Question:

Dear Rabbis,

I see that aspects of seeing a psychotherapist (particularly the potential yihud issue) have been discussed here before, but I wanted to ask more generally if there are halachic issues around this pratice’s permissibility.

I am currently seeing a therapist for an anxiety issue that results in occasional panic attacks. My doctor suggested this rather than putting me on medication, which I was keen to avoid.

I must admit that I feel somewhat uncomfortable with the whole thing – and have wondered whether these are the kind of issues that are supposed to be dealt with in a religious context.

I have found the sessions helpful so far and have not been given any information that I believe contravenes my religious beliefs, which are based, of course, on the Torah.

Are there any issues, in general, with seeing a secular therapist for mental health issues or – like seeing a doctor – can this be considered part of the Torah’s mandate for us to take good care of ourselves?

Answer:

We are mandated to take care of our bodies and our mental health, as a person with a healthy body but doesn’t have a healthy mind cannot serve H-shem properly. In general, if a person can solve an issue in a religious context, by speaking to a Rov etc., that is preferred, however if the condition warrants professional help, that is what has to be done. It is definitely better to see a religious practitioner rather than a secular one, even if you don’t notice anything that contradicts your religious beliefs. The reason is because psychotherapy is not a hard science like cardiology or neurology, which is based solely on laboratory tests etc., rather it is a mixture of what psychologists have taught together with a lavish helping of the person’s personal opinion. Therefore, when talking to a therapist, he will inevitably say things to you according to his life view, attitude and the way that he sees the world. Which very often will be contrary to the torah’s view on things. Therefore it is preferred that you see a frum therapist if possible. Additionally, when seeing a therapist, remember to bear in mind that what he is saying may not be agreed upon from the torah’s perspective, therefore if you doubt something that is said ask a torah authority, if the idea is in line with the torah’s hashkafa.

Best wishes and a refuah shleima

Tags: therapy

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