This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Why is it that nowadays you need a professional license to help someone by talking to him? Why do you need four to eleven years of academic study leading to a degree, two or three years of supervised training, membership in a professional organization, and a government license? I trained in the modern secular era: ten years of academic training in some of the best universities in Israel and the United States. I trained with some the most respected professionals. I learned many theories and secrets of the trade. Note that professional training throughout the world—without exception—does not accredit students for successful helping, but rather for proficiency in repeating what they have learned and for acting according to the theory of choice taught at their chosen institute. Likewise, professional licensing is knowledge based and not dependent on actual empirical success in helping. I worked for government mental health services, did good things, and, like all the other successful psychotherapists, opened a private practice. I began to teach and run workshops for professionals in Europe, Israel, and the United States. I almost had it all, but something was still missing.
A Short Story of Hope: Demons Need Help Too
Frank was referred to me by a social worker who felt she could not handle such a complex case. She told me that Frank was suffering from delusions and needed psychiatric care, but he refused. He was willing to come see me on condition that I not offer him medication or suggest hospitalization. I agreed to the conditions. The first thing Frank told me was that he thought he made a mistake in telling the social worker about the demons that were forcing him to behave the way he did, particularly toward his father. The demons created hate and fear that he had to show to his father. Frank would not let his father see his children, nor would he communicate with him. Frank’s wife was supportive of her husband despite his rather bizarre behavior and expression of his fear without understanding exactly what was causing this extreme behavior, but everyone else was concerned about his reasoning. He himself obsessed constantly about the demons. He thought that they were damaging to him and his welfare. Actually, they almost had gotten him hospitalized. After his opening story, Frank asked me outright if I believed in demons. I said that I was unsure about them, but the Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, one of the greatest Jewish thinkers) took a very clear stand that they do indeed exist. I showed him one of the Ramchal’s books that I had in my office and read him several passages. I couldn’t possibly contradict such an authority. I told Frank that the Ramchal’s description of demons could probably help us. Some commentaries point out that the demons’ powers are enhanced to no small extent by negative energy from this world, not from above. Were there negative energies in Frank’s world? Yes, he said. We explored the demons’ behavior, particularly the question of when they choose to appear. We discovered that they were most potent when Frank was angry. “Could we work on lowering the anger and thus weaken the power of the demons?” I asked him. Frank thought that was a good idea. In a few short weeks, the demons were no longer feeding off Frank’s anger, and soon retreated to wherever they go when defeated. Can what I did with Frank be defined as therapy? Did he get better? What helped Frank? Can anyone do this? How would you explain what happened? My journey from psychotherapist to Frank’s partner in the helping process is the focus of what we will be doing together in what follows.
Psychotherapy by Any Other Name
What do hypnotherapy, a joke, a math class, and a cooking lesson have in common? If you think about it for a moment, you will see that they all 1. use the same tool: talking 2. to achieve the same goal: to influence someone. There are innumerable ways to influence others. We use a dozen different methods every day, whether we are selling a product, trying to get our boss to give us a raise, or putting one of the kids to bed. Psychotherapy is also all about influencing. Nowadays, there are over two hundred and fifty different schools or methods of “influencing,” i.e., psychotherapy. Yet they all use the same general tool, talking, to achieve the same overall goal, to influence the client. The rapid growth of the field has led to an exponential growth in the literature. Has all of this writing been helpful or proven practical? Are we ready to agree that there is a single model that is the correct one and that all the other two hundred and forty-nine methodologies are wrong? Answers to these questions can be found in the following quote from Bergin and Garfield (2004), some of the most prolific and respected researchers of psychotherapy and its effectiveness: With some exceptions…there is massive evidence that psychotherapeutic techniques do not have specific effects . . . Meaning that any one theory or technique does not work better than others. They continue: Yet, there is tremendous resistance to accepting this finding as a legitimate one. Numerous interpretations of the data have been given in order to preserve the idea that technical factors have substantial, unique, and specific effects. Professionals fight to keep their beliefs in the effectiveness of a particular psychological theory or methodology despite empirical research to the contrary. The reasons for this are not difficult to surmise. Such pronouncements essentially appear to be rationalizations that attempt to preserve the role of special theories, the status of leaders of such approaches, the technical training programs for therapists, the professional legitimacy of psychotherapy, and the rewards that come to those having supposedly curative powers. Then comes the bombshell: It is important to emphasize that none of this means that therapy is ineffective. Psychotherapy is effective—but no one school, technique, or style is uniquely effective. The common factor among all the hundreds of schools of therapy is plain old talking. Talk right, talk well, and things get better. Don’t talk, or talk in a way that is not understandable or maybe even offensive and things, strangely enough, not only don’t get better but may even get worse. This common factor—the centrality of talking in the helping process—has been known and used from time immemorial. Not only that, but Aunt Martha knew it instinctively. (“Aunt Martha” is my pet name for that nice old lady found in every culture and in every human era who is always ready with a hot drink, and most important, who always has something simple, true, and helpful to say.) In professional language, Aunt Martha is looked at with disdain as a “paraprofessional,” someone with little or no real professional training. But what does modern empirical research show about paraprofessionals and the helping process? Once again, Bergin and Garfield are the ones who tackle this issue: Some of the more disturbing (and promising1) conclusions of psychotherapy research arose from its investigation of the effect of training on patient outcome. Within this context, research has not shown a strong link between level and type of professional training of providers and psychotherapy outcome. (p. 5) In other words, Aunt Martha and Dr. Shulem and some of his colleagues are equally effective in most—but not all—cases. (Some of us just charge more…) My forty years of professional schooling and clinical practice support this rather uncomfortable summary of how effective we professionals are. Which raises the painful personal question: why did I invest so much money and time to obtain professional accreditation?
Why do you think he put and promising in parentheses?
Let’s ask another question. Here I am about to propose a new model while implying that “I am right and the others are wrong.” I’m not trying to present myself as the sole arbiter of truth, so what is my justification for presenting this model? Am I proposing “an I for an I?” Saying that my I is better than his or her I? No. I am not proposing or creating a new model, the product of “I” the individual. Rather, this is a proposal for the restoration of simple, effective principles that deal with speech and truth, principles that are both simple and effective. What does the Jerusalem Formula style of talking have that others don’t? It is based solely on positive vocabulary and actions. Thus, there is little chance of it causing harm. Research shows that between 5 to 10 percent of people actually are hurt by the ‘helping’ process. It subjugates talking techniques to religious goals through adherence to concise religious vocabulary. It is as effective as (professional) model of psychotherapy, with an 80 percent success rate. It is more efficient, i.e., faster, than most other models in achieving its goals, with an average of just six sessions. The Jerusalem Formula works for what I call “the walking wounded”: unhappy kids; people with marital problems; single adults who are lost; people suffering from depression, anxiety, anger; adolescents in trouble; and parenting problems. It does not work for “the severely wounded”: cases of severe mental problems that require hospitalization; addictions; some eating disorders; ongoing severe violence; longstanding incest, and so on. These should be referred to paraprofessionals or professionals with proven track records, and not those just with professional accreditations. It is a thousand times easier to learn and to implement, and you don’t have to learn a foreign language (professional jargon) to use it in the field of helping others. It takes only about thirty to fifty hours of study, and lots of practice. And finally, as a model of talking based on religious wisdom and vocabulary, it is particularly suited to people who identify with this type of understanding of life. Most surveys show this includes up to 80 percent of the populations in Western countries. In these surveys, “religious” is usually defined without identifying formal religious observance. I would like to invite you (as I do those people I work with individually2) to join me in a conversation about these issues: helping others, talking effectively, and being in control of yourself (and not other people).
See page 226 for the contract for working together successfully