The most important factor in choosing a therapist is whether a potential candidate is understanding and respectful of your values and beliefs. A therapist can have an excellent education, phenomenal interpersonal skills, and stellar reviews on Zocdoc, but nothing is going to get off the ground if he or she doesn’t understand your perspective.

Religious individuals seeking therapy often ask whether it is necessary for them to see a therapist of the same community. While this might be more or less important for given individuals, the overall answer is no. What is essential to successful therapy is not that therapists share your views, but that they take the time to appreciate them.

Granted, the likelihood that it’s worth your time explaining every facet of your lifestyle to a chic, Park Slope psychologist with they/them pronouns is extremely low. Well-intentioned as they might be, it just takes too long to get into Shabbos, kashrus, taharas hamishpachah, etc. Even if you decide to spend a thousand dollars and five hours doing so, you run the risk of being told that your lifestyle is outdated and archaic and you’d be better off without it.

That being said, however, this doesn’t mean your only option is a therapist who serves gefilte fish in the waiting room. There are plenty of non-religious and even non-Jewish therapists who work extensively with religious populations and who are entirely respectful and understanding of the Orthodox lifestyle. These are individuals who are willing to develop a competent understanding of religious culture and comfortable with understanding viewpoints other than their own.

Even once you have decided to work with a religious therapist, it is also important to ensure that he or she respects not just your broader religious perspective, but also your subcultural and individual views. There are many multifaceted groups that make up the Orthodox community (think shuls you won’t daven in because they’re either too frum or not frum enough), as well as significant divergence among the individuals within those groups (think people at your shul you try to avoid).

Whether for religious reasons or even personality, you don’t want to be sitting there with a therapist whom you don’t like or feel doesn’t like you. If you have the sense that a therapist isn’t cool with your not always going to davening or conversely, encouraging your kids to learn in kollel, then it’s probably a good idea to find someone else.

Finally, it’s essential to understand that therapists are not rabbis or religious leaders. This isn’t to say that a given individual can’t be both of these things, because of the extensive evidence to the contrary, but they are different hats. A rabbi’s job is to view the world primarily through a religious lens and interact with people from that perspective. He needs to encourage the practice of his congregants or students and challenge them, albeit in an appropriate and intelligent way, when they stray from the correct path.

In contrast, a therapist’s job is to meet people where they are at and once again, be accepting of whatever perspective a given individual brings to the table. A religious therapist is bound to come across all sorts of people and lifestyles with which he or she disagrees and might even be mortified by. Be this as it may, the therapist’s job is to explore why you do what you do, as opposed to challenging whatever that might be.

A big caveat to all of this is that in many cases, religious and psychological perspectives line up congruently. If you are acting in a way that is completely contrary to everyone else in your life and the way you were brought up, that’s definitely something any competent therapist should call into the spotlight - not through a lens of right and wrong, but one of typical and atypical.

Ultimately, if you find someone you’re comfortable with who understands and respects your viewpoint without being preachy, you’re likely in good hands. If one of these criteria is lacking, however, you should probably look elsewhere, because there’s a good chance you’re wasting your time.

Elliott Blitenthal is a clinical social worker who works with adolescents and adults with anxiety, depression, interpersonal and career issues, or who feel that things aren’t the way they should be. Elliott works with individuals, couples, and families via telehealth or in-person. He can be contacted at 952-393-6415 (call/text) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information including about insurance, visit