The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Trauma and the Loss and Recovery of Religious Faith among Haredi Therapy Clients

This paper looks at some of the conditions under which traumatised individuals from the chareidi community might regain their faith.

The paper first summarises previous work on the loss of religious faith following trauma. The paper then describes the author`s work on trauma therapy among chareidi clients in the UK. The therapy method used was EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). This therapy results in the disappearance or minimisation of the distress associated with the traumatic event, as well as the disappearance or minimisation of other symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) including physical symptoms, to the relief and often outright delight of clients.

The paper then describes reported religious/spiritual/mystical (RSM) experiences during EMDR, as well as other experiences: pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. The paper then turns to an unexpected phenomenon: clients` reports of the recovery of religious faith following therapy, and considers the possibility of a causal relationship between RSM experiences and the recovery of faith. The paper notes, describes and discusses a distinction reported earlier, between Bitochon (religious belief, which is relatively intellectual) and Emunah (religious faith/trust, which is more emotional) . Trauma and recovery from its effects were said by clients to have a different impact on Bitochon and on Emunah. Some comparisons with non-Jewish clients are added, including the suggestion that those without a religious input in childhood are unlikely to gain or develop faith as a result of therapy.