13 Tishrei 5781 / Thursday, October 01, 2020 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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How to Pick a Therapist    

How to Pick a Therapist

Do the Jewish mental health referral services that people use today know much about the psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers they send people to?


Hardly a week goes by when people don’t ask me to refer a local psychotherapist whom they or one of their loved ones can speak with. I get requests from people all over the world; most feel more comfortable when I give them the name of somebody I can personally recommend.


Before people decide to whom they are going to open up and look to for advice about the most private areas of their lives, they want to do some research about that psychotherapist or counselor: Has he helped someone with my particular problem? What kind of therapy does he do? What’s his general success rate? What kind of training does he have? How long has he been doing this kind of work? Can I speak to somebody whom he has helped?


I have often been in a dilemma when the person on the other end of the phone was referred to me by one of my former clients but I’m not able to see the person because my schedule is filled, and the person can’t wait until I have an opening – he needs to be seen right away.


I’ve always felt uncomfortable about referring people to other therapists unless I know those therapists and their work very well. As someone who spent many years with therapists who were unhelpful, it pains me to see others suffer the way I did in a process supposed to help them grow stronger and happier--not make them more confused, sad and guilt-ridden than they were before they started therapy.


I don’t think the Jewish mental health referral services that many people use today really know much about the psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers they send people to, other than externals such as where they went to school, what type of therapy they practice and what kind of gossip is spoken about them. I personally know of two big Jewish medical referral services that accept and reject therapists and doctors based on the gossip they hear and their secular bias about therapy. A Jewish psychotherapist who doesn’t conform to the expectations of the referral agency can quickly find himself blackballed out of any work at all – other than outside the Jewish community.


After a while I just stopped referring anybody for psychotherapy. My standard reply became “I’m really sorry, but I don’t have anybody I can ethically recommend to you at this time.” Thank G-d I don’t have that problem anymore! Today I know people I am very happy and confident to send people to for help with emotional issues of all kinds. Some of the people I refer to are professional mental health workers and some are not, but in all cases, to feel comfortable with the referral they must have had training in emuna therapy and coaching.


I don’t refer to everyone who goes through our emuna coach training program, just as I no longer refer to somebody just because he has an M.D. or a Ph.D. after his name. Not everyone who goes through training to become a helper and coach for others is meant to be a helper and coach. There are still hardly enough certified emuna coaches out there, but the numbers are growing.


After I spend 100 hours of my time training and mentoring students in our Torah-based method of life coaching, I know my students very well. I know what areas of coaching they are proficient in. I have personally supervised them on a variety of different cases. I may have even worked together with them on some cases. I can see how clients respond to the coaches and how much they have internalized the principles of emuna into their work with clients.


Human suffering of all kinds can be permanently healed only through a method of therapy based upon the Divine Wisdom of the Torah.  Secular therapies can be very harmful to the soul of a person. The person may feel some temporary relief from his suffering, but the suffering is sure to return, often in a more intensified way.

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