Sunday, August 03, 2008

but he looked frum...

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

For some reason, many in the frum community refuse to get the professional help that is required. Sometimes it is because of a stigma - "what will people think if they find out I am going to a therapist?", "my son will never get a decent shidduch if anyone finds out", etc., and sometimes it is because of a lack of trust. We just don't trust trained professionals. They studied in the secular system, they don't understand the frum lifestyle so how can they advise on our life choices, etc. There is a certain wariness of exposing ourselves to the outside world.

Because of this, we in the frum world, often, do not get the help that is really necessary for some of us to be productive, to grow, and to overcome our failings.

A parent who was having difficulty with a son once told me that his son had been seeing a therapist, but he had to stop. Why? Because how can a non-Jewish therapist understand Shabbos, or that certain things cannot be done? In other words, when the person is laying out his problems, the non-Jewish, or non-frum, therapist, will frequently lay the blame on the pressure of religion at worst, and at best only do so subconsciously. They just do not understand.

While there are some frum professionals who have studied and can provide such help, there are not enough. Especially in Israel. Perhaps it is because of the way the frum society has developed - fear of secular studies, looking down on higher education, etc.

A "recent" solution to this problem has been the advent of frum organizations that have been created, both to provide such assistance to us in the frum world, and to train frum people to be able to provide such assistance.

While such organizations exist, and more therapists are being trained, often these people are sort of mavericks. There is little, if any, oversight, because these are organizations that are not certified for training therapists and do not provide any official certification. So we have uncertified therapists training more uncertified therapists to help people.

Now, I do not know if the fact that these organizations are unofficial and not certified has any ramification on what I am about to say, but I suspect there is some connection. Part of being certified, part of being part of an official body, part of being trained and licensed to practice, is the necessity to report to higher authorities, to be kept track of, to be supervised to a certain extent. All that, and more, is lacking when dealing with uncertified therapists. So perhaps this is, in part, the result of our relying on uncertified therapists but not certified therapists.

I just found out about a Haredi therapist, living and working in a Haredi neighborhood/town that is in the process of being arrested for sexual molestation of his female clients. This fellow is one of these therapists trained by an uncertified frum organization whose goal is to provide assistance to the frum community. Granted this organization provides a method for their students to also obtain official certification, through applying for credits using their courses via correspondence courses and the like, but they themselves "certify" their students to practise, even without the student having gone for the official certification.

Many clients who were seduced and molested by this man have stepped forward and filed complaints. This is still "hush hush" because we in the frum community like to keep these things quiet. Nobody wants their skeletons pulled out of the closet. As soon as he is arrested, the chillul Hashem will be great. I know about it because of someone I know connected to the case, though I told the person I did not want to know the therapists name. I am not looking to expose him. He has already been exposed - to the police, if not yet to the community at large, so there is no need to publicize his name, or city of residence, at this point other for sensationalism and to harm his family - both goals for which I have no desire.

I asked a shailoh if I could write this much, and after some debate the rav answered that I could and it is not in the geder of lashon ha'ra.

Being that this fellow is Haredi and lived in a Haredi community and raised his own Haredi family and provided "professional" help in the frum community, this just goes to show us how careful we must be when looking for help. If you need help, go get it. But do not assume that because a person is Haredi, or looks Haredi, he is honest and works and lives with integrity. Be on the lookout, and be prepared to report anything that is suspicious. Especially when he is not really certified to be helping in the first place and works for a heimishe organization, but I do not know that the certification is what makes the difference.

Also, many of us, myself included, tend to not take the halachos of yichud seriously. We might say we are adults, responsible adults, nothing is going to happen, it is just for a short period of time, he is a professional and is allowed in these circumstances to close the door, etc. The halachos of yichud are there for a reason. Even if in most cases nothing will happen, they are there to prevent the minority of situations where something actually will happen.

So, again, get the help you need. There should be no stigma preventing someone from doing what is necessary to grow and overcome his challenges. But be careful. And don't think just because someone looks frum you can and/or should ignore blatant acts that rub you the wrong way (no pun intended).

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