, Aaron or Yehudit are almost always in the office and they both have my schedule. They are very knowledgeable about what I do so they can answer any questions people have and give them a convenient appointment time to meet with me.
TR: Could we have those numbers?
Dr. Zev: Sure, Tal. From the USA: 1-718-577-2975/ Dial Israel Direct: +972-2-532-3339 ext. 2
TR: Thanks for your time, Dr. Zev, and for all that you're doing!
Dr. Zev: Sure Tal, thank you for this time that we've spent together. I've really enjoyed this time - It's my mission to serve.
Anyone who likes what they heard here - I hope I'll have a chance to speak with you personally. Obviously in person, over Skype or on the phone I can do much more, than I can in articles and videos, to give you my total focus and immersion and make sure that you are breaking through and making the changes that are important to you.
Never settle for being less than you can be.
TR: Thanks so much, Doc! May Hashem bless you with tremendous success!