In fact, we asked the people who participated in our research if they were getting therapy, and we discovered that there was a reasonably high correlation between getting therapy and getting a divorce. It was more likely that couples would get a divorce if they had therapy than if they had no therapy. This was especially true for individual therapy, but it was also true of couple therapy.
John Gottman, The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples
Conventional "solutions" touted throughout society as "the best" or "the only" solution to problems either don't help, don't help as much as needed, or even harm.
Despite the positive smiley encouraging presentation, such promotion of band-aid methods ultimately leads to despair.
Hashem loves you with a Love that you can't even imagine feeling yourself, no matter how much or how deeply you have ever loved another person. He is the Only One Who truly has your best interests and Who truly cares about you.
And He is the True Healer of all ills.
English-speaking frum media with the noblest of intentions continuously pushes secular solutions to problems, whether it’s therapy, medication, yoga, or anything else solidly recommended in secular society.
As I’ve said before, I think therapy can be helpful depending and I’m not necessarily against psychiatric medication used for very specific reasons for a very limited amount of time. (And according to my reading, yoga isn’t ever kosher even when it’s advertised as “kashered,” so that’s out.)
But even helpful therapy doesn’t usually solve the problem at its core. And its helpfulness depends so much on the chemistry between the therapist and client, how spiritually healthy and emuna-filled the therapist is, how much the therapist actually likes the client and sees the client's God-given potential, plus how much the therapist can help the client develop emuna and carry out a real cheshbon hanefesh...and much more.
Yet the most compassionate, caring, responsible response with which people are constantly bombarded is to encourage a suffering loved one is to "get professional help."
Furthermore, it has become extremely common and aggressively encouraged in the frum community for people to seek “professional treatment” for everything.
That is considered the responsible response.
Yet mainstream psychology (and psychiatry, for that matter) keep insisting that there is no cure for dysfunctions like personality disorder or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia—despite the fact that people like Dr. William Glasser did cure many of his mentally ill patients at a mental hospital. (So mental illness CAN be curable—why do they insist it’s not? Why offer lifetime despair to mental patients?)
Yes, that’s right.
At the end of a lifetime of official, professional, “responsible” psychiatric treatment, the patient will not even be back to their original starting point of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or whatever. They’ll be worse.
So how is that "treating" the illness?
As stated before, I don’t see a problem with temporary treatment. I can only imagine what a psychotic episode is like, and maybe someone needs a medicinal “kick” to get them out of a dark tortuous place and into a place where they can ponder their situation, its roots, and how to proceed.
But most (if not all) of what secular society recommends as "treatment" or "responsible" doesn't ultimately heal the problem.
How Did I Get Here?
Then I tried therapy. I tried it several short-term times with different therapists over the years for different reasons. Most were either not helpful at all or somewhat helpful, and a couple (the frum female ones) were pretty helpful—yet could not provide me with complete direction. (That needs to come in a quiet place from private discussions with Hashem.)
I also couldn't help noticing that others who'd undergone therapy still suffered from poor morality and psychological issues.
I also believed with all my heart that if I would cleave to a rabbinical-approved chinuch method (as taught by the rabbinically approved rebbetzin) and jump through every hoop insisted (no matter how high or how narrow), then I would succeed in turning out ideal frum children, which was my dearest dream.
(Note: To my knowledge, these authorizing rabbis don't hear the nitty-gritty details of the shitahs presented nor do they hear the stories told for emphasis. The authorizing rabbis go by a basic run-down of the shitah—which will always be presented in a Torah-based way because that's what the person truly believes he or she is doing--and the authorizing rabbis go by the integrity and middot of the person promoting the shitah. But just because the person knows how to deal with her own children or students doesn't mean that she knows how to deal with other people's children or even with other people who are very different than her.)
The books that helped me break away from the chinuch loop were (in the order I discovered them):
- Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Riso & Hudson (helped me realize that much chinuch advice either does nothing or is the opposite of what a Type 8 child needs and can even worsen that child’s behavior)
- The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen by Dr. Robert Epstein (validated a lot of my own against-the-stream observations since high school and proved that most “adolescent” behavior is actually culturally induced rather than the much-touted "teen brain"; also one of the only secular books of this type that not only doesn’t put down Judaism, Torah, etc, but even admires authentic Judaism)
- Garden of Education by Rav Shalom Arush (this made me throw out every other chinuch book; it was all I needed)
- Yeladim Mutzlachim by Rav Shalom Arush (its collection of prayers for chinuch is invaluable; and using historical examples of Gedolei Hador from all groups, it proves the importance of prayer and spiritual inner work for raising children)
And needless to say, both my children and I are still works in progress. None of us are perfect and we never will be. And because I'm far from tzidkus, I struggle with implementing the authentic Jewish mussar as I should. Yet at least I'm bumbling up the right path; I wasn't before.
Why Chinuch Advice Often Doesn't Work
Furthermore, when I was in the chinuch loop, I discovered that many chinuch advisors don’t really possess the spiritual foundation and expanded mind to truly help parents raise their children.
- For complex reasons (some unfathomable in our 3-dimentional world), Hashem placed specific children with specific parents for everyone’s benefit, pre-determining struggles and conflicts (along with harmony and suitability) beforehand.
- Because they are only human, chinuch advisors can make some accurate observations based on their experience, but they will always miss other things simply because they are human and cannot see everything that Hashem sees. (And sometimes, what they miss is exactly what the parent needs to know for that child.)
- Hashem gifted each parent with the wisdom & insight to raise each child; therefore, a chinuch advisor’s job is to draw out that wisdom and insight, not to impose the chinuch advisor’s “solutions” onto the parents. However, this is much more complex and demands much more emotional and mental stamina than imposing shitahs.
- Switching methods can lead to temporary relief, but using the child’s undesirable behavior as a springboard for a parent’s cheshbon hanefesh and consequent teshuvah is a million times more likely to lead to improvement in the child’s behavior ON ITS OWN. (Although nothing is guaranteed because we don't know Hashem's Plan for us.)
- Children’s aberrant behavior is more likely a reflection of the parents’ middot on some level, and less likely a reflection of specific methods used.
As just one example of the last point:
A bullying child is most likely a reflection of a parent’s bullying tendency, even if this tendency is nearly unperceivable and not consciously or practically witnessed by either the child or the parent. (Meaning, maybe the parent is unconsciously and subtly bullying an adult sibling, but the bullying isn't expressed anywhere else or at anyone else—yes, the message can be that subtle.)
This COULD also mean that the child experiences bullying by a parent, but it doesn’t HAVE to mean that.
Having said all that, the majority of chinuch advisors definitely deserve an A+ for good intentions.
They stretch to the limits their patience and energy to help desperate & struggling (or arrogant & obstinate) parents and their children. But they can also accidentally harm as much as they help. (Or even harm more than they help, depending.)
Because chinuch methods aren't generally based on Torah hashkafah. Some methods can be adapted to Torah hashkafah, but the goals set in Mishlei and mussar sefarim aren't necessarily the goals of the chinuch class.
(The main goal for your child, BTW, is for them to fulfill their soul-potential and get them into the best Olam Haba possible, may everyone live in good health until 120.)
The majority of chinuch advisors unknowingly hold views based on 1 of the following:
- Post-Sixties methods created (and continuously re-adjusted) by anti-Torah Liberals and Leftists with either secular Leftist or Far Eastern "spiritual" agendas
- Pre-Sixties methods created by secular sick anti-Torah elitists and eugenicists
- People with ulterior agendas posited as “good for the child!” but were originally a stab at temporarily improving the economy or lowering employment or whatever.
How Do You Define "Better"?
(And that doesn't even begin to cover the people who felt worse after therapy.)
That’s just one example. There are a lot more.
Likewise, I’ve noticed so many people jump from therapist to therapist and from method to method. While therapists defend therapy by saying it can only help those who want to be helped and are willing to do the inner work—and this is true—because this is true, people are better off just doing it with Hashem.
Hashem truly loves us and knows everything about us. In fact, any bad middot you discover were planted there BY HASHEM in the first place, so rather than blaming yourself, you can just flip it back to Hashem and say, “YUCK. I don’t want this! Ugh, what an absolutely awful middah. Take it back—please, take it back!”
(Don’t worry. He loves it when you do this. That’s the whole point of your existence and why He put you here in the first place. World of Tikkun!)
Who are You Following?
The point is that we are inundated from all sides by advice to use secular (or secular-based with a frum twist) treatment for our emotional, psychological, mental, and relationship problems. And in the frum media, they promote this based on secular research (with the best of intentions; they genuinely want to help).
Yet that same secular research is itself coming out and saying:
“THIS ULTIMATELY DOES NOT WORK.”
So who are you going to listen to?
The “I’M the ultimate solution—right over here!” and “THIS ULTIMATELY DOES NOT WORK” are both coming from the same source (secular science and research).
So who are you going to listen to?
Or, rather Who are you going to listen to?
By Dr. Zev Ballen:
The True Doctor of the Soul
The Therapeutic Wasteland
The Origins of Emuna Coaching
Do You NLP? (please make sure to read Chaim's valuable comments at the end)
Anti-Depressant Use Leads to Worse Long-Term Outcomes
Does Long-Term Use of Psychiatric Drugs Cause More Harm Than Good?
Psychiatrist Says: More Psychiatry Means More Shootings
Myrtle Rising Chinuch Posts
For Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender's advice on beneficial listening and how a true friend should behave, please search through Posts on Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender.
What is the World of Tikkun?