I grew up in Sydney, Australia, in a religious home. After high school, I went to Israel to study in yeshivah for a few years, returning to Australia to enroll in medical school at the University of Sydney. After graduating and completing my medical residency, I married my wife, who is from Melbourne.
Over time, I found myself attracted to Chabad philosophy, which appealed to me intellectually, and I became involved with the Lubavitch community, which was the dominant religious force in Melbourne.
Indeed, it was the Lubavitcher Rebbe who helped me decide to settle in that city. When we first married, my wife and I needed to decide whether to live in Melbourne, where she was from, or in Sydney, where I was from. We wrote to the Rebbe for his advice and received the reply: “Makom dirah kirtzon akeres habayis – your place of residence should be where the woman of the house desires.” And so we settled in Melbourne.
After a time, I was not sure which direction my life should take, so once again I wrote to the Rebbe asking for his advice, and listing four possible options which I had been considering. The first option was to return to Torah study and learn in a kollel for married men; the second was to become a general practitioner; the third was to specialize in some area of general medicine; and the fourth option was to specialize in psychiatry.
In his reply, the Rebbe circled psychiatry and added the words “kdima l’efsharut zu – this option should take precedence.” I followed the Rebbe’s advice and enrolled in psychiatric training. And I have been in psychiatric practice now for over forty years.
When I graduated, the preeminent mode of treatment was psychoanalysis. This school of thought tends to see people’s psychological problems as rooted in the traumas and experiences of the past. The therapist’s role is to facilitate an exploration of those experiences, the idea being that understanding the roots of their problems will help patients to heal. This technique involves many sessions a week for several years. (more…)