Business mentor, religious leader or shrink? You choose

Nearly every time I describe to people what I do as a business mentor, I am asked if I feel that I am acting as a psychologist for financial or commercial issues.

It can seem that way. In fact, it is not just that you have to allow for a person’s personality in how they do or do not make decisions. You also have to be aware of “background noise”. A classic example of this can unfortunately be a divorce of a key player in the organisation.

That said, I am always clear about two things. I have never even studied psychology 101. And, I am not a professional marriage guidance counsellor or similar. If those are your issues, they need to be dealt with by a professional.

I am prompted to raise the discussion by two articles I read in a Hebrew publication last month. Tzohar is a group of rabbis, who try to relate orthodox opinions with modern life, without being afraid of modernity. Rabbis Aviner and Ariel argued that people with deep personal issues can receive full help by turning to a religious leader rather than visiting a shrink. (For the record, I have clients, who confirm what they have learnt with me by afterwards visiting their favoured rabbi.)

Nomi Wolfson, a specialist in marital problems, wrote a detailed response ,which I feel deserves a wider audience. As she writes (and I translate): “The main point is the lack of understanding (by non-experts) that handling emotional issues demands a wider appreciation of life.” This is an appreciation that goes beyond showing  a basic love of mankind and exuding empathy.

Wolfson goes on to analyse what she sees as the central point of dispute with her rabbinical associates. Her field of expertise is often seen as one of “words”. Speak wisely and you can do it also, no? No, cries Wolfson. And the reason is simple. In psychology, every word and every sentence can have a sub meaning. These implications need to be identified immediately. Just as it takes a rabbi – and also presumably preachers from other religions – years to learn the texts, so it takes analysts years to be certified by their professions.

In Wolfson’s last penultimate paragraph, she delivers her sternest warning. Rabbis are perceived as being most active in household disputes. They are seen as a place to seek neutrality, which is understandable. However, the professional spends many a session in training, role-playing the multiple different scenarios. That is extremely valuable background knowledge, actually working with individuals.

So who is correct? As Wolfson observes, if you need a toothache dealt with you go to a dentist. The final decision will depend on the issues involved  and where a person feels confident that they will find a solution.

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One Comment on “Business mentor, religious leader or shrink? You choose”

  1. Kieran Perry Says:

    excellent information keep up your good work thankx


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