Mental Health Referrals for the Jewish Community: Relief Resources Come to Los Angeles


Mental Health Referrals for the Jewish Community: Relief Resources Come to Los Angeles

Yehudis Litvak

The Los Angeles Jewish community can now avail itself of the services provided by Relief Resources, a non-profit mental health referral service. With headquarters in New York, Relief has helped tens of thousands of people in the past 16 years. The services are geared towards the needs of the Jewish community and are provided free of charge. Providers cover the full range of mental disorders.

Relief maintains a database of various mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and specialists in abuse and eating disorders. The current database consists of over 4000 clinicians located in the United States, Canada, Britain, and Israel.

The local branch of Relief is headed by Rabbi Daniel Berman. As per Relief’s policy, Rabbi Berman is not a mental health professional, so that he can stay impartial when providing referrals. However, he is well-read on the subject of mental health, as well as rigorously trained by Relief.

Since taking on the position of director at Relief Los Angeles, he has spent months meeting with local clinicians. Relief uses a vetting process when including a mental health professional in its database. Following Relief’s protocol, Rabbi Berman gets to know the clinicians and gets a feel for their unique strengths. The local database is continually expanding, currently consisting of over 150 clinicians.

The local database includes a significant number of Orthodox mental health professionals, as well as non-Orthodox or non-Jewish clinicians who are familiar with the frum lifestyle and understand the needs of the Orthodox patients. “When we try to help a client with mental health issues, there is a religious overlap,” says Rabbi Berman. He explains that at times, the therapist needs to involve a rav, for example, when treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that manifests in compulsive religious rituals.

When a client contacts the local branch of Relief, they usually need to leave a message. Rabbi Berman returns the phone calls and conducts an informal intake. He gathers information about the client’s symptoms, whether they had occurred before, and prior medical history. When a parent calls to obtain referrals for a child, Rabbi Berman also asks them about the child’s position in the family and other relevant factors. “[I try] to get a picture of what’s been going on,” says Rabbi Berman. “After obtaining information and ascertaining that the client is safe, we search the database and provide a number of names of clinicians, taking the client’s preferences, budget, and location into consideration.”

Different clients have different preferences. “Someone only wants a rabbi,” says Rabbi Berman. “Another wants somebody they would never ever see, never bump into. Another wants to avoid being seen. [They prefer] to drive further out. And some just want the best care.”

Once the client receives the referrals it is up to them to choose a clinician and contact them. Relief provides follow up after a month, three months, six months, and a year. Clients can call Relief any time if they need additional help.

More information is available on Relief’s website, or by calling the Relief office at 818-655-0032.