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Therapy and the Soul with Tanchum Burton

!cid_9E28B98B-195E-4449-AA82-FE2F3A518565We’re talking with psychotherapist Tanchum (Tani) Burton, who is also a rabbi and educator, about his approaches to therapy and spirituality.

Welcome. What do you believe is the interface between spirituality and psychotherapy, the spiritual nature of people and their emotional well-being?

It’s harder to define “spirituality” than to define “psychotherapy”; spirituality means different things to different people.

Psychotherapy, on the other hand, has certain basic defined elements, such as Rogers’ six conditions for therapeutic change–unconditional positive regard, empathic understanding, communication of that understanding, and the like.

When these are in place, when the human connection between people in a therapy room is one of acceptance, and of a prizing of the individual who has come for help, I think that the groundwork for spirituality has been laid.

Tell us about your therapeutic approach:

My institute training was in Logotherapy, which is both existential and “meaning-centered”.

Unconditional positive regard can extend not only to the people we work with, but also to the meanings and opportunities for meaning-fulfillment that exist in their lives, and who they could be as people.  I try not to place specific demands on myself or my client for content, and to give space for those things to surface naturally.

We need to be waited for, and not rushed into insights–which can sometimes be of less value than the sense of being called by our lives.

You also lecture and teach Jewish spirituality—how does your training as psychotherapist impact your work as an educator?

Well, when I teach classes in Jewish topics, I am aware that my task is not to simply disseminate information, but to really listen for the needs of the people in the room (or in the webinar).

The *Torah, in all of its aspects, is not simply a narrative, not only an historical account, and not just a list of demands regarding rituals and behavior.  It’s an opportunity to encounter G-d, to be given a window on higher levels of existence, of morality, of sensitivity–and to get into a process of growth.

It’s a call to deeper thinking, reflecting, sometimes even judging ourselves.  The experience can be incredibly enriching, but also daunting.

Anybody involved in that kind of learning needs to feel a sense of support and love, of community, and of respect.  And frankly, the teacher of Jewish spirituality ought to be able to model emotional health and stability for his or her students, because emotionally healthy people have the best odds at being spiritually healthy as well.

Do you find that your classes can actually be part of therapy for some clients?

There is no question that if you can understand the material, work on it, meditate on it, ask questions and try to integrate what is valuable, learning can be therapeutic and healing.

Join Tani for free online classes in his series, Clever and Simple:  Discovering The Chassidic Law of Attraction at, which offers free courses based on the teachings of the Chassidic mystic Rabbi, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

More with Tani Burton, soon.

*In this context, the Torah not only refers to the Bible, but also the authentic texts of Jewish wisdom over the millennia.

Tanchum Burton, MSW, is a Licensed Social Worker (Israel), a Clinical Diplomate in Logotherapy. Born and raised in New York, Tani is the clinical director of the
Jerusalem Institute for Behavioral Health, maintains a private psychotherapy
practice, and is a well-known teacher and lecturer at many venues, including Tani holds degrees from the University of
Wisconsin-Madison and the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, studied at
the Victor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy and is also an ordained

Therapy and the Soul with Tanchum Burton

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2015). Therapy and the Soul with Tanchum Burton. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 May 2015
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