| Words Unspoken |

To My Husband’s Therapist: the Conversation Continues

“Changes that occur during therapy can be difficult for both the person in treatment and their loved ones”


To My Wife,

Thank you for supporting my process in therapy even though it’s so hard for you. I know I don’t say it often enough… thank you.

Please know I never plan to fall apart. It’s not like I sit in therapy and my therapist says: go right ahead, drop your life. My life has as many layers as an onion, and some I haven’t touched in years. In therapy, my therapist will ask me an innocent question, and it’ll trigger a thought or a memory in one of those layers. Then my therapist tries to help me regulate, but I get home, and I just can’t get it together.

I’m not ready to have you join my therapy. I’m so, so raw. The one time you did join me, I found that you really were about deadlines for change and that hurt me. I felt unheard and asked my therapist not to invite you back.

I know I often miss work and other responsibilities. Trust me: I don’t want to. I want to be the best husband and most responsible father. It’s such an excruciating battle for me, and I just don’t have the bandwidth to support you through it. But you deserve the support, and I wish you would listen to me and find your own therapist to guide you through dealing with a spouse who is falling apart. Yet you insist you don’t need the help….

I can only say this: thank you for your patience.

A Husband in Therapy


To the Writer of the Words Unspoken,

I read your heartfelt letter (Issue 843), which was shared and discussed among a forum of frum mental health practitioners. It resonated with me, and I want to share some insights that emerged from our conversation.

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that your feelings are valid. Changes that occur during therapy can be difficult for both the person in treatment and their loved ones.

Our discussions revealed two main perspectives. Some believe that initial challenging changes may actually indicate progress and can lead to positive outcomes over time. Others emphasized the need for caution and considering the potential impact of different therapy approaches on family members.

Another important discussion emerged regarding the inclusion of family members in therapy. Involving loved ones can potentially foster understanding, empathy, and open communication, which can significantly contribute to the therapeutic process.

However, concerns exist regarding a legitimate need for privacy and potential interference by family members in the therapeutic process.

Given this, you may want to express your concerns to your husband and consider requesting a meeting with his therapist to find ways to be more supportive of his journey. This might provide an opportunity to gain more insight into his treatment, express your worries, and explore alternative therapeutic options.

Change can be difficult, but it often leads to personal growth and improved relationships. I hope these perspectives offer some guidance as you navigate this journey.

Warm regards,

Shabsi Sorscher, LSW


Dear Client’s Spouse

Thank you for your heartfelt and honest letter. Your pain is real, and I’m sorry that this process has been so hard on you and the family. I want to explore the deeper context of your husband’s therapy journey and provide some insights into his process.

When your husband first came to therapy, he was in a place of profound confusion and disconnection. While you may have perceived him as “bent rather than broken,” he was, in fact, deeply lost. He lacked a sense of identity, direction, and the ability to express his inner truth. It may not have been apparent externally, but internally, he was teetering on the edge.

Therapy has literally been lifesaving for him. His care for you and fear of opening up prevented him from ever really expressing his true feelings and mental state. The regressive behaviors you observe now are a manifestation of the turmoil that has been brewing within him for some time. Therapy has provided him with a safe and immersive environment to explore and confront these inner conflicts. He is finally allowing these suppressed emotions to surface and be acknowledged.

This process has been long and painful, and I know it’s been very difficult for you. However, I want to assure you that your husband’s decision to seek therapy was not an act of negligence toward you or your family. On the contrary, it was an act of desperation to salvage his marriage and his life. He recognized the need to find his voice and heal from within so that he could be a better partner and father. The intensity of his experience in therapy is a testament to the magnitude of the emotional weight he carried.

This journey is difficult. Know, however, that your husband braves it because he loves you and wants to be a good spouse to you.

That said, it is crucial to emphasize that therapy does not excuse treating you as a doormat or disregarding your needs and his responsibilities. I believe that dialogue, communication, and understanding are essential components of this process. It is crucial for you to be involved in the therapeutic journey, to have a platform where your concerns and feelings can be heard. I strongly encourage you to join a session so that we can have an open and honest discussion.

Your husband needs your support now more than ever, but support does not mean tolerating disrespectful behavior. It means finding a balance where both of you can communicate and understand each other’s experiences. While he continues to work on himself, it is important for you to be heard and to have your boundaries acknowledged. He also needs your support, patience, and understanding of how difficult and intense his experience is.

I genuinely believe that with time and effort your husband will come back stronger, more self-aware, and better equipped to fulfill his roles as a partner and parent. Together, we can create a path forward that integrates both his healing and the well-being of your family.

With compassion,

Your Spouse's Therapist


Dear Client’s Wife,

Thank you for your courage in reaching out. You’ve identified a struggle that so many people experience when a family member attends therapy.

I hear your pain, hurt, and difficulties with the new dynamic in your relationship, and I appreciate how clearly you articulated your struggle. I write this letter after discussion in a group of frum mental health professionals; the opinions here are a conglomeration of some of the therapists who commented on your letter. They are by no means the only solution, or all the solutions.

Firstly, as you grasped intuitively, it’s important to reach out and communicate the struggle. Aside from sharing it here, your partner needs to hear about your experience as well. You need to sit down with him and express your appreciation for the therapy, and your understanding that it is healing some of the fears that you have long given up hope on addressing. Talk about the positive change it brings to both of your lives — and the struggles it causes in its aftermath.

Some of the questions you can ask yourself before beginning the conversation: 1) When do you find him “reverting back to moody, brooding teenagerhood?” Is it directly after a session? When there is more pressure/work at home, such as before a Yom Tov? 2) When he does not step up to his role, how do you feel? Alone in the familial burden? Afraid of the changes happening to the family?

Once you’ve worked these out, ask yourself one more question: What do you need from him to feel okay about his therapy?

Then, share your feelings and your needs with your spouse. Just like you want him to understand your feelings and needs, you should take the time to understand his feelings and needs about therapy. How does he feel about the impact of therapy in his life? What might he need after a session?

The goal is to find a way to make his attendance at therapy work for both of you by addressing each of your feelings and needs, one at a time.

You also need to understand how the therapeutic process works. Think of a baby learning to walk. It’s the same process of growth. The baby takes a step and falls. Tries again, falls, tries again. Sometimes the baby manages to take seven steps and then tumbles over, crying in pain. The therapeutic process is often like that: the person in therapy is (hopefully) moving forward, but that involves falling many times in the process.

However, as you wisely pointed out, we are not dealing with a baby. Your husband is an adult, a spouse, and a father with many responsibilities. We want to create space for that balance. A balance in which your husband gets the space he needs to process the therapeutic session and can still fulfill his many roles. Sometimes that means giving him time, an hour or a day, to nurture himself after the therapy, with the understanding that he will make up his responsibilities afterward. Other times it may be important for him to ask his therapist for tools to deal with the pain and regression he is experiencing.  Perhaps your husband may be comfortable allowing you to join a session, where you can each share your feelings and needs about the therapy. He may rather keep the space sacred and prefer to work it out with you on his own.

The exact solution that you work out will be one that works for both of you, containing space for both his and your needs.

All the best,

Fraidy Zeidman M.S. Ed, LMHC

Licensed Psychotherapist


To the Writer of the Words Unspoken

I’m a woman in therapy, and I know my husband shares your feelings. He is frustrated because he wants my feelings and experiences contained to the therapy room, while the reality is that it’s bigger than what any 45-minute session can hold.

I wish he would ask how to best support me so that I don’t have to fall apart. I wish he didn’t give mixed messages of, “Go to therapy, feel,” and then, “Why are you so overwhelmed?”

He compares my experience to that of another family member in therapy — who is functioning a lot better than I am. I have no idea what her story is, but I do know that it’s ridiculous to compare two experiences, as we are simply made up of different stuff.

The more tolerance and support I can get, along with clear expression of needs (“I need XYZ from you, or it makes me resentful”), the better off we will be. Those boundaries will contain me if done with love and kindness.

A Woman in Therapy


The Primary Function of Therapy

IN the Words Unspoken, “To My Husband’s Therapist,” the wife of the therapy client lodges the following complaints against his therapy: 1) That the advice given by the therapist is identical to what she has been pleading with her husband to do for the last 15 years, and 2) That all this work on healing the inner child and introspection has transformed her husband into a self-obsessed navel gazer, who is unable to think beyond his emotions, perceptions, and narrative. She adds that this level of self-absorption has caused him to be more broken in terms of his role as an effective husband and father, than he was before the therapy.

As a therapist with over 20 years of experience, I find this characterization of therapy to be deeply troubling. This article exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of what therapy is. The primary function of therapy is not to give advice, but for the client to have a neutral and safe space to speak his mind, without having to worry about what others think about his thoughts, feelings, and wishes. My observation is that this process of sharing one’s inner experience does not make clients more self-absorbed. On the contrary, this opportunity to openly talk helps people to process, understand, and then move beyond stuck emotions, so that they can be more available to embrace their familial, communal, and religious obligations.

Without such an opportunity, people often don’t transcend their painful emotions. Rather, they’re stuck repeatedly pushing those emotions away, with the emotions stubbornly continuing to leak through in the form of anger/irritability, coldness to others, or psychosomatic symptoms.

Furthermore, the great majority of therapists today do not emphasize self-understanding at the expense of making practical and prosocial behavioral changes in one’s life. Any decent therapist would be telling this client to not dreamily sit on the couch at home, thinking about his childhood traumas and their effects. Rather, the client would be encouraged to identify how his lifelong internal issues are having a negative impact on his choices, and the therapist would encourage him to engage more fully in relationships and responsibilities.

It’s true that some clients might be more apt to listen to feedback given by their therapists, rather than the same feedback given by spouses, friends, or rebbeim. This isn’t a condemnation of therapy; it’s a confirmation that therapy often provides a forum in which such feedback could be heard in a new and deeper way.

Michael Milgraum

Esq., Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist


Feeling Left Out

AS I read the letter from a wife to her husband’s therapist, my feeling was that this woman is really feeling left out of the process. If she were more part of the process or at least part of the decision for this therapeutic work to happen, she would likely find it within herself to be more supportive.

As a clinician working with both individuals and couples, I feel that whenever possible, a spouse should be brought into the therapy room at least once, and sometimes periodically, so that the therapist doesn’t need to do guesswork and rely on general rules in understanding how the person’s therapeutic journey is impacting the family system. It’s usually very eye-opening and helpful to hear from a spouse regardless of whether the issues being discussed in therapy are marriage related or not.

Without this step we, as therapists, are creating a one-sided contract to enroll the second spouse in the therapeutic process without the respect of allowing them to choose, and that often has ill effects.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with a husband, and his wife’s therapist is upset at the husband for not being compassionate to his wife while she goes through her healing process. The therapist expects the spouse to be a co-therapist and overlook all of their basic marriage needs and expectations without expecting their client to do the bare minimum of communicating about their compromised state. Choosing to live with a not equal (or totally out to lunch) partner can be done, graciously — with the permission of the spouse.

It goes without saying that this is all true only in situations where there is no suspected fallout involved should the spouse be in the therapy room.

Chanoch Krohn, LCSW


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 846)

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