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I am thinking of training as a psychotherapist, and one of the approaches I would be studying would be Freud's psychodynamics approach. I have some pre-knowledge of what this is about (from previous study and readings), but would like some guidance on how the Torah would view his approach. I believe there is some article which quotes the Lubavitcher Rebbe discussing this, but I have been unable to locate it.

  • In my personal experience, Judaism does not deal with subconscious at all. It has no reference to one's memories, experiences, emotions, feelings etc. Many contemporary Rabbis were influenced by developments in scientific theories, but it does not make it a Jewish tradition. This is a part of "Avodas Hamidos" and was overlooked for centuries as the Halachic approach took priority. – Al Berko Nov 25 '17 at 18:23
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First of all to quote Rabbi Dovid Katz in his introduction to his history of the Mussar movement,

psychology is mussar.

Your question is about Freud's psychodynamics, which to quote Wikipedia

is especially interested in the dynamic relations between concious motivation and unconscious  motivation.

Interest in the unconscious predates Freud. He was the one that popularized it, and for a while renamed it subconscious, but the theory was around beforehand.

In fact, and this is my main point, Rabbi Yisroel Salanter wrote a letter utilizing 'the recent discovery of psychologists that human psyche has two sets of powers, concious and subconscious' to give various insights into Chazzal. This letter was written in 1881 as a means to raise money to support his kollel in Kovno, Lithuania. This was the same year Freud first became a doctor.

Apparently Rabbi Yisroel Salanter liked this approach.

It should be noted as well that psychology was not in general frowned upon, unless it would lead to problems. See Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 2 57 one may not see a psychiatrist who is a 'min or a kopher'. But he even allowed that if he is a professional who promises not to say things which are against the Torah. More recently some famous Rabbis and mashgichim have gone on record denouncing the study of psychology, but the evidence of previous generations seems to weigh against them.

The Jewish world could use more psychologists who follow the ways of the Torah. Hatzlacha.

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I found the two answers below at www.kipa.co.il. My understanding is that you should try to find the “Talmid Chochom who is knowledgeable in these fields” referred to in the second answer and be guided by him.

Answer 1

. פסיכולוגיה חילונית היתה בעבר מאוד שונה מהיהדות. התפיסה של פרויד (יהודי...) היא מאוד יצרית ולכן בעייתית. אבל כיום הפסיכולוגיה הפכה להיות הרבה יותר רוחנית (בהשפעה של יהודים אחרים כמו אדלר, פרנקל, מסלו) והיא במידה רבה אפילו מתאימה לעקרונות יהודיים. התשובה התקבלה מהרב גלעד שטראוס

Secular psychology in the past was very different from Judaism. The concepts of Freud (who was a Jew ...) are very instinctive and therefore problematic. But today psychology has become much more spiritual (influenced by other Jews such as Adler, Frenkel, Maslow) and is to a large extent even suitable for Jewish principles. The answer was received from Rabbi Gilad Strauss.

Answer 2

האם ישנה בעיה הלכתית"? את שואלת. נהפוך הוא, יש מצוה גדולה על כל מי שמתאים, מסוגל, ומעונין, ללמוד מקצוע בו הוא יכול לרפא את הבריות. כפי שכתוב במקורותינו- "ורפא ירפא" מכאן שניתנה רשות לרופא לרפאות, בין אם בריאות הגו ובין אם בריאות הנפש. 2. אך יש להקפיד לשים לב לנקודות הבאות: להיות בקשר עם תלמיד חכם הבקי בתחומים אלה, והיכול ל'עשות סדר' בתיאוריות השונות ובתפיסות השונות שחלקן בהחלט בעייתיות. אך אנו איננו מפחדים, בתנאי שיש לנו כתובת רוחנית איתה אנו יכולים להתייעץ. יש לדעת שביסודן של הרבה תיאוריות מונחות מערכות ערכיות ותפיסות עולם פילוסופיות. אין זה 'מדע מדויק' על אף שהוא מתיימר להיות כזה. ולכן מותר ללמוד אל לדעת לבחון היטב את הדברים. הדרכה שניה - להרבות בלימוד תורה ובמיוחד בשיעורי אמונה. לא ייתכן שנתפתח רק במקצועות החול ולא נתפתח במקביל, ועוד יותר מזה, באמונתנו. הדרכה שלישית - הלימודים בחברה האוניברסיטאית, מזמנים אתגרים הנוגעים ל'בינו ובינה', אירועים חברתיים, תרבותיים. עלייך לדעת להציב את הגבולות, לדעת להתייעץ במצבי ספק, ולעמוד בעיקשות על ההלכה ורוח ההלכה בנושאים אלה. התשובה התקבלה מהרב רפי פוירשטיין

You ask, “Is there a halachic problem?” . On the contrary, there is a great mitzvah for anyone who is suitable, capable, and interested in learning a profession in which he can heal people. As it is written in our sources – " ורפא ירפא " from here, permission was given to the doctor to heal, whether it be the health of the body or mental health.

Be careful to pay attention to the following points:

First: to be in contact with a Talmid Chochom who is knowledgeable in these fields, and who can "make order" in the various theories and perceptions that are certainly problematic. But we are not afraid, provided we have a spiritual address with which we can consult.

It should be known that at the root of many theories are value-systems and philosophical worldviews. It is not an 'exact science' even though it pretends to be. And therefore it is permissible to learn and to examine things well.

Second instruction: - to increase Torah study and especially in shiurim in Emunah, faith. It is inconceivable that we develop only in the secular professions and not develop in parallel, and even more so, in our faith.

Third: Training - Studies in the university society invite challenges related to prohibitions of yichud especially with social and cultural events. You need to know how to set boundaries, to consult in situations of doubt, and to insist on halacha and the spirit of halachah on these issues.

The answer was received from Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein.

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