Ofer Zur, Ph.D.
Caring for the health, wholeness, dignity and integrity of individuals, couples, families, businesses, organizations and communities is what guides me in my consulting and therapy work. Helping people change, grow, love and heal is my life work.
My view of what health is:
Health is cultivating that which is best in us in order to live life joyfully, intentionally, morally, and well.
Healthy life often involves connections to other people, personal meaning, and thoughtful attention to one's body, mind, and spirit, as well as to one's community and the world.
Healthy living requires making choices that support our optimal well being throughout each phase of life and through our attitude towards death and dying.
I do not believe you have to be sick, broken, suicidal, depressed or ill to seek help. Sometimes just living in the 21st century, with its fast pace and with communities and families on the decline, can be stressful and overwhelming by itself. I firmly believe that loving relationships, healthy mind, strong body, living meaningfully or keeping a family business intact require regular maintenance. In this regard my consultations are no different than a dental checkup, changing oil in our car engine, physical exercise or tending to our gardens.
I hope that horror stories about or personal experience with unhelpful therapists (the Woody Allen syndrome of endless pointless sessions) will not deter you from seeking consultation to help your situation or improve your life. In order to avoid useless therapy, I have constructed a 22 item check list which you may want to review before you contract with a therapist.
I see myself primarily as a consultant on life issues, a coach and a guide. I prefer understanding people's struggles in the context of their lives rather than labeling them with some isolated mental disorder as is commonly done in the field of psychotherapy or medicine. My approach is different than the medical model as I focus on health and prevention rather than pathology and brokenness.
Most of the complaints, pains and hardships that hurt people, in my opinion, do not stem from deep pathology, brokenness, badness, defective genes or chemical imbalance. Most of the hardships are normal and expected results of living in our fast-paced era of broken communities or of ineffective parents and schools. Along these lines, I see most depressions as depletion, most anxieties as overwhelm, phobias as being out of control and panic as the psyche's cry for help. Accordingly, I prefer, if possible and clinically appropriate, not to medicate people for these struggles, but to help people improve coping strategies, change attitudes, alter behavior, change their environment, modify life style, ease the pressures, stressors, anxiety or pain or resolve the tension so people live creatively and fully. However, when there is need for medication, as is often the case with those who suffer from Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, debilitating Major Depression or acute Anxiety, I am supportive of the use of medication. In these cases I work closely, when possible and appropriate, with the medicating physician.
When dealing with chronic illness or any other dis-ease, my approach is to uncover the underlying issue that the illness represents or to understand the metaphor of the illness. Illness often creates a crisis which can lead to the opportunity to change. Whether it is a broken heart, clogged lungs, cancerous cells, a weak immune system or depression, I help people understand the messages of each ailment. Without blame or guilt, our diseases are precious resources guiding us towards wholeness. When indicated, I work closely with the medical doctor or a bigger team of family, friends and colleagues to facilitate healing.
Assisting those who suffer from chronic brain disorder (i.e., those who suffer from Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Major Depression or Acute Anxiety) or major debilitating mental illnesses is another area of focus in my consultations. When appropriate, in these kinds of cases I see my role as a village coordinator, creating a community of care around those who have been diagnosed with the chronic brain disorder and providing support and guidance to their families. My approach is very involved and comprehensive. It is not unusual for me to meet, at least at the initial stage, with all family members, psychiatrists, physicians, social workers, case managers, neighbors, landlords and anyone else who may be part of the village. At the time I am not only creating a village (or community of care), but I am also helping it convene, if this can be helpful. I am open to making home visits, going on walks, conducting a session via phone, exchanging email or doing whatever is clinically appropriate to help in the healing process. The idea is to try to help the sufferer to integrate into the village and help them live life as fully as they want and can. More information about my approach
I choose not to work with most insurance companies and especially managed care organizations except in the rare event when they are respectful of the clients' privacy and do not micro-manage the treatment. My main concern with managed care organizations is the privacy of clients. In most managed care cases, psychotherapists are required to report intimate details about clients' lives. It scares me to death to think that the intimate details of any of my clients' personal lives will be logged into a big company's computer. Once such information is in the computer it may easily end up in the newly developed National Data Bank, sold or shared with other companies. It has been documented that legal or illegal access to such clients records is almost impossible to control. I am fully committed to the privacy of my clients and will not cooperate with immoral or dangerous insurance companies. For more details on my grave concerns with the managed care industry and how it can be costly not only to your pocket book, but, at times, also for you and your loved ones' lives, see the online version of the Managed Care Brochure.
Many couples come to consult with me at times of crisis or when they fall out of love (into reality), and they are not sure if they want to stay married. My first commitment is to help couples stay together and teach them how to love and receive love more fully. Hopefully, with my help they can turn the marriage around to become a mutually enhancing relationship where each person is respected, honored and celebrated by the other. In healing a love depleted marriage, I look into how each person contributes to the falling out of love. The dance between the lovers must be changed to restore intimacy. I also believe it is the moral obligation of parents with children to try to save the marriage by going to counseling before they separate or file for divorce. If this fails, divorcing with decency must be the second commitment. As a divorce mediator, I help couples separate with dignity and assure that the hurt and damage to the children and the money spent on attorneys are minimized.
Clinical flexibility is a key to successful clinical work. Rigidity and blind dogma, in my opinion, are the enemies of effective clinical work. I tailor my work according to the needs, history, concerns, culture, age, etc. of each of my clients and have no allegiance to any certain therapeutic approach. Besides conducting sessions in the office, I will do whatever is clinically appropriate, is likely to help clients and is acceptable to and discussed and agreed to by clients. This may include making a home visit, going on a walk or a hike, having a phone session, exchanging emails, exchanging gifts, bartering, touching in a non-sexual manner, or going to a scary but important medical appointment. For my general approach to therapeutic boundaries please go to any of the following articles I have written by clicking on any of the following links: Boundaries in Therapy, Gifts in Therapy, Touch in Therapy, Bartering in Therapy, Conducting Therapy Outside the Office (Out-of-Office Experience).
I often conduct premarital counseling for couples prior to their engagement or marriage. This is an exciting opportunity for couples to map the hopes and concerns that are lying ahead. It is the perfect time to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each person in a realistic and non-idealistic (not romantically blind) manner. Clarifying that the art of loving is not an easy task but requires commitment and discipline, I go, in detail, over the many elements of love so the task is neither mysterious nor unattainable.
Working with individuals and families throughout their lives is another exciting part of my work. The frequency of this kind of work can be limited to a couple of visits every few years after the initial period of dealing with the initial crisis that led people to seek help. It is exciting to be able to accompany people through different phases of their lives, such as marriage, retirement, career change, birth, illness, death of a loved one, divorce, etc. Each turn in life presents an opportunity to live more fully. Even illness or loss are junctions in the road which, if attended to well, can lead us to a more creative and spiritual life. What is meaningful in our 20s or 30s changes as we approach our 40s, 50s and 60s. Figuring out how our sense of ourselves and our relationship to others is evolving is a never-ending challenge which is too often neglected by most people.
Finding one's vocation is an essential aspect of living fully. Vocation or calling is different than occupation and is more than a way of making money. The search for vocation involves identifying one's skills, talents, gifts, strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. It is also tied to how a person constructs his/her sense of meaning and how a person intends to contribute to the world. Often serious illness, divorce, loss of a loved one or just growing older precipitates the search for vocation and meaning. Helping people find their true vocation is an extremely challenging and personally rewarding part of my own vocation.
My consultation also includes business, inheritance, divorce and community mediation. Mediation, at its best, leads to a resolution that is more than a compromise. Its aim is a satisfactory resolution for all parties who may not initially have envisioned a true win-win option. Successful mediation, unlike many litigious options, preserves the dignity and decency of all parties. It helps the continuation of the relationships among the parties and can save as much as 70% of the cost accrued in a typical legal battle. I want to make it clear that I neither provide custody evaluation nor make custody recommendation, as these activities do not fall within my scope of practice.
The combination of blood relationships and money is at the heart of many American businesses. The majority of family-owned businesses are composed of complex and intricate webs of relationships. An intriguing part of my consultation is to help members of family businesses navigate the complexities of how to mix familial relationships and the art of making money. Very often family connections and business profitability both suffer due to tension, conflicts, unclear boundaries and, above all, ineffective communication. I have developed an expertise in working with families so they can love and live with each other better, as well as run a business successfully.
In summary my sense is that most people can live, love and enjoy their work better. Consultations can bring about such change. In an era when community and extended family ties are weakened and priests, rabbis and the elders have lost their traditional roles, I have found my calling in giving people the support and guidance that can help them live more creatively, joyously and meaningfully.