Religious Therapists are obliged to be aware of what they are feeling and what they are seeing. What makes an effective clinician, is the one who is able to sense internal conflict, cognitive dissonance, and internal realities and external reality. In short, as we pray for every morning דובר אמת בלבבו to speak truth within our hearts.
As religious Therapists, at times, we cannot help but notice conflict between common sense, our own sense data that we perceive, and our holy, cherished and valued traditions.
A layman can choose to ignore these conflicts. Though he or she may pay a price in terms of passive aggressive behavior toward observance such as coming late to prayers, talking during prayers. Similar side effects include lacking in depth and power of emotion when the reading scriptural stories of failures and victories of the patriarchs, and feeling disconnected from spiritual service. Another opposite side effect, is unrealistic piety as an ego defense and reaction formation to their own doubts and conflicts that are too painful tp face.
But responsible and professional psychotherapists cannot afford this dubious luxury. If we do not pay attention to what our hearts and minds tell us, we will be “empty vessels”, and provide our clients with platitudes instead of truth, superficiality instead of empathy.
That is why therapists must study, engage and debate in Jewish philosophy as well as psychology. There are those within our tribe that are threatened by discussions, usually due to their own fearful super egos and lack of evolvement in their religion and in their intellectual and emotional growth. To have an improved depth of knowledge of history and Jewish philosophy gives one the courage to face fears with facts. My father, Zichrono Liveracha, would tell me: Ein Hatorah Tzricha Apotropsia - the Torah does not need a nursemaid to protect it.
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