Helping People to Help People
Rabbi Shea Lewis is originally from Edgware, London, and has been living in Israel for the last 17 years. A graduate of Hasmonean High School and Gateshead Yeshiva, he continued his studies in Israel, where he received smicha from HaRav Meir Bransdorfer. After his studies in psychology at the Open University, he started coordinating educational opportunities for mental health professionals. In 2015, Rabbi Lewis launched PATH, where he feels able and privileged to offer these services in a professional setting.
What is the PATH Center and why was it founded?
The PATH Center is an exclusively English-speaking training and provision center in the fields of counseling and psychotherapy. The PATH Center aims to bring everything under one roof. It gives the professional community a place where they can train, network and advance with the warmth and professionalism that they have now come to appreciate and welcome.
Who are your students?
We have a very diversified crowd at PATH who live locally, as well as students from Bet Shemesh, Telzstone and Petach Tikva. We also have long-distance students from England, Belgium, and as far away as Australia! Our students are from all across the religious spectrum.
What courses do you offer?
The flagship program is the two-year training program in clinical mental health counseling. This program is structured on the syllabus presented in most American universities, and offers students a solid but wide-ranging program dealing with an array of topics that therapists are likely to encounter in their clinical work.
In addition, we have advanced programs for professionals such as a unique program in Expressive Arts that is starting in a few weeks’ time!
Is there fieldwork as part of the training?
PATH has its own dedicated fieldwork coordinator who oversees students’ placements and currently works in collaboration with many English-speaking yeshivos, seminaries, and other organizations. The low-cost yet professional services that we are able to provide have been welcomed by many directors over the last year, and we’ve received tremendous feedback.
To whom would you recommend counseling as a profession?
Generally, students who walk through our doors will all say the same thing: that they always knew this is what they wanted to do! Our job is to guide and train. Of course, not every student is suitable for this field — which we’ll tell them quite honestly if that is the case. It is a disservice to them, and of course any potential future clients, to train a less -than-ideal therapist.
Who makes up the staff of the PATH Center?
All of our faculty are licensed professional psychologists and social workers, all of whom have decades of experience in clinical work and training through supervision and lecturing. Time and time again our students report that, compared to Israeli university social work programs, specifically in terms of actual clinical skills and therapeutic tools, our program has constantly delivered a training level that is second to none! This, I’m sure, is due in no small part to the stature of our faculty and the fact that they are all currently running busy practices and not teaching psychotherapy as an abstract academic field.
As the center has a religious student body, we are under strong rabbinical guidance; our syllabus actually includes a specific module on halachic and hashkafic considerations when working in this field. We also accommodate by hosting separate hours on campus for the men’s and women’s groups.
What are your plans for the future?
Originally the vision was to create a central campus with clinics that provide a service for therapists and clients alike. Now that this vision has Baruch Hashem been realized, we are expanding our horizons and have some exciting new programs and internationally-acclaimed guest lecturers scheduled in the fall. Aside from the main training programs, we have hosted four top-class lecturers from the United States over the last year, and have more lined up to present in 2017. Particularly exciting is a three-day conference with acclaimed Harvard professor Dr. Ron Siegel, who is one of world’s authorities on mindfulness. In addition, we hope to expand our clinics and professional library that currently operate on campus.
From where do you draw the most satisfaction in your work?
The siyata dishmaya that we have experienced has been overwhelming, seeing the students’ smiles as they walk into class, and experiencing the amazing atmosphere and sense of belonging for the English-speaking professional community has been incredible. The heart-warming comments and emails from people whose lives have changed make it all worth it!