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The Other Side of the Couch

Malkie Schulman

Day after day, they listen to people’s problems, trying to help them work through issues and overcome challenges. What’s it like for the frum therapists who are familiar with our most intractable problems and biggest pitfalls? How do they stay positive and avoid burnout? And what would they like us to know?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

“And how does that make you feel?” If you’ve ever been in therapy, there were probably times you wanted to turn that ubiquitous (often annoying) seven-word question on the therapist asking all the questions. Listening to patients talk about their struggles doubtlessly affects her perspective — and her personal life. What is she really thinking behind her gentle nod and questioning gaze?

A Day in the Life Sitting in the therapist chair is a privilege, according toMelissaGroman, LCSW, who practices in Nutley (near Passaic), New Jersey. “I am helping someone tell his story and find new ways to move forward in life. My work is often spiritual, practical, painful, and joyful all at once.” Because therapists are, well, in therapy every day, they have a unique understanding of the weight of their role.YochevedSampson, LCSW, who also works in Nutley, elaborates: “I feel honored that my clients entrust me with their inner world. I also feel responsible to ensure that they feel safe and respected and that I am providing a therapeutic experience that is different from interacting with a friend.  “I see myself as a mirror for my clients,” Yocheved continues, “reflecting back to them what they are saying, what they already understand, what isn’t working. My job is to offer empathy, objectivity, and insight, to ask questions that help them think about something differently or more in-depth, and often to give them a ‘new’ interpersonal experience.”

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