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Psychotherapy with Orthodox Jews

Click the underlined words in the boxes for more information on the box topic. 

Click here for additional resources (coming soon)

SHAME is a common thread that resonates in the issues presented in the boxes above.

With this in mind, I interviewed a psychoanalyst and shame expert.


 Janet Hoffer, D.S.W., L.C.S.W. 

Dr. Hoffer specializes in understanding and explaining shame in psychotherapy. Dr. Hoffer draws on years of experience in working within the Jewish community to highlight issues unique to Orthodox Jews in therapy.
I encourage you to listen as Dr. Hoffer eloquently discusses her expertise on the subject of shame and psychotherapy with Orthodox Jews.
1. What do clinicians need to know about shame that is specific to the Orthodox Jewish community?
"Clients often enter therapy already feeling shame." Dr. Hoffer
Orthodox Jewish Clients and Shame - Dr. Hoffer
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2. What is the difference between shame and guilt?
"Therapists need to ask themselves: Is religious rebellion or observance a way to guard against feelings of shame?"Dr. Hoffer
Shame verses Guilt - Dr. Hoffer
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3. Where is there room to "Honor Thy Parents" in Psychotherapy?

"Three entities exist in the therapy: client, therapist, and God."
Dr. Hoffer 
Honor Thy Parents - Dr. Hoffer
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4. How does the Orthodox Jewish community view psychotherapy and where does shame fit into that?
"Often people don't want to disclose shameful secrets to someone within the same community." Dr. Hoffer
Psychotherapy and Orthodox Judiasm - Dr. Hoffer
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5. What are some counter-transference issues in working with Orthodox Jews?
"Can this client talk comfortably without judgement?" Dr. Hoffer
Countertransference and Orthodox Jews - Dr. Hoffer
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6. What is the history of the relationship between
Orthodox Judaism and psychotherapy?
"Examine the dialogue Orthodox Judaism and psychotherapy can have with each other."  Dr. Hoffer
History of the relationship between Orthodox Judaism and Psychotherapy - Dr. Hoffer
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With very little understanding, experience, or exposure in conversations about their sexual selves, it is not uncommon for a spouse to say in therapy, "What is an orgasm?" Cultural understanding of their potential lack of vocabulary is essential. 

Sexual Intimacy

and the

Orthodox Sex Guru

For more information
Body Language - Gila Cohen Davidovsky
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The Laws of Family Purity:

Psychotherapy and Implications in Communicating Non-Verbally with Spouse

Awareness is on the increase as Orthodox Jews realize they are not immune to substance abuse. More communities are acknowledging the need for treatment centers addressing issues specific to the community.  Jewish 12 step programs are available in densely populated Jewish Communities. 

Orthodox Women and Eating Disorders.

Eating Disorders - Gila Cohen Davidovsky
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Sometimes issues of rigidity in religious practice can appear similar to OCD. Understanding the nuanced differences is essential. 

Religious prohibitions and issues of sexual identity are creating a schism in communities. Some are being outspoken advocates of change in the Jewish community. 

Many times clients want an outsider. Even if we are an insider we can not presume to know. 
 Mental health programs specific to the Orthodox Jewish community are available from early intervention to aged services .
The prevalence of domestic violence is not statistically less in religious communities. The community's desire to conceal, and the shame of speaking up, keeps the victims trapped. 
The Rabbis and Jewish judicial authorities often handle reports of abuse without disclosing to secular courts.  Sadly, this sometimes perpetuates the abuse, stigma, and shame.  
Expert Interview
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