I was born and raised in Israel in a home where conversation, ideas and emotions were as important at the dinner table as the food. Bringing about peace and justice in the Middle East was the most important aspect of my family's and my life as I grew up. I have been blessed with the life-long challenge of integrating the discipline of care from my prominent psychologist mother of German origin, and the gentleness of care from my father of Hungarian origin.
The 1973 war in the Middle East was a major event in my life. As a lieutenant and a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), I fought and was wounded in the last hours of the war. It took me a tremendous amount of time, pain, energy and determination to rehabilitate myself physically. It took an even bigger effort of soul searching for me to integrate my war experience and the meaning of my injury and actions into who I am and what I do. I worked to understand the nature of war, the relationships between Men, Women and War and my willingness to sacrifice.
After serving in the army, as all young men do in Israel, I spent some time away from everything aboard a ship in the Merchant Marines.
This led me to my first career in oceanography, deep sea diving, limnology and researching fish farming. After exploring the boundaries between earth and air as a paratrooper, I explored the boundaries of air and water as a deep sea diver. The purpose of my work was to develop alternative, fish-based protein sources for human consumption. I first explored the possibility of growing fish in the sea (after all 80% of the surface of our planet is water), through experimenting with raising fish in cages in the Red Sea. Later on I worked in East and Central Africa developing the potential for fisheries in lakes and fish ponds in rural areas.
Traveling, driving safaris, living and working in East Africa changed me forever as it introduced, actually shocked, me into seeing the world through new lenses. It led me to new realizations and understanding of different ways of being, living, relating, worshiping and dying. Observing the village life, the celebrations and the rituals helped me gain appreciation of the importance of community and the acceptance of death. It helped me understand the complex impact of modern technology and how the simple, seemingly positive introduction of running water in a village can improve sanitation, hygiene and health but also destroy the most important institution of the village: the well. Before returning to Israel I spent several months in England and France.
In 1979 I left Israel for the U.S. for moral reasons. I could not live with myself for being even passively involved in the immoral Israeli occupation of the Palestinians in West Bank and Lebanon. I believed then, as I do now, that occupying the West Bank takes a bigger toll on the souls of the Israelis than on the Palestinians. I then moved to the U.S. where I have been living ever since. For a paper on the topic, click here.
This continental change was accompanied by a profound vocational change. My deep sea diving was replaced with diving into the mysteries of humanity, and my desire to feed the third world was transformed into the yearning to feed minds and heal souls. My interest in psychology, to which my mother introduced me, stems from my fascination with the human mind, spirit and soul and my wish to care and heal.
Part of my coming to terms with my war experience was achieved through intense studies in the psychology of war and peace. My colleague, Sam Keen, and I put together probably the biggest collection of war propaganda posters (what we call political pornography) in the world. During the cold war I lectured on the dynamics of enmity, the psychology of hate and fear, and the complementary role of women in violent systems. In 1987 I was invited to present my work in Moscow to fellows of the Soviet Academy of Science. For publications on these topics, click here.
While in my teens I was active in the peace movement in the Middle East. In my 20s I invested in finding alternative sources of protein for the Third World. I spent my 30s researching the psychology and sociology of war and peace and investigating the rarely acknowledged contributing role of women in the making of war. My 40s focused on challenging the exploitive immorality of managed care systems and the widespread incompetence in the field of psychotherapy. Through teaching, writing and research I have attempted to bring more humanity and effectiveness to the field of psychotherapy. For my philosophy of treatment,
click here, and for papers on the topic, go to the site map. As I enter my 50s, I continue with my work on therapy and healing, adding to it a focus on how modern technology and speed, especially Internet technology, is affecting our society. I am looking for ways to help people search not only the Internet, but also the Inner-net.
After living in Cambridge, MA, and Berkeley, CA, in 1988 I moved to the lovely community of Sonoma, located in the serene wine country of Northern CA, about one hour's drive north of San Francisco. My family, friends and I invest generously in the creation of a strong, safe and caring community for our children and ourselves. I spread my professional life between consulting with my clients, researching, writing, teaching, consulting with therapists, attorneys and organizations on ethical and clinical issues, and continuously developing and managing my online continuing education program. Besides my family and community, I spend time doing yoga, playing basketball, hiking and traveling.
In the late '90s I shifted my focus from abuses by managed care to concerns related to self-serving beliefs and dogmas that are so prevalent in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. I have been working to educate my fellow psychotherapists about the risks and injustices associated withdogmatic thinking, overpathologizing and clinical interventions that derive from fear, rigidity and narrowly defined risk management considerations, rather than being based on clinical integrity, critical thinking, flexibility and the highest level of patient care. I have been fascinated by the rigidity of self-serving or self-aggrandizing beliefs regarding dual relationships and boundaries in therapy. On this topic I have published two book chapters: How Consensus Regarding The Prohibition Of Dual Relationships Has Been Contrived and The Dumbing Down of Psychology.
In 2002 I co-authored Dual Relationships in Psychotherapy with Dr. Arnold Lazarus and published
extensively on boundary issues in psychotherapy, such as non-sexual touch, bartering, self-disclosure, home visits, community, and healthy, normal dual-relationships within one's community. This book was ground-breaking as it was one of the first books ever to challenge the old and rigid dogma of the depravity of dual relationships. It documents how adhering to fear-based risk-management practices reduces therapeutic effectiveness and asserts that flexible and ethical application of boundaries in therapy enhances therapeutic effectiveness and healing.
In 2003 I published the HIPAA Compliance Kit (distributed by W. W. Norton). It has been completely revised in 2013. My work on critical thinking, ethics with soul, boundaries and flexible and humane approaches to psychotherapy has been at the heart of my ever-growing online continuing
education program. Since the mid 1990s I have been offering online continuing education for psychologists, social workers, MFTs and counselors nation wide. In addition to my private practice, consultations with therapists, writing and teaching I also provide expert testimony for cases involving standard of care, boundaries, dual relationships and other related issues.
Whether they are political, geographical, biological, professional or spiritual, I have been intrigued with the nature, role, permeability and longevity of boundaries. I am equally interested in the effects of those who erect or dismantle them, go through, above or around them, adhere to them too rigidly or ignore them altogether. As a paratrooper, combat officer, deep-sea diver and traveler in remote parts of Africa, I have experienced physical, biological, geographical, political and cultural boundaries firsthand. As a psychologist, the boundaries or lack of boundaries between the body, mind and soul and between people and cultures have been equally enthralling to me. I discuss political boundaries in the Middle East in my article on the Wall, and professional boundaries in my book and many articles on boundaries.
Consistent with my interest in boundaries, my most recent book (2007) is titled Boundaries in Psychotherapy: Ethical and Clinical Explorations.. This is probably the most comprehensive book on ethical therapeutic boundaries. It covers a very wide range of topics, such as non-sexual touch, therapist's self-disclosure, gift exchange by clients and therapists, home visits, bartering, dual relationships, telehealth and e-therapy. I review all the different reasons that therapists may leave the office with their clients, including adventure therapy, attending a client's wedding, bar-mitzva or confirmation, leaving the office with a phobic client, and making a home visit. This book, being published by American Psychological Association (APA Books), is a testimony to the fact that the fields of psychotherapy and counseling are finally changing and taking on more flexible and human, rather than rigid and fearful, attitudes toward therapeutic boundaries and healing.
Having finished my latest book, the perennial question, "What's next for me?" returned. I have been searching for what gives me meaning at this stage of my life. Watching the movie Motorcycle Diaries has thrown me deeper into my "existential funk" and further into questioning my calling. As I watched Che Guevera devote his life to the underclass, and ultimately sacrifice his life to the cause, I was led to ponder, "What is worthy of sacrifice in my life?" I was inspired to write a short paper titled "My Sacrifice" that starts like this:
The moment the bullet tore into the calf of my leg and a nearby explosion ruptured my eardrum, I collapsed. I yelled for a fellow officer to take over my unit before the medics injected me with morphine and loaded me onto an open personnel carrier headed to the field hospital. This was 1973, when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against Israel. I was a lieutenant, part of a paratrooper unit staffed with hundreds of highly trained young men ready to sacrifice themselves for the defense of their country. We were on the West-Egyptian side of the Suez Canal, hundreds of miles away from the border. Friendly and unfriendly gunfire was everywhere. Neither felt friendly . . . For the rest of the article on my (OZ) personal experience and reflection on sacrifice, click here.
A focus emerged from the process of writing. I have decided to go back to my old stomping grounds in Africa, and see how I can apply myself for the good of humanity. I do not intend to uproot my family, community or practice but am looking for ways to contribute as a part-time consultant in Africa. I intend to draw on my social psychology, organizational development, media psychology, mediation and clinical psychology training. The search is on . . .
In June of 2007, my son (14, at the time), a close family friend and I braved the boundary of air and oxygen by daring to climb the awesome 19,300 feet of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, also known as the "Roof of Africa." We left for our trip on June 13th, 2007 and took the Rongai (northern) Route over seven days and followed the fantastic climb by going on Safari at the spectacular Serengeti and the Ngoro Ngoro game reserves. All three of us summated Kilimanjaro on June 21st. It was one of the most memorable, awesome and challenging experiences I have ever had. The view of the world and the glacier from the 'top of the world' were breathtaking. It was an incredible experience of physical and emotional challenges, including hope, despair, joy, sense of awe and beauty, exhaustion and incredible sense of being supported. I have taken on many physical challenges in my life time and very few have matched this one. For more details on the trip, click here.
Watching a trailer for the "Highest Pass" inspired me to go and explore the Himalayas with my son, Eitan (19) on ... motorcycles and we finished the ride on the highest 'ridable' road on earth at 18,380 ft. The unique two-week adventure on a Royal Enfield turned out to be one of the most challenging experiences of my life with endless extreme physical, emotional, and mental demands. Driving the narrow rugged, rocky roads with vertical cliffs of thousands of feet (most often with no rail-guards), blind corners, speeding, over-loaded trucks, long days of hard riding on the left hand side, and through endless potholes, and water crossings turned out to be an unparalleled challenge for me (at 62). Eitan experienced it as joyous and quite easy.
The beauty, enormity and awesomeness of the Himalayas are unparalleled and so are the centuries old sacred Buddhist temples and numerous monasteries we visited. Sometimes it felt like we were riding in the clouds. The trip evoked in me a lot of humility, mastering of fears, coming to terms with physical and age related-limitations, and ultimately, once again, facing death straight up in the eyes (or at least around every blind corner). Obviously, it involved mastery, surrender, and special connection with my son. The highly recommended touring company Free Spirit Adventure Tours was fantastic and helpful from the first contact to the last day and our guide Munish was experienced, competent and caring.