April 8, 2024
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A Safe and Welcoming Space: YU’s Jerusalem Therapy Center Helps Increasing Number of Clients

The JTC held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in early 2023 attended by local Israeli and YU leaders.

(Courtesy of YU) When YU’s Jerusalem Therapy Center (JTC) opened its doors just over a year ago, no one could have foreseen the events of Oct. 7, and the subsequent waves of trauma experienced across Israeli society—and around the world.

A joint initiative of YU’s Wurzweiler School for Social Work (WSSW) and Amudim—a non-profit dedicated to serving individuals in crisis—the JTC was launched in 2022 to achieve three vital goals: provide heavily subsidized therapy in English for gap-year students not in the Israeli medical system; appropriate, high-level clinical practice placements for Wurzweiler MSW students on YU’s Israel program; and professional enrichment and training for front-line educators in those gap-year programs who are tasked with addressing the mental health needs of their students.

“We came up with the idea as YU in Israel became a de facto ‘umbrella’ for Jerusalem’s English-speaking population to seek mental healthcare in a safe and welcoming space, staffed by those who speak their language and understand their culture,” said JTC Co-Director Nechama Munk, director of YU’s MSW Program in Israel. Amudim, she said, a mental health organization with a similar constituency, proved to be the ideal partner, with Amudim Israel’s Director Yosi Golberstein serving as JTC co-director with Munk.

News about the Center spread through advertisements in English-speaking newspapers and bulletins, emails to professionals connected to gap-year programs, and word of mouth. While staff originally projected some 70 clients to be treated by YU’s MSW students as well as clinicians, they were overwhelmed with demand, and ended up providing therapy to more than 130 clients in its first year of operation.

“Most gap-year students come to the Center with disorders associated with anxiety and depression,” Munk said. Other client issues are usually related to trauma, addictions, and relationship challenges. Some were simply struggling with adjusting to Israeli society and culture after making aliyah.

Interestingly enough, with the onset of the current war, the Center initially noticed a decrease in referrals. The reason, explained Munk: The population in Israel was in shock, and their focus turned exclusively to adjustment and survival. “Our basic tenets of functioning in the world—safety, agency, and causality—had been pulled out from under our feet,” she said. “Many people froze, and could not concentrate on work or studies.” Some gap-year students flew home, while those who remained were placed under security lockdown within their schools. That meant that, at first, fewer people were reaching out for help.

Nevertheless, from the very start of the war, JTC was proactive in offering webinars on topics such as crisis management, trauma, and resilience for English-speaking students and soldiers, gap-year school administrators, and even for anxious family members living abroad. One webinar was attended by over 600 parents living outside of Israel, who were eager to learn how they could support their children, as well as the school they were studying at, during this unprecedented time.

Once the war became part of everyday life in Israel, JTC began to see a growing influx of cases related to specifically war-induced issues. These ranged from fear of leaving home and an over-exposure to disturbing images circulating on social media, to nightmares, and feelings of guilt, anger and helplessness at the situation of the hostages. “For most of Israel, as well as Jewish people abroad, we were simply overwhelmed. It often took weeks to jump start back into living,” Munk said. “Only in December did we start noticing a groundswell of gap-year students, lone soldiers, soldiers on reserve duty, and English-speaking evacuee families reaching out to us in order to deal with stresses triggered by the war.”

The number of clients coming to JTC for weekly one-on-one therapy sessions has now reached 105—and that is just in the first quarter of 2024. As more reserve soldiers are released from duty, the JTC expects this number to only grow. The JTC will continue to provide high-quality, low-cost, trauma-informed care to these soldiers, students and others in Israel’s English-speaking community.

“We tailor the modalities of care to the needs of the client, and not the other way around,” Munk said. “This is the best way to process the trauma, and find a way to function in this new reality.”

To reach out to the Jerusalem Therapy Center, please call/WhatsApp 02-380-3060, or email [email protected]. You can also visit them at 3 Natan Strauss Street, Jerusalem.

For more information: jtc.org.il

 

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