Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Counseling Jewish Women: A Phenomenological Study

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Counseling Jewish Women: A Phenomenological Study

Article excerpt

Over the last 2 decades, social scientists have noted the lack of attention the field of psychology has paid to religion, especially compared with other multicultural variables such as race (Schlosser, Foley, Poltrock Stein, & Holmwood, 2010). In particular, Kielty Briggs and Dixon Rayle (2005) concluded that many counselor program directors and educators are unclear as to how to integrate religious issues into core courses and counselor education curricula accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs. Thus, few counseling trainees receive adequate supervision to competently address clients' religion in counseling (Hall, Dixon, & Mauzey, 2004; Levitt & Balkin, 2003).

Regarding Jewish realities, counseling scholars have also observed the relative invisibility of Jews as a topic matter in the counseling literature and multicultural counseling movement (Altman, Inman, Fine, Ritter, & Howard, 2010; Torton Beck, Goldberg, & Knefelkamp, 2003). Fischer and Moradi (2001) contended that "conspicuously absent from the multicultural counseling literature are theory and research related to the Jewish people" (p. 351). Specifically, in his review, Langman (1999) concluded that "books, journals, classes, and conferences in counseling and psychology make little mention of Jews, Jewish issues, or anti-Semitism" (p. 2).

Several writers have theorized that this notable absence may emanate from (a) high levels of Jewish assimilation (Langman, 1995), (b) viewing Jews solely as members of a religious sect (Friedman, Friedlander, & Bluestein, 2005), or (c) anti-Semitism (Weinrach, 2002). Moreover, MacDonald-Dennis (2006) proposed that Jews are often ignored because they are classified as members of the general White American majority. In her aptly titled book, How Jews Became White Folks, Brodkin (1998) discussed this post-World War II equation of Jews equaling White and how this racial categorization was never considered before. Naumburg (2007) noted that clinicians tend to view their Jewish clients, except for those who are visibly religious Jews, as Caucasian Americans, unaware that being Jewish is a hidden diversity that "requires a willingness to see beyond white skin and be aware of potential differences that lie beneath the surface" (p. 80). Thus, Yeung and Greenwald (1992) and Schlosser (2006) concluded that counselors' lack of awareness of Jewish realities results in their being ill-prepared to fully help Jewish clients in counseling. This reality is problematic because many non-Orthodox, American Jews view psychotherapy favorably and "are likely to utilize psychotherapy services" (Schlosser, 2006, p. 425).

Scholars, however, have recently begun to gather data on Jewish identity that focus on religious denomination. Specifically, Hartman and Hartman (1999) looked at nine Jewish religious and ethnic identity components of 610,000 New York Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox households and concluded that the strength of Jewish identity is highly related to Jewish denomination. Similarly, Friedman et al.'s (2005) qualitative study of 10 Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and nonaffiliated Jewish adults revealed that Conservative Jewish Americans may experience themselves as bicultural, that is, both Jewish and American. Next, Altman et al. (2010) explored the unique nature of the Jewish ethnic identity of 10 young adult, Conservative Jewish Americans and discovered six themes that inform participants' Jewish identity. Although these studies signify a positive change in the counseling field's interest in studying Jewish life, there is only one published data-based article that specifically looks at Jewish women, namely Goldberg and O'Brien's (2005) study on attachment, and one dissertation examining Jewish women's body image (Greenberg, 2009).

There are, however, several books and articles that have shed theoretical light on the unique ways Jewish women understand their lives and identities and how this holds implications for counseling (see Green & Brodbar, 2011; Josefowitz Siegel & Cole, 1991, 1997; Weiner & Moon, 1995). …

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