And the doors of the Ark were opened and I saw a figure of a man standing and his head was resting among the Torah scrolls and I heard a voice come forth from the Ark between the cloths of the Trees of Life. I lowered my head and lowered my eyes, for I was afraid to look at the Holy Ark…..I reduced myself until it was as if I had vanished, so that He would not sense that there was a person here, for it is not possible that a king shall enter a country and he finds none of his ministers and servants except for one lowly servant? (Agnon, The Fire and the Trees, , freely translated from the Hebrew p. 308).
This article considers the meaning and significance of authority, and its relevance to the transference process, within the framework of psychotherapy in the orthodox Jewish (Haredi) community in Israel. In this community, deeply-rooted habits of obedience to the commandments of the Torah and the authority of the Rabbi are integral to maintaining an orthodox way of life. Clinical vignettes with Haredi patients are presented to illustrate the complexities that arise when both patient and therapist belong to the orthodox community, and highlight the authority-related issues that are central to the therapy. This combination of factors requires a sensitive and finely-tuned approach which will enable the therapist to maintain the treatment framework while still accommodating the orthodox way of life.
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The author gratefully acknowledges Dr. Mariam Cohen (Arizona, USA) for her patient help and valuable suggestions, and Lieske Bloom (Israel) for the translation from Hebrew, and her help in bringing this paper to publication.
Esther Hess, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist who lives and conducts psychotherapy in the religious Haredi community in Bnei Brak, Israel.
Address correspondence to Esther Hess, Ph.D., 14 Elisha Street, Bnei Brak 5152302, Israel; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Hess, E. Authority, Psychotherapy and the Authority of the Therapist in the Religious Haredi Community. Am J Psychoanal 78, 137–158 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-018-9137-6
- orthodox Jewish
- psychotherapy in the Haredi community