Therapists' experience working with at-risk youth in Orthodox Jewish communities: A phenomenological study

Sara Casen, Fordham University


A number of Orthodox Jewish youth are engaging in risky behavior such as drug use, alcohol use, and promiscuity, in addition to eschewing religious and cultural practices and expectations. More research is needed to understand adolescent identity development, risk-taking, and religion in the Orthodox Jewish population in particular. The current study, drawing on a transcendental phenomenological approach, investigated the experiences of therapists who work therapeutically with at-risk Orthodox youth. More specifically, this study explored therapists’ understanding of these youths’ negotiation of identity, process of spiritual development, and risk-taking behavior, and the relationship between these elements and the therapeutic process. A sample of 10 therapists known within the Orthodox Jewish community for their extensive therapeutic work with Orthodox at-risk youth were interviewed. Seven themes were derived from the data: (a) contextualizing delinquent behavior, (b) control, (c) perspectives on God and religion, (d) building emotional awareness, (e) building spiritual awareness, (f) separating Jews from Judaism, and (g) “Selling hope”—an eye toward the future. Studying the lived experience of therapists provided clinical insights into this phenomenon, and allowed for practical clinical suggestions to be generated for consumers of research who wish to better understand clinical work with this population.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Casen, Sara, "Therapists' experience working with at-risk youth in Orthodox Jewish communities: A phenomenological study" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3560787.