My basic approach, which I have been developing and "fine-tuning" since '77, was to ground everything in the teachings of the Torah. In order enhance my skills and abilities, to be capable of dealing in real-world practical situations, I had to develop a skill base in psychology. Many elements of psychology are antithetical to Torah, so one has to be very careful in selecting psychological knowledge and skills that were both effective AND kosher. Therapeutic approaches must differentiate the sacrilege from the PERMISSIBLY helpful. I had to accumulate usable kosher knowledge and techniques. Standard schooling in psychology contains unkosher ideologies and methods. For example, one teaching of psychology advocates free releasing of anger as being healthy.
The Talmud teaches that anger is prohibited and destructive. The angry person is left with nothing but his anger. He loses his wisdom, friends and health. G-d keeps the world in existence in the merit of those who hold back their anger. That's healthy! How healthy can you be if you're no longer in existence? Ironically, a recent study shows that anger is correlated with heart attack. When psychology is antithetical to Torah, it is not only sacrilege, it is dangerously false.
I'll give an example of how secular marriage counseling can be dangerously false. A couple had a serious problem that was at an immovable impasse. They had been to a secular therapist for counseling who worked on the basis of, "What do you get from the relationship?" Each member of the couple got rigidly and selfishly focused on what each would expect, demand, want and take. The problem got worse. They quit that therapist and came to me for marriage counseling after hearing me at a lecture. I worked with them on the basis of, "What do you each GIVE to the relationship?" Now they communicate, they work things out without hostility, they display concern for eachother, extend themselves for the well-being of the marriage, make eachother happy (usually) and have a new baby who is growing up in a stable home. I'll develop this "giving orientation" for you later.
I obtained private training for several years in two forms of therapy. One is Psychodynamic therapy. I like it over Freudian Analysis, which gets too lost in one's past to be practical or effective; and I like it over Behaviorism which can be callous, technical, inhuman and destructive; especially when a person has deeper-than-surface problems which have to be addressed for therapy to be lastingly and healthily effective. Psychodynamic is a "best of both worlds" in that it therapeutically unites the causalities in the past with practical and effective functioning in the present, linking the past and present relatively agreeably. In my experience, when Torah principles govern the therapeutic process, the combination of psychodynamic therapy and Torah lends itself to approaching people humanely, morally and effectively; which makes therapy potentially optimally compatible with the Torah. The effect of the past on the present is not ignored, and psychological health and practical progress in the present are central. And, our Creator is not divorced from the therapy.
The second approach in which I have obtained training is "Expressive Therapy," which is designed to uncover, release, recapture and heal emotions and psychological functions which have been damaged, atrophied or buried due to abuse, trauma or neglect.
There is a genre of psychotherapy called "Interpersonal Therapy," which is geared to enhancing relationships and increasing communication skills. I employ this also, but much of my material for this is rooted in Torah, so that my approach to it is often Torah-based rather than secular. This is because of the numerous and strict demands by the Torah upon the Jew in his treatment of (i.e. "relating with") another Jew. The amoral, non-judgemental aspect of psychology can take this facet of therapy too far away (in its approaches or values) from Torah. However, since one of my fields of specialty is human relations, I address the fact that relating is a vital part of life and, therefore, of counseling or therapy.
Very often, one's "internal situation" surfaces in close relationships. Therefore, one's performance in relationships and one's psychological situation are intrinsically and closely connected. A professional counselor will discern significant psychological matter from relationship behavior and results. This is important in "both directions." 1. A person's relationship "track record" is important data for the counselor (from the client to the therapist) and 2. psychotherapy should impact and improve relationship quality and behavior (from the therapist to the client).
So, my approach is a "kosher synthesis" of Torah-true Judaism (which contains masses of wisdom about "psychology," personality and life), psychology, sociology, human relations, personal development and the field of communication. My semicha (rabinical ordination) specifies that I am qualified and capable of giving counseling and guidance (in addition to Torah teaching and educating).
Over the years, more and more people were coming to me for counseling and matchmaking. More and more institutions were asking me to lecture, run workshops or seminars, teach full-length courses. My Torah Tape catalog of recorded presentations kept growing wider and more diverse. Audience members told me that they gained from my presentations, and more and more people told me that my counseling had proven effective. Heaven seemed to be telling me that I had a mission. Growing popular acceptance of my ideas and methods seemed, in the aggregate, to be a "message."
Fundamental to my approach and philosophy starts with the historical fact that the Torah is the will and wisdom of G-d, revealed through Moshe at Mount Sinai to the Jewish people. The Torah records that there were over 600,000 men between the ages of 20 and 60 at Mount Sinai. When you include the young under 20, the elderly over 60, all the women of every age, and the "mixed multitude" (the converts who came out with the Jews when G-d miraculously saved Jewry from captivity in Egypt), there were approximately three million witnesses to G-d's revelation at Mount Sinai. Our entire nation witnessed revelation of His Torah from G-d Himself. Since Sinai, the Torah has been transmitted from generation to generation.
The Torah categorically and absolutely instructs us on how G-d created life in His world. All resources (e.g. psychology, sociology, communication, relationship and self-development subjects) were sought from within the Torah. To the extent that I was not in a position to obtain needed resources and skills in the Torah, outside sources would have to be obtained such that they all comply with the Torah. Growing popular acceptance of the fruits of my labors bears witness to the Truth of the Torah, and today's generation's thirst for G-d's "living waters."
The Talmud (Yevamos 62b) says that a man without a wife lives with no happiness, with no blessing, with no goodness, with no Torah, with no protection, with no peace. In tractate Kidushin (41a) the Talmud says that it is a normal woman's nature to want to be married, rather than to live by herself. The Talmud (Yevamos 63a) says, "Anyone not married is not but half a human being, as the Torah says (Genesis 5:2), 'Male and female He created THEM and He called THEIR NAME MAN.'" A full human being is a married couple. Even though marriage entails effort and responsibility, it is the ticket to one's completion, fulfillment and potential as a human being.
Midrash Eicha Raba (3:27) says that the verse (Eicha 3:27), "It is good for a man to carry a burden from his youth," refers to taking on the burden of marriage - a wife and family. Madrich LeChasonim explains that a man should marry as young as is reasonably possible. When the young man marries, it is fundamental that he accept on himself a frame of mind that this is an obligation. He should accept this burden on himself at all times and under all conditions. He should never throw off this burden from upon himself for his entire lifetime.
Given, then, that the Torah defines marriage to be a fundamental and permanent aspect of adult life; and that marriage is designed to be functional, happy and peaceful; the Torah is the source from which to know the true way to bring marriage to blossom and to its true character and potential.
By definition, the NORMAL STATE upon attaining adult age is to be in a PERMANENT, FUNCTIONAL, HAPPY AND PEACEFUL MARRIAGE. Therefore, ANY AND ALL DEVIATION(S) from this state COMMENSURATELY MEASURE one's deviation(s) from having approached GENUINE adulthood, human potential, and marriage; and from being, as a person, a GENUINE "marriageable entity."
Being a true adult, having a genuine marriage relationship and being "a marriageable entity" are central to a healthy, full life.