Specialized Units

Units and their Supervisors

The Units program offers advanced therapists the opportunity to specialize in working with specific client populations. 

Trauma Unit

Coordinated by Stacey Leibowtz-Levy, Ph.D.

The Trauma Unit offers a transformative, applied learning experience which will integrate the acquisition of new knowledge and skills in the trauma field and provide you with the self-development and training required to develop into a professional trauma therapist. You will be working with survivors of trauma where the nature of the traumatic experience or the response to trauma is characterized by complexity.

Supervision will be used to discuss cases and integrate knowledge and skills specific to the trauma field in formulating and implementing a treatment plan. Development of knowledge and skills will be facilitated using a range of modalities including articles and experiential exercises and may include other learning methods such as videos and live demonstrations.

Group Supervision = 3 hours

Client Contact = 5 hours

One Year Commitment

Master’s degree or equivalent in a mental health field

2 years of supervised clinical experience

Ability to offer psychological services in Hebrew

Adherence to cultural and religious sensitivities

Completion of application process

Meet the Supervisor

Stacey Leibowitz-Levy, Ph.D.

Dr. Stacey Leibowitz-Levy is an experienced psychologist with wide ranging skills and expertise in the areas of trauma, anxiety, stress, and adjustment issues in adults and children. She has extensive experience in the training and supervision of mental health professionals in trauma work. Stacey was a board member of the South African Institute of Traumatic Stress Studies (SAITS) and has run self-care and supervision groups for trauma practitioners working with war veterans, refugees and torture survivors. She participated as an expert panel member in the development of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) intervention model for torture survivors. She worked as an academic at the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa) for twelve years and has publications in in the trauma field. Stacey recently made Aliyah with her family to Ramat Beit Shemesh.

Q and A with the
Unit Supervisor

What does working with this population mean? Who usually comes and what are the overall presenting problems?

The Trauma Unit specifically sees clients who have had either developmental traumas or periods of trauma such as domestic violence, extended military service, etc. Ideally, these aren’t people who aren’t still in these situations since that involves a different therapeutic approach.

What kind of time commitment would a typical caseload include?

In general, it is really an individual process with the therapist and client. However, depending on the level of functionality of the client, the role might extend beyond the therapist. You may need to engage with a broader support system, working with a partner, or the client’s broader environment.

What kind of group supervisions have you run before? What could I expect from the group supervision? What is the structure?

I’ve worked extensively with groups. I started off in South Africa supervising a lot of experiential groups. After making Aliya, I joined The Family Institute and have been running the trauma unit for the last 4 years.

The group experience for the trauma unit has evolved over the years. It involves some kind of formal teaching piece as well as rotational supervision that integrates the theory and its application.

The educational aspect involves frontal teaching, role plays, videos, articles and some presentations from each therapist on a rotational basis. You will learn an important skill set which is to be able to apply the key points of what you have read towards working with clients of this nature. You will be able to look at a piece of literature and ask yourself, “How do I apply this? What are the limitations? How do I start thinking analytically in an applied fashion?”.

The articles are specifically within the framework of working with complex trauma. The model has three elements that we use to work with clients with extreme trauma situations. Stabilization, processing and integration. We will explore the theory, conceptualization and specific tools and techniques within this model.

The supervision itself will focus on weaving in any theories we have learned and integrate that with it’s application to your client. There is a very strong emphasis of theory, skills and self-awareness.

Finally, there is a self-growth piece. I will ask you to explore your own trauma history as part of the process of developing as a trauma therapist.

What books do you recommend reading before joining this unit?

The Body Keeps Score, Bessel van der Kolk

Can you talk about your journey in working with this population?

There’s a personal and family history and family history as well as an intellectual curiosity that led me into this field. As a student in South Africa, I was seeing the impact of extreme political oppression on families, their communities and themselves. I was involved in volunteer services for helplines at age 19, I was part of a group that would go into the townships and offer community services. And then in my final year of undergrad, I did an essay on PTSD and it fascinated to me to see the link between individual and their immediate environment. It stoked my curiosity.

 

From there, I started working at the university and I became connected to an organization called The Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR). I had the opportunity to work there with trauma survivors ranging from little kids to families as well as training those who work with trauma. I then began to offer trainings in working with trauma victims across South Africa, Libya and Mozambique. I was doing a lot of research in the field as well as supervising. I offered training for social workers and allied professionals.

 

I was a member of the board of an organization called South African Institute of Traumatic Stress Studies. I was on the panel to create a modeled best practice for torture survivors. I continued to work at The Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, offering group supervision for the professionals working with trauma. I also ran reading groups and trauma supervision with them. I continued with this until we made Aliyah.

What is the most interesting client population you’ve worked with?

Individuals who present as though they have a trauma history, but have no memories of it. Working with those kinds of clients is very interesting, in terms of how do you be true to what they need in order to make sense of their own life journey, resolve and work things through that they don’t even remember that they’ve experienced. That’s a complex client to work with and navigating it is interesting. The most important thing that guides my thinking about the client is “how is this helpful for the client”. Being very mindful and collaborative with the client in terms of accompanying them on the process of finding the pieces that they need to understand their experiences and move forward in life.

Has your experience in working with people with trauma transformed your perspective on other clients and how you understand them? In what way?

This whole area of what people do with hidden or painful feelings and experiences has deep relevance for a lot of work as a therapist. As well as the lengths people go to in order to avoid pain and feeling unsafe is also really instructive and fascinating in working with other populations. The attempts to try to create safety and avoid pain is really very helpful way to make sense of symptomology.

 

The whole struggle of resolving painful feelings and experiences is very alive for a lot of populations. People with anxiety disorders, if you start to move past that, the anxiety presentation is like the lid on a pot of boiling water. But what’s making the lid go up and down is the energy underneath. And that is often more about the feelings that the person has avoided and the terror that is there. And when people start to engage with those feelings, the anxiety symptomology often resolves. If you just let the steam off, you don’t need to keep on trying without success keep the lid on top of the pot. That metaphor applies to trauma but a whole lot of other conditions where people are avoiding painful feelings and experiences.

Why is working with this population different than what I've already learned in my years at the clinic?

This kind of population invites more of a balance of staying with the client and having a sense of what the clients journey and process could potentially be. You have more of a conceptual framework that you’re placing these experiences in and you need to balance that with where the client’s at and what one knows is helpful in order to work through trauma and become more integrated and whole.

It requires working within a much more defined conceptual framework. It’s a methodology that is nuanced and a complex process and that is what the unit focuses on, the nuances of working with people in this framework.

I have a history of trauma, how will working on this unit impact that?

That’s not uncommon. I have many years of experience where people come with their own trauma history, as do most trauma therapists. We will engage with that early on in the unit, and I try to be very mindful of how that plays out in terms of countertransference. The effectiveness relies heavily on the participants in the units to be honest with me about these things. I am open to speaking privately about and not in a group participation. And we bring it up a person’s own trauma history does emerge. I will raise it in the group setting, or if its too sensitive, privately with the person. I have found that being part of the unit also helps people with their own trauma history and it has really shifted them to an open acceptance of their history.

What would I be missing out on if I don’t join this unit?

Trauma is a feature of all of our practices. I think having the awareness and mindfulness and capacity to work with this kind of population constructive and helpfully is a tremendous gift you can give yourself in terms of competency and being ethical in serving this population in your practice. And its also a tremendous personal growth opportunity.

Adolescent Unit

Coordinated by Aviva Zahavi-Asa, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.

The Adolescent Unit specializes in the treatment of adolscents and their families. 

Time Commitment Per Week: Education = 1 hour

Group Supervision = 3 hours

Client Contact = 5 hours

 

Two Year Commitment

Master’s degree or equivalent in a mental health field

2 years of supervised clinical experience

Ability to offer psychological services in Hebrew

Adherence to cultural and religious sensitivities

Completion of application process

Meet the Supervisor

Aviva Zahavi-Asa, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.

Aviva Zahavi-Asa, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., received her clinical license in California in 1989 and worked with at-risk children and adolescents for ten years before making Aliya in 1997.  She completed post-Masters training at the Family Institute in 2009, and in 2011 completed advanced training in family therapy at the Magid Institute, School of Psychotherapy at the Hebrew University.  Since then, she has received recognition as a certified couples and family therapist and supervisor by the Israel Association for Couple and Family Therapy.  Since 2009, she has served as part of the clinical staff at Ma’ane, a therapy clinic under the auspices of Kiddum Noar of the Jerusalem Municipality, where she has provided individual therapy to at-risk adolescents, family therapy to teenagers and their families, and has worked with parents of at-risk youth.  At Ma’ane, she has also supervised social work students from the Hebrew University as well as social workers and family therapists from Kiddum Noar.  In addition, she worked at Machon Shiluv in Jerusalem from 2013-2020, providing couples and family therapy to a diverse client population as well as providing supervision to couple and family therapy interns.  She has maintained a private practice since 2007 in Jerusalem and Efrat providing individual, couples and family therapy in both Hebrew and English. She joined The Family Institute staff in 2019 as a clinical supervisor.

Q and A with the
Unit Supervisor

What does working with this population mean? Who usually comes and what are the overall presenting problems?

Teenagers are an interesting and challenging population. They’re not always the easiest clients to engage in therapy, but if you actually succeed, it can be amazing. Therapists on the unit will provide individual therapy to adolescents, family therapy to adolescents and their families, parental guidance to parents of adolescents, and dyadic work to teenagers and their parents.  The type of therapy offered will vary, depending on each case. While some request therapy, teens are often sent into therapy by their parents, school, psychiatrist or other professionals.  Connecting with clients who are not self-referring often requires additional effort on the part of the therapist, especially during the initial stages of therapy.

 

So much of the work is about getting them engaged in the process. Often times they come and they’re not even sure why they’re there. The joining process is critical in getting them to commit to therapy. Often, there is a lot of outreach that has to happen with teens. They’re a population that sometimes forgets therapy appointments and might not come consistently.

 

While there are certain challenges which arise in working with adolescents, once you get them engaged in the process, some significant work can be done:  helping them through the transition from childhood to adulthood; creating building blocks and a foundation for their adult life; helping them with separation and individuation; assisting them with their struggle between dependence and independence; and encouraging the development of their unique identity by defining for themselves how much they will or will not be like their parents, families or communities.  These are some of the overarching themes that will come up in working with this population.

 

Some of the typical presenting problems might include depression, anxiety, social difficulties, conflict with parents, and school difficulties. The more serious presenting problems could include eating disorders, sexual abuse, substance abuse, and self-harming behaviors.

 

What kind of time commitment would a typical caseload include? (Systems, Institutions, etc.)

It will vary depending on the case. Sometimes, the commitment is just one hour a week. Other times, there can be systems work involved, including working with the parents, the family, the school system, or the larger mental health system. There might be more than one therapist involved with a family – for example, one to treat the teenager, the other to work with the parents or family – and these therapists will work collaboratively with one another.

What could I expect from the group supervision? What is the structure?

The structure of the weekly group supervision meetings will include one hour of training and education and two to three hours of supervision. The training will address the developmental tasks of adolescence and will gain an understanding of this important life stage from both a psychodynamic and systems perspective.  Therapists will also have the opportunity to explore their own adolescence and how this impacts their work with teenagers.

One of the most important aspects of the training is learning about the intake process and treatment planning.  The intake process allows the therapist to gain a thorough understanding of the client (and the family) and his or her needs and then be able to select a treatment modality which best suits these needs.  Therapists will learn how to carry out an assessment process which will help guide the course of treatment.

What kind of educational resources will the unit provide?

Therapists will learn how to use therapeutic cards and games; will learn the basic tenants of sand tray; will learn how to use parts work with teens; and will utilize other experiential interventions – including role playing, music, writing and drawing – to engage the teenage client.  Entering the teenager’s world via his or her interests can act as a springboard for the therapeutic process.

Can you talk about your journey in working with teenagers?

I received my M.S.W. in California and worked with children and teens at-risk over the course of about ten years.  As a social worker, I worked for Big Brothers/Big Sisters; I then headed a pilot project working with foster kids doing group therapy; and then did assessments on children and teens to determine if they were eligible for mental health services from the State of California. For the last 12 years, I have worked as a therapist for a government clinic in Jerusalem which serves at-risk adolescents and their families.  I thoroughly enjoy working with this population and seeing teenagers and their parents grow and change.  

 I remember when I was a teen, what was most important was that adults treated me like someone who had something important to say and contribute. I was fortunate that I had adults in my life that were able to do this for me. And one of the things that attracted me to working with adolescents was being able to play this role in a teenager’s life. I think there are so many teens for whom their experience is that the adults don’t take them seriously. Therapy can offer teenagers that powerful experience of being listened to and having their voice heard. 

Why is working with this population different than what I've already learned in my years at the clinic?

Working with adolescents is learning to walk a tightrope while juggling. It is important to create a safe place where the teen can share his or her personal thoughts and feelings, but at times there are limits to the confidentiality which we as therapists can provide our teenage clients. This usually revolves around a teen’s risky behaviors which, at times, cannot be kept solely within the confines of the therapeutic relationship.  The boundary issues which arise in working with teens are sometimes quite complex.

Adolescents are going through many developmental changes on a physical, emotional, social and cognitive level.  These changes sometimes make it difficult for a therapist to assess what is actually going on in the teen’s life, especially without input from the parents. It is important for the therapist, on the one hand, to believe the teen’s experience of his or her reality, while on the other hand ask himself or herself, “Is this what the adults in this teen’s life experience?”  It is sometimes challenging to assess when it’s essential to bring the parents into the teenager’s therapy and when it’s better to leave them out. Straddling these complexities when working with teens is a skill to be learned and honed.

I have teens at home, how will working on this unit impact that?

If you’re struggling with your own teens at home, it might be challenging for you to engage with your teenage clients. This is where the supervision process is critical. You may have a tendency to identify more with the parents, to question your own parenting, or identify more with the teenager. Bringing this up in supervision will allow you to identify your countertransference and how it impacts on the therapy.

How will this broaden my professional opportunities?

Understanding which developmental milestones a teenager has to go through will help you to better understand your adult clients. All adults have experienced both childhood and adolescence.  Difficulties in adolescence are often connected to difficulties in early childhood.  When a client has had difficulties at any of the developmental stages starting in childhood and continuing through adolescence, it is likely that these difficulties will show up in adulthood and may bring the client to therapy.  Without knowledge of childhood and adolescent development, therapists treating adult clients often miss important clues which can help their clients in the healing process.

What kind of person will work well with teens?

Someone who is very flexible and who is able to enter the internal reality of the teen without necessarily assuming that everything the teen is saying is an actual reflection of external reality.  Therapists working with this population should feel comfortable dealing with at-risk behaviors or disturbing content that the client may bring in to the therapy. The most important quality is for the therapist to enjoy spending time with teenagers.

What would I be missing out on if I don’t join this unit?

You would be missing out on learning ways to think more deeply and critically about teenagers and their families and providing individual therapy to teenagers and parental guidance to their parents.  There’s a richness that exists in working with teens that will greatly contribute to your professional experience.

Children's Unit - Pinat HaYeled

Coordinated by Bracha Coopersmith, M.S.

“Pinat Hayeled” specializes in the treatment of children and their families. The comprehensive training covers all components of treatment, from a thorough clinical assessment, comprehensive treatment planning and the teaching of different modalities which include; play therapy, child-parent psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral techniques and family therapy. There is a focus on the treatment of attachment disorders, trauma, anxiety and children with attention and behavioral problems.

The training offers didactic course work and live one-way mirror observations. We aim to build the knowledge and skill set necessary to become a confident and experienced children’s therapist, in a supportive and empowering environment.

Time Commitment Per Week: Education = 2 hours

Group Supervision = 2 hours

Client Contact = 5 hours

Two Year Commitment

Master’s degree or equivalent in a mental health field

2 years of supervised clinical experience

Ability to offer psychological services in Hebrew

Adherence to cultural and religious sensitivities

Completion of application process

Meet the Supervisor

Bracha Coopersmith, M.S.

Bracha Coopersmith, M.S. earned her Master’s degree in Clinical Sociology from the University of North Texas completed Postgraduate training in Family Therapy at The Family Institute of Neve Yerushalayim where she received extensive, specialized training in psychotherapy with children and their families. In addition to being the Coordinator of the Pinat HaYeled Children’s Unit, she maintains a private practice in Jerusalem.

Q and A with the
Unit Supervisor

What does working with this population mean? Who usually comes and what are the overall presenting problems?

Working with kids means learning to speak kid-language as well as how to work within a framework of the child’s school and home lives. Parents will bring their child in with a presenting problem that has a wide and colorful spectrum. Sibling rivalry, not doing well in school, wetting the bed, an upcoming life change (moving, parents getting divorced, a very ill loved one, etc), attachment issues, anger management and much, much more.

What kind of time commitment would a typical caseload include? (Systems, Institutions, etc.)

A typical time commitment for working with a child would include meeting with the parents for parenting sessions, doing a school observation (for children of a certain age), conducting a family observation, writing up an assessment and then meeting with the child individually. The parents will be required to come in for monthly parenting sessions. In more complex cases, the larger system might be involved, including school meetings, working with the social services, psychiatrists, etc.

There is a real range in how much time goes into each child’s care.

What kind of group supervisions have you run before? What could I expect from the group supervision? What is the structure?

While I have been with Pinat HaYeled from its inception 20 years ago, I have been its group supervisor for the last five years.

Group supervision is an academic, dynamic and often fun experience. You will be required to send in case notes on each of your cases prior to supervision. Each therapist has an allotted time where they bring up their questions, themes they have noticed and interventions that they have implemented. There are often family observations to observe and process.

You will be expected to read carefully culled readings pertaining to working with children and their families and be able to discuss them in supervision. You will also learn how and when use games as well as their therapeutic purpose. You will experience what it is like to complete a drawing directive, using the sandtray, and many more playful interventions. And sometimes, you’ll find yourself playing a game on the floor with your fellow therapists.

What book do you recommend reading before joining this unit?

Play Therapy, Virginia Axline

Can you talk about your journey in working with this population?

Recently, I found my 8th grade yearbook where I had written that I wanted to be a child psychologist when I grew up. But I originally started out in the math field. Later on, I earned my Master’s through The Family Institute and did my master’s level internship at Kids for Kids. I continued on to the post-master’s training in The Family Institute and was working with families and individuals.

 

I found myself with an affinity for the children. When it came to looking at families and their patterns, I was drawn to how entrenched the parents and older siblings would be in their patterns. As I would look at a genogram, my attention would repeatedly shift downwards towards the younger children, and I would be so hopeful for those younger children. If only their parents could learn a different way of relating, they might not repeat the same patterns of interactions.

 

But Pinat HaYeled hadn’t yet been created at The Family Institute, so I was seeing children in the regular training program. When Pinat HaYeled was created, it was to meet the need for specialized training in working with a very unique population. I continued my training within Pinat HaYeled, opened a private practice and continued to work with children privately and within The Family Institute. Later, I came on staff as an individual supervisor for the therapists who were training to work with kids. Four years ago, I took over the group supervision of Pinat HaYeled.




Has your experience in working with children transformed your perspective on your adult clients and how you understand them? In what way?

When someone sits in front of you as an adult, they’re all the ages they’ve ever been. The child, teen, young adult, all have a place in this adult client’s mental world. Having a real understanding of the developmental theories and a child’s expected social and emotional developmental milestones will enable you to better understand the adult client in your office.

With this perspective, an adult client can have greater empathy towards the child that they were and the impact their childhood had on them. So many cognitive distortions from childhood get stuck in the brain and manifest themselves in adulthood. A child might have a deep belief like “I’m not capable” or “I’m not lovable” as a result of something that happened at home, in school or in a social setting. It can be profound when you’re able to say “You were 7 years old and that was a developmentally appropriate thought for that age. But it wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now.”

Sometimes, with some psychoeducation about what is typical for a child, an adult client can finally feel understood and be able to put difficult childhood experiences into appropriate contexts.

Why is working with this population different than what I've already learned in my years at the clinic?

Children are not miniature adults. They have a different type of brain, way of communicating, and very different social and emotional needs. They are completely dependent on the adults in their lives. Children are expected live appropriately within a world created by adults that they don’t necessarily understand. In order to effectively work with children, you have to know their language, understand their needs and be able to relate to them on their level.

 

Working with children requires specialized and intensive training. You have to learn what is and isn’t appropriate for their age. You have to know how different something can look from a child’s perspective. But most importantly, you have to learn how the language of children. A typical session with a child will not look anything like a typical session with an adult.

 

A child expresses himself through the language that he knows best, which is to play, create and destroy. You might find yourself playing games together, doing art projects, kicking a ball around or reading a book. But play therapy is not glorified babysitting. There is always a theory that instructs the play and the interventions. There is a reason for each game you choose, which art supplies you offer the child and so much more.

 

A therapist working with children also has to learn how to tap into their own innate playfulness as well. The work of a child therapist is to successfully intertwine theories and conceptualizations with playfulness and an understanding of a child’s world.

I have kids at home, how will working on this unit impact that?

If something difficult comes up for related to a specific client, you will always be able to bring it up in private with me, or with the group if you’d like. You have to have your finger on the pulse in terms of what is happening in your personal life and how it will impact your work with the children.

It has enriched many peoples (including myself) experiences with their own children and grandchildren. You’ll have the training, understanding and playfulness to engage with the kids in your life in a completely different way.

What would I be missing out on if I don’t join this unit?

Given what we’ve spoken about here, I think you’ll be missing out on a deeper understanding of your clients and their experiences. The first point of the journey of their lives that have made them who they are today was their childhood. Old family therapists would ignore the children as irrelevant, but we have come to understand that it is harder to help people change when they are older. When you work with the lower dyads in a family you can affect real change within the family.

One final thought:

Kids can’t help themselves and they really need the adults in their lives to be there for them.  You will learn to take delight in working with kids. And to appreciate what it means to have the zchus of improving the lives of the children of Klal Yisroel.

Sexual Abuse Unit

Coordinated by Barbara Reicher, M.S.W.

The Sexual Abuse Unit is a unique unit for seasoned therapists who have clinical mileage with clients from different age groups. Dealing with sexual abuse is a challenging pursuit as the therapist must understand the dynamics of secrecy, time being accelerated and stopped at one and the same time, loss of physical control and a wounded sense of agency, among other factors that can come into play.

The unit will provide ongoing supervision which will deal with understanding the individual client’s situation and therapeutic need. A didactic piece will present relevant tools and techniques as well as state of the art interventions. The work in this unit is comprehensive and holistic and, therefore, there will be room for each therapist to bring him/herself through any countertransferential responses which may come up.

Time Commitment Per Week: Group Supervision = 2.5 hours

Client Contact = 5 hours

Master’s degree or equivalent in a mental health field

4 years of supervised clinical experience

Ability to offer psychological services in Hebrew

Adherence to cultural and religious sensitivities

Completion of application process

Meet the Supervisor

Barbara Reicher, M.S.W.

Barbara Reicher, M.S.W., a graduate of Tel Aviv and Bar Ilan Universities, is a certified Family Therapist and supervisor. Her career has focused on treating children and families struggling with issues of abuse. Prior to her appointment as Coordinator of the Sexual Abuse Unit at The Family Institute, she was clinical director of the Israeli Association for Child Protection (E.L.I.). She is considered one of the foremost national experts in Israel on treating child sexual abuse, including both child victims and children with sexual behavior problems.