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When Did Our Government Decide It Could Tell Patients What To Feel?

May 22, 2019

By: Dr. Dovid Schwartz

Everyone’s afraid. I’ve been a licensed psychotherapist now for more than half a century — in hospitals, clinics, and private practice. I know how much so many of us are driven, not just by our dreams and hopes and abilities, but by the things we are afraid of.

My patients come to see me because they are struggling with fears, of one kind or another. Feeling enslaved to something stronger than themselves, they want to be free.

Some struggle with their sexuality, or with same-sex attraction. They want to move past those feelings; they ask for my help. So I listen. I make some suggestions, which they are free to embrace or ignore.

Before 1973, when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, no one objected if people — of their own volition — asked a therapist to help them overcome feelings they didn’t want.

In 1986, for example, the most revered Torah leader of our community, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, wrote to a young man struggling with these very issues, encouraging him that “You surely know that there are doctors and psychiatrists who treat [this], and have been successful in many cases. I know a number of cases of people who had this problem but eventually overcame it, married and raised a family … the problem is controllable, for if it were beyond human control, HaShem [the Lord] would not have made it a sin.”

But things have changed, with the rise of LGBT activists whose agenda requires not only acceptance of such behavior, but society’s full-on endorsement of it.

Last year, the New York City Council adopted an ordinance making it illegal for therapists like me to provide our services to people uncomfortable with their same-sex attractions, or confused about their gender identity.

Understand: The law says therapists are perfectly welcome — even encouraged — to help a patient who wants to explore, develop, or come to peace with homosexual or transgender feelings. But if we offer professional assistance, at their request, to people who want to reduce same-sex attraction or embrace their biological sex, and if city officials find out about it, we can be fined thousands of dollars.

In other words, it’s legal in New York City to help someone who wants to identify as homosexual or transgender. But it’s illegal to help someone who doesn’t want to embrace those desires.

The ordinance is actually calculated to increase fears. Not only among therapists who can’t afford the financial penalties (or bad publicity), but also among our patients.

People come to therapists to confide deeply personal things they would never tell anyone else — sometimes, things they’ve never even admitted out loud to themselves.

But my patients trust our conversations to be private, and depend on me to keep these discussions in strictest confidence. That trust is absolutely essential to their healing and ability to move through and beyond the issues they’re struggling with.

All of that changes, once they begin to fear that their government might demand to pry into our conversations. That fear could keep them from seeking help at all, even though they’re suffering from real psychological and emotional problems. But New York officials apparently prefer that people live with their fears and confusions, if that’s what it takes for activists to know our city is politically correct.

I trust my patients. People warn me that someone might feign a problem, just to get me in trouble. That’s a risk I’m willing to take, to help my patients. But, sadly, not all of my colleagues feel that way. Some are telling patients who express these homosexual and transgender concerns, “There’s nothing I can do — you’ll just have to live with this.”

What a terrible thing to tell anyone: There is no hope. No one can help you.

After 53 years of offering the best help I can to people struggling with everything from crippling addiction to family problems, I cannot bring myself to turn away people who ask for my assistance — even if city officials want me to do so.

That’s why I am working with Alliance Defending Freedom. They’re helping me file a federal lawsuit against the city of New York for violating my freedom of speech… and infringing not only on my own religious faith, but on that of my patients as well.

Raised as a secular Jew, I embraced the Orthodox faith as a young man. My faith frames my life. I live in the heart of an Orthodox Jewish community; most of my patients share my religious beliefs and convictions. In discouraging them from seeking help, I’m effectively directing them to live in disobedience to the Torah and its teaching. I will not do that.

All of us are part of a community. For those communities to be healthy and function well, we must be able to trust each other. We can’t simply tell those who are struggling to get over it… that a changing culture doesn’t allow them to ask questions, or seek answers, or reach out for help.

That’s cruel. It’s intolerant. But more than that, for me — it’s a violation of my profession, my constitutional rights, and my deepest personal beliefs. And of the lifelong responsibility I’ve had to assist those who seek my help. They come to me with their fears. I will not send them away with more.


Alliance Defending Freedom

Alliance Defending Freedom

Non-profit organization

Alliance Defending Freedom advocates for your right to freely live out your faith


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