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The Therapeutic Wasteland    

The Therapeutic Wasteland

In this gripping article, Dr. Zev Ballen answers a colleague who accuses him of ignorance and blind dependance on emuna – a must read...


I received the following email from a colleague of mine who is a psychotherapist, M.D. Psychiatrist, and a Clinical Assistant Professor at a very prestigious American University.  

Referring to my recent article entitled
Cognitive Dissonance: the doctor wrote:
I read your article and was quite embarrassed as a Jewish psychotherapist and as a psychiatrist that someone can still be so ignorant. If you believe that the point of psychotherapy is useless as "everything" comes from Hashem, then why do you do psychotherapy? Why did you pursue a LCSW degree? Next time I see a patient with Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, Major depression, eating disorder, etc, I will tell them there is nothing I can do, as "everything" comes from Hashem and talking to me just adds to the doubt. 
Have a great day!

* * *
Dear Esteemed Colleague,
Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to write to me as I am grateful for the opportunity to write back.
Psychotherapy is not only useless - it’s downright dangerous to the soul of a Jewish person when it is conducted by a therapist who doesn’t acknowledge that all healing comes from Hashem.  A psychotherapist with emuna, on the other hand, can elevate and strengthen his patient’s awareness of Hashem and teach him about his true purpose in life – He or she is not useless at all – such therapists have a very important role to play before Moshiach.
You wanted to know why I still bother do psychotherapy since everything comes from Hashem anyway. The answer is: people in psychological pain are stuck -  they desperately need Hashem; but have been unable to find Him. While I personally know many people who have successfully triumphed over anxiety, depression and even severe emotional disorders just with Rav Arush’s books and CD’s – not everybody can do it alone – they need someone to jumpstart them spiritually and then quickly disengage before dependency sets in.  The world still needs mental health professionals – but only those whose practice in based in emuna. A therapist who is connected to the power of the Tzaddik can heal the soul of a Jewish person because he has the force of Hashem’s Torah behind him.
Your second question was why I pursued a university education that led to my qualification to practice psychotherapy. The answer is that when I started college in 1972, I wasn’t yet religious. Of course, if I could do it all again, I wouldn’t waste 10 years of my life on professional training and another 30 plus years practicing a profession that is spiritually contaminated and ineffective – G-d willing, neither will my children. But it’s only my ego that tells me it would have been better for me to learn in Yeshiva rather than to work as a psychotherapist. That’s why I cannot be trusted without Hashem – I could still convince myself  that it is a far bigger mitzvah to learn than to work. Hashem thought differently – He decreed that I spend 40 years wandering hopelessly in the midbar (the wasteland) of psychotherapeutic heresy - just so that I could expose the truth about it now; and lead those, who still care about their souls, to something infinitely better.
Your last question, doctor, was in the form of a statement. You wrote: [The] next time I see a patient with Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, Major depression, eating disorder, etc, I will tell them there is nothing I can do, as "everything" comes from Hashem and talking to me just adds to the doubt.” Here you have listed some of the most severe mental conditions that psychiatrists treat. Honestly, Doc - do you really think that there is anything that you can do to cure these plagues - if the greatest Tzaddikim of previous generations all the way back to our Patriarchs and Matriarchs have not had the merit to rectify this world and it’s ills – are you going to be offended if I suggest that your medical degree might not be enough to tip the scale or even that the whole medical profession could not?
C’mon Doc - you can prescribe medicine for your patients and sometimes calm them for a while - but do you really know who they are and what they’ve gone through? How far can simple people like you and I actually see into the spiritual roots of our patient’s dilemma?
Have you ever wondered, Doc, why great Tzaddikim like the Chozeh of Lublin (The Seer from Lublin), the Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, and the Baba Sali were able to cure the sick without ever once opening a medical textbook? It was because they had eyes like spiritual MRI machines. They could look into a person’s eyes and in seconds see the story of their soul as it passed through a chain of previous lifetimes – they could to see way back to the root cause of a person’s illness and rectify it.
Our generation no longer merits Rabbi’s with such eyes. The holiest Rabbi’s of today, like Rav Shalom Arush, tell us that the most we can be are good examples for others that Hashem is willing to deal with us directly – despite our low spiritual standing.
Doctors whose faith is limited to what they learned in medical school will never be able to perform miracles - Hashem limits those doctors to healing within the confines of natural law.  Since Hashem is higher than nature, when a doctor turns to Hashem and puts his ultimate faith in Hashem rather than in the medicines and treatments he administers - he merits being a messenger of the Divine.  The Angel Raphael (from the Hebrew Refuah – to heal) is constantly with that doctor and his patients.
I understand your pain, Doc. I have also spent my life trying to fix others rather than myself - but the joke was on me because I couldn’t fix either without Hashem. Why does the Talmud say that even the best doctors go to gehenim (hell)? It’s because most of us fail the main test of life – overcoming arrogance by nullifying our egos (Easing G-d Out). Doc, please have mercy on those you took an oath to treat. Human suffering just keeps getting worse: suicide, murder, mental illness, divorce, abuse, rape, addiction. You can either continue to put your faith in your medical books – and watch as mental illness continues to spiral out of control; or you can have the courage to join us in begging Hashem to show us our true place at His feet.  Only once we’ve humbled ourselves before Hashem - will we have the joy, serenity and the personal power to channel goodness and health to our patients.
Paradoxically as you shed you professional degrees, titles and personal ambitions - Hashem will catapult you to the top of your profession and you’ll discover the special role that Hashem has given you there – something that you can do better than anyone else. May it be so. Amen. 
* * * 
Zev Ballen, LCSW is a practicing psychotherapist and is licensed in Israel and the State of New York. Zev has the endorsements of prominent Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Shlita, Reb Yitzchok Fagelstock, Shlita, The Kasaner Rebbe of Forshay, Shlita, Rav Shalom Arush, Shlita, and Rabbi Lazer Brody, Shlita.  He resides with his family in Jerusalem. You can write to Zev Ballen at: zevballen@yahoo.com.

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  3 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  can't it be balanced?...
yossef1/5/2012 2:06:46 PM
ann1/3/2012 10:50:50 PM
  Great Article
reuven1/3/2012 1:57:11 PM

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