From the Anash.org Inbox: I read the recent follow-up article on therapy, and while I agree with the author on some points, I think that therapy has a place for those who need it.
I read the recent follow-up article on therapy, and while I agree with the author on some points, I was somewhat disturbed by the complete rejection of therapy.
The author supposes that therapy is essentially a goyishe thing, it is helplessly self-centered, and the “obsession” over therapy comes from a lack of “Chassidishe values”. The author brings as proof her own negative experience with therapy, and how she changed everything by focusing on serving Hashem with joy. She suggests that (with the exception of certain extreme cases) one can speak to his or her mashpia, and through that fix their issues, be it anxiety, OCD etc.
As Chassidim, we look for guidance first and foremost in the words of our Rebbes. From the perspective of the author, one would assume that the Rebbes were absolutely opposed to therapy.
That is not accurate. The Rebbe approved multiple people to pursue therapy, and gave certain instructions on how it should be done.
Yes, therapy is not for everyone, but if it is truly that bad, why would the Rebbe approve for people to do it?
Everything is contained in Torah. Torah is Toras Chaim, and it gives us lessons on every part of our lives. Chazal say that even “chash berosho”, someone who has a physical ailment, “yaasok batorah”, can find healing through Torah. Yet anyone who hears someone who is sick insisting he does not need to go to a doctor because he can learn Torah, will try as hard as he can to convince him to see the doctor.
Why? One answer, mentioned by the Rebbe, is that we don’t know which part of Torah brings healing to this specific disease.
While the mashal is not exactly the same as the nimshal, I believe that there is a similar point.
There are those that are lucky enough to find their emotional help through Torah. They may have found a mashpia who truly understands them and their struggles, and Boruch Hashem managed to pull through.
But not everyone with mental illness knows how to take healing from Torah. Even if they know all the right things, all the good words, they may have a hard time applying it. And for that, they may need a professional.
Every person should have a mashpia. But the mashpia is not (necessarily) educated in mental illness. Any good mashpia should know when to suggest that the mushpa should go to a professional.
Yes, there are many bad therapists. The author obviously had a better experience with her mashpia than with her therapist. But think about this: there are an average of 85,000 medical malpractice lawsuits filed a year, and many claim that this number is small compared to the actual amount of damage caused by malpractice. I hope no one will say that he or she will therefore not go to the doctor.
Obviously, we need hadracha from our mashpiim and rabbonim on how to choose a therapist, which methods are kosher, etc. I also agree that the culture of self-indulgence is absolutely against Torah and Chassidus. But to say that therapy is (almost) always wrong and against Torah is taking it too far.
One of the commenters mentioned OCD, to which the author (if it really was the author) responded: “If the person is OCD because they are afraid of getting something wrong, a mashpia can help them internalize that “Ain HKBH ba bitrunia al briyosov” thereby addressing the cause.”
To clarify: There is NO SUCH THING as someone having OCD because they are afraid of getting something wrong. OCD is a mental health disorder, involving uncontrollable and irrational obsessions and compulsions, and often even the sufferer understands them to be irrational. Someone who is afraid of getting things wrong, and can be helped with an explanation about “ein hakadosh baruch hu ba bitrunya”, clearly DOES NOT have OCD. Telling someone who has the actual mental health disorder that he or she should not get professional help is downright dangerous.
Again, we must obviously have hadracha as to which therapist or method of therapy one is using, and one should obviously only go to a therapist who is a yerei shamayim.
I would like to add another point, not directly in connection to the article:
The Rambam writes in perek hei of Hilchos Mezuzah that those that use the mezuzah for personal protection “עושין מצוה גדולה של יחוד ה’… כאילו הוא קמיע של הנאת עצמן”. While the mezuzah definitely protects the person, using the Mezuzah as a “personal protection device” is taking the great Mitzvah of Yichud Hashem and using it for personal pleasure.
As mentioned earlier, Torah contains everything. Chassidus in particular gives a person all the tools he or she needs to serve Hashem, including tools to being mentally and emotionally healthy.
But is that Chassidus?
Chassidus is chochmah eloki. It is our way of knowing Hashem. It is the tool which reveals Hashem in the world, bringing about the Geulah. I can go on and on.
Learning Chassidus from the narrow perspective of “how will this help me emotionally?” is literally “עושין מצוה גדולה של יחוד ה’… כאילו הוא קמיע של הנאת עצמן”. We are taking Hashem’s infinite wisdom, and instead of using it to learn how to make Hashem real to us, we are using it for our own pleasure.
Of course one needs to be happy and emotionally healthy to serve Hashem. Of course Chassidus contains infinite wisdom on how to attain that. And of course everyone should try to apply the Chassidus he or she learns to become more healthy. But why? Because we want to be able to serve Hashem, and we can’t when we aren’t healthy.
There is an epidemic of making Chassidus into “self-help” classes. But if we make that the totality of our limmud hachassidus, we are not only falling prey to the self-centered culture of our time, we are taking Hashem’s infinite wisdom and pulling it down too.
To clarify, I am not against making classes or anything similar to attain emotional health through Chassidus. But that the true idea of Chassidus is to connect us with Hashem’s infinite wisdom must be clear.
I end with a tefillah that we should all be healthy, physically and emotionally, be able to serve Hashem besimcha uvetuv levav, and we should very soon be zoche to the time when our only occupation will be to know Hashem.
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Anash.org.