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Elizabeth Midlarsky, TC Professor of Psychology and Education

Elizabeth Midlarsky, TC Professor of Psychology and Education

A study of elderly New Yorkers, led by Elizabeth Midlarsky, TC Professor of Psychology and Education, finds that among various ethnic groups, Jews are the most receptive to psychotherapy.

Published in April in The Journal of Religion and Health, the study reports that “Jews had greater confidence in a therapist’s ability to help, were more tolerant of stigma, and more open to sharing their feelings and concerns” than either blacks or non-Jewish whites.

According to a piece in Pacific Standard, an online and print publication produced by the nonprofit Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy, the research by Midlarsky’s team – which included TC doctoral student Steve Pirutinsky -- suggests that given this accepting attitude, lumping in Jews with the overall white population may make studies comparing racial attitudes towards therapy misleading. For example, while previous research has documented negative attitudes among African Americans about people who obtain mental health care, Midlarsky and her colleagues argue many that Americans from European Christian backgrounds regard therapy in similarly negative terms. “White culture values the ‘rugged individualist’ who is self-reliant, independent, autonomous and reluctant to appear helpless, weak and dependent on others,” they write. “Such individualism appears to stand in direct contrast to help-seeking for mental health concerns.”

In contrast, “Jewish culture is relatively accepting of psychotherapy,” the researchers write. 

“Perhaps our findings are not so surprising when you consider that all but one of Sigmund Freud's immediate circle were Jewish, as were many other developers of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy," Midlarsky says.
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