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Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, a widely respected mechanech, the founder and Menahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and founder and Director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S. (Youth Enrichment Services) wrote the following:
I would suggest that you read the excellent and bold columns The Role of Parents and Begining the Healing Process by Dr. Benzion Sorotzkin s’hlita …. His columns, available on his website, www.DrSorotzkin.com, should be required reading for all parents in our community. Dr. Sorotzkin is an accomplished talmid chacham, as a review of his brilliant columns on Bechira and The Pursuit of Perfection will reveal. He is also, in my opinion, one of the top frum, clinical psychologists in the world. Dr. Sorotzkin has helped many hundreds of frum children regain their footing and resume the path to successful lives. His eloquent words ought to be taken very seriously.
From: www.RabbiHorowitz.com -
“Does Parenting Matter?” 11/2/06
Benzion Sorotzkin, Psy.D., received Smicha from Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, MD and his masters and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology at Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine Campus in New York (1985).
Dr. Sorotzkin lived in Israel for several years where he served as a psychologist at the Youth Aliyah Psychology Clinic. He also served as a psychologist in the Israel Defense Forces as part of his Army Reserve duties. Since 1985, Dr. Sorotzkin has maintained a full-time private practice in psychotherapy with adolescents and adults in Brooklyn, New York.
Dr. Sorotzkin has published articles in professional journals such as Clinical Psychology Review, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, The Psychotherapy Bulletin, The Journal of Psychology and Judaism, The Journal of Psychohistory and in Jewish periodicals such as The Jewish Observer, Jewish Action, The Jewish Parent Connection, and Parent to Parent Magazine.
In over 35 years of doing psychotherapy with adolescents and young adults in the frum community, I have shared in the pain of many patients and their families.
From these experiences and with a great deal of Seyayta Deshmaya I have developed insights into the way emotional disorders are most often manifested in the frum community. I am sharing these insights with the hope that this will increase the level of understanding of emotional disorders among sufferers and their families. More importantly, I hope that these insights will lead to prevention.
The currently popular approach is to see emotional disorders as primarily biological and genetic in nature (“emotional disorders are no different than diabetes or asthma”). This is motivated, in part, by the desire to reduce stigma. Besides the fact that research shows that biological explanations actually increase stigma it also makes parents feel helpless to prevent their children’s emotional disorders.
I will try to demonstrate that, in fact, there is a great deal parents can do to prevent emotional and behavioral disorders in their children. This should make parents feel empowered. Unfortunately, some parents see this as “being blamed” and they therefore feel compelled to reject the notion that they have anything to do with their children’s emotional difficulties. While this may help them avoid feelings of guilt it also strips them of their powerful influence to prevent and repair their children’s emotional distress.
A wise mother once told me that she hopes that her son’s emotional disorder is the result of her mistakes. This way there is hope that she can help him by correcting her mistakes. She rather be at fault with a course of action than be blameless with no hope for a cure.
One of the common features of frum youngsters with emotional disorders is a distortion of basic tenets of yiddishkeit. While these distorted beliefs are not the cause of the disorders, they do help to maintain the disorders. We will explore the root causes of these distortions and bring sources that delineate the Torah-true hashkafah on these topics.
Since I am, for the most part, addressing my words to a frum audience, I do not consider it necessary to spell out the basic tenets of Yiddishkeit. I assume that my readers are well aware of the importance of learning Torah and keeping the mitzvos etc. When I discuss the possible limitations to the obligation of kibud av v’eim for abusive parents, for example, I’m assuming that the reader is well aware of the importance of this mitzvah so I don’t belabor that point. Likewise, when I write about the emotional damage that can result from feeling unduly pressured to learn perfectly, I would hope readers will not assume that it must be that I don’t appreciate the importance of learning. Sadly, that was the reaction I got from one reader of my articles, who concluded that if I say that parents shouldn’t force their children to learn or daven it must be that I don’t value those activities sufficiently. I would have hoped that it would have been clear from the articles that it is specifically because I highly value these activities that I warn against pressuring children to be involved in them in a manner that will create negative associations to these activities.
Most frum people are aware of the importance of discipline and structure in a child’s life. If I write about the danger of too much discipline and structure I don’t find it necessary to stress the importance of discipline since I assume that that is well-known to my readers, rather I am emphasizing the need for balance. It is impossible for parents to strike the right balance when they are only aware of the dangers of too little discipline while being unaware of the danger of too much discipline.
A conservative talk-show host was once asked why he doesn’t also present the liberal point of view also in order to present a balanced picture. He responded that since most of the media is liberal, his conservative presentation is the balance.
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