Bechira: How Free is Free Will?

As a psychologist practicing in the frum community for over two decades, I have frequently encountered the following serious dilemma. A major focus of psychotherapy is exploring the events in the person’s past and in his current environment which brought about and continues to maintain his current difficulties. However, many frum patients are uncomfortable with this very process. The psychologist’s attempts to understand behaviors, thoughts and feelings as resulting from various life experiences is seen as conflicting with a basic tenet of Yiddishkeit , that of bechira (free will). Since a person has free will, how can we “excuse” his behavior with psychological explanations?

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