Judaic elements in psychotherapy

In a scholarly, yet readable book, a highly regarded clinical psychologist and an eminent historian show how Biblical stories can be of aid in psychotherapy

February 20, 2019 20:40
Judaic elements in psychotherapy

Biblical Stories for Psychotherapy and Counseling: A Sourcebook Matthew B. Schwartz, PhD, and Kalman J. Kaplan, PhD Routledge ,Taylor and Francis 218 pages; $29.95. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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In the Bible (II Kings Chapter V) we learn about Naaman, a successful and militarily victorious captain in Aram’s Syrian military. But Naaman was afflicted with leprosy. He is told of a healer in the semi-vassal state of Israel – the Northern Kingdom. The healer is the Prophet Elisha. Elisha communicates to Naaman, indirectly, that he should bathe seven times in the Jordon River. Naaman becomes angry. There are bigger rivers in Syria. Eventually he relents and bathes seven times in the Jordan. His skin becomes as healed and as clean as a “little child.” Naaman also came to believe in the God of Israel. In his commentary, Rabbi Joseph Hertz (Hertz Chumash, pages 466-468) sees the Jordan River as metaphor and points out that millions of people in distress turn to the Psalms and not to great world literature, although the Psalms have their origins in a small people.

Since millions of people turn to the Bible in times of trouble, why not use Biblical stories in mental health? Erich Wellisch advocated this in his 1954 book, Study in Biblical Psychology of the Sacrifice of Isaac—the Akadah. Kalman J. Kaplan and Matthew B. Schwartz, a psychologist and a historian respectively, were among the people who took up his call. In 1993 they published A Psychology of Hope: An Antidote to the Suicidal Psychology of Western Civilization. Kaplan and Schwartz have a long history of collaboration. Among the books Schwartz and Kaplan have co-authored is Politics in the Hebrew Bible: God, Man, and Government.


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