Monday, August 27, 2012

Online Training: Stewards of Children

In addition to being an online provider, I am also an online consumer.  There is an awful lot of useful information out there on the web!  During some research I was doing on child sexual abuse I discovered a training called "Stewards of Children" on a site called Darkness to Light, a recognized site on the issue.  The training is billed as something for any average person to take (especially parents) to learn how to protect children from being abused.  It contains a lot of great material and good ideas; I don't think there is anything there that can't be found elsewhere on the internet, although it's nice to have it all compiled in one place.  It takes a few hours to complete (you can do it over several days), and it costs $10.  If you want to save the ten-spot you can do your own reading; otherwise, it's certainly a helpful training to view.
(Note: I am not affiliated with Darkness to Light in any way.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Phone vs. Skype

Often when someone contacts me for a free consultation, they’ll ask if we can “just do it by phone.”  I usually discourage speaking by phone, though ultimately I acquiesce if they insist.  Here’s why.

Distance counseling has a lot of benefits to it, benefits which in many circumstances outweigh the acknowledged drawback of not physically being in the same room together.  (There is a power to two people being a room that is not as palpable when they are communicating but are not in the same room.)  Some of these benefits include convenience, time saving, and privacy (an especially relevant point for those living in small, or even not so small, Jewish communities: of the frum clients I work with in my own town, many of them I also run into frequently in shul or elsewhere).

While having that physical presence is helpful, I believe that visual contact at the least is indispensable.  Any therapist will tell you that what is learned from nonverbal communication is at least as important, often more important, than what is learned from verbal communication.  In fact, it is not uncommon for the understanding of what a client says to be completely altered by what they communicate nonverbally (such as a client who smiles while discussing deeply painful issues).  Such cues would be missed entirely on a phone session.  And in my experience, such cues are legion.

What is missed in a session conducted on the phone is too valuable to settle for the extra convenience of not having to download Skype, or get dressed to sit in front of the computer.  That said, I do agree to do it if a client is not willing to go ahead with video conferencing, simply because I think any help is better than no help.  If a person is not willing to do any more than a phone call from Los Angeles or Baltimore or wherever it may be, I will do my best to help them within the limitations of the medium, and perhaps try to move to a visual setting later on.

If you are considering distance therapy, I urge you to aim for a visual option.  I think you’ll find therapy to be significantly more effective if you do.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Halachos of the Internet

This weekend I came across a booklet on the halachos of the internet (offered for free out of a cardboard box in my shul).  I immediately grabbed a copy, eagerly expecting to discover exactly how many issurim de’oraisa I am violating every time I pop open the internet.  In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be a pretty useful set of topics, such as whether having a webcam on can resolve a yichud problem (yes) or whether you are allowed to use someone else’s wi-fi without asking them (no).  A rather useful booklet for an Orthodox Jewish therapist who is heavily invested in internet usage.  I believe it was written by a learned person in Monsey, NY.  You can actually see the whole thing online (ha!) at

kuntres ha'internet behalacha

Wednesday, August 8, 2012



This is the beginning of a new blog that will touch on issues relevant to the Orthodox Jewish community and to the world at large about therapy, counseling, change, growth, and also about the subjects of domestic violence and sexual abuse, subjects I have very strong feelings about.  I hope that here you will find reading that is interesting, thought-provoking, and helpful.  Stay tuned!

~Rabbi Raffi Bilek