In the following article we will discuss a very important
problem: how to treat sensitive educational, social, family
and psychological problems in the chareidi community.
There are very few chareidi psychologists and those few
certainly can't meet the large demand that has arisen as a
result of the expansion of the community and the increase in
the number of problems.
In every social circle, there are people who understand the
human soul. The chareidi community is no different. There
are chareidi therapists and advisors dealing with emotional
and psychological problems, many of whom are among the best
The chareidi community derives a great deal of benefit from
these therapists. They have eliminated the need to approach
secular psychologists who come from different cultures and
have different beliefs (and at times, no beliefs at all).
Since therapists treat the human soul, they have a
tremendous influence on their patients' thoughts and
beliefs. Due to the mounting awareness of the availability
of psychological therapy for sensitive emotional problems,
many have placed the field of psychology on a pedestal. As a
result, chareidi therapists are afraid to treat complex
problems. They ask themselves, "Who has authorized me to do
so?" And if they don't ask themselves that question, others
ask it. Therefore, in respect to certain problems, they
prefer to tell people: "Go to a psychologist; I can't handle
this particular problem."
The result of this attitude is that chareidi therapists feel
inferior to professional psychologists, since psychology --
and those in need of the services of psychologists -- have
transformed them into authorities whose places may not be
usurped, whose authority may not be disputed.
Pit an opinion of an uncertified chareidi therapist against
that of a certified psychologist. Does the former have a
Why not? Because psychologists have diplomas. The diploma
"affirms" that they know their stuff. If you think that a
certified psychologist has made a mistake, that is merely
because you haven't taken a good look at his diploma, which
says that so-and-so studied here and there, and was
certified by so-and-so. So whatever you say, you're
But the chareidi therapist isn't armed with a diploma. He is
defenseless. All he can point to are his successes and
failures. That's it. People come to him because of his
successes, and he can be attacked and made into mincemeat
for his failures. Unlike the certified psychologist, he
isn't armed with diplomas. Attacks on him don't stop when
they reach the armored glass of the diploma. They rebound to
the one who has made them. The chareidi therapist can only
wave his successes (and these, too, he cannot reveal). He
has no other proof of his capability, and he is always
ridden by doubts about whether he is permitted to handle
To be truly candid, we should ask ourselves how we can
really trust someone to treat something as sensitive as the
human soul with a Torah, not a professional, education. What
criteria can spur us to seek the help of someone who isn't
armed with a diploma?
We don't intend to criticize psychologists. The phrase
"armed with a diploma" casts no aspersions on their
professional ability but rather, frustration over the fact
that chareidi therapists can't wave around something to
prove their ability.
What makes a person a psychologist? Is it his study of
certain material, or is it his innate ability to probe and
understand the human soul? This question is also relevant
with respect to artists and composers. Can a person lacking
a sense of music become a great musician by studying all his
life? That's highly improbable. Can a person who never
studied music become a great musician? He surely can.
Ask the psychologists themselves, and they will admit that
there are good psychologists and bad ones. The latter might
have gotten top grades in college, but doesn't have what it
takes. He doesn't induce his patients to open up to him and
let him penetrate their souls. Even when he does, he can't
put his finger on the source of the pain or the roots of the
problem, and doesn't know how to prescribe normative
behavioral patterns to deal with them.
Formal learning gives the "psychologist from birth" tools
with which to work, like the artist's brush and the
musician's up-to-date organ. But what really counts is the
psychologist's personality and his innate ability to
understand the human soul.
The question, "Where's the proof?" still remains. Sometimes,
certain people think that they understand and are capable of
treating various types of problems. But can a person be
objective about himself? If so, why are others obligated to
think like him?
The lack of proof makes chareidi therapists defenseless.
They are open to criticism and lack the ability to stand up
for themselves with the public and between themselves. Many
are exposed to criticism of their colleagues, and sometimes
they somewhat deserve it, because they themselves criticize
other therapists. This lowers the worth of all of them in
the eyes of the public, decreasing the level of trust in
We have a suggestion for certified psychologists: Just as a
rav undergoes training and smicha before he assumes a
position, those who treat psychological problems should be
required to present endorsements and recommendations given
by prominent figures in the chareidi community. These
figures should be known as experts in chinuch and in
the treatment of emotional and mental problems. They must
testify to the abilities and experience of those who claim
that they can handle such problems.