The Importance of Dialogue and Collaboration An Interview with Hillel Zeren
Hillel Zeren is a psychologist who works mainly with children and teens in Kiryat Araba, Gush Etzion and Jerusalem.
Tell us about your background in the field.
I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. I have always been drawn to philosophy and I’ve found that psychology offers a way to use philosophy to help people who were struggling with different aspects of life. While training, I found myself constantly drawn to approaches that focused on a person’s potential and aimed to provide help by accessing positive ways of emerging from the difficult grip of the problem.
Why did you focus on working with teenagers?
I relate very deeply to the unique struggles of this age group. They have such a fresh perspective on life yet are often still seen as “just” children and their voices are silenced. Left unheard, they look for people and situations that will allow them to express their unique way of looking at the world. Sometimes this is healthy, but it commonly brings teenagers to difficult and unhealthy situations. Without learning how to find a healthy expression for their needs, many teenagers descend deeply into a troublesome mindset. However, when offered a listening ear and tools for self-expression, growth and building confidence, it is amazing to watch confident, well-balanced young adults emerge.
Where do you currently work?
For the last seven and a half years, I have been the director of the Educational Psychology Department of the municipality of Kiryat Arba. I also run a private clinic in Gush Etzion and see clients in Jerusalem. Additionally, I facilitate workshops and seminars about collaborative dialogue, parenting skills, school psychology and more, in Israel and abroad.
What does your position as Director of the Educational Psychology Department in Kiryat Arba entail?
We are responsible for all psychological services in the Kiryat Arba school system. This includes working with teachers and school principals to cater to children's emotional needs to enhance their learning ability. We provide various therapeutic services in schools and also act as liaisons between parents and schools to develop cooperative, comprehensive plans for individual children.
Tell us about your work with trauma victims? What methods do you use?
Very often, my role includes working with trauma victims. I am recognized by Bituach Leumi as a licensed provider of therapy for victims of terror attacks and their families. This is very challenging work but crucial in helping people reclaim their lives after these horrific acts. During and after a terror attack, a victim is filled with fear, anger, sadness and a deep sense that the general order of their life has been disrupted. I work with various techniques such as memory restructuring and the strengthening of personal agency and choice, which allows trauma victims to take a strong stand against the acts that were committed against them and enables them to feel empowered to reenter their lives from a place of hope and personal values, despite what the attack tried to take away.
What work can be done with kids on the autistic spectrum (ASD)? Do you see results?
My work in this field is mainly with children and teens and is often performed in conjunction with parental guidance. A child on the Autistic Spectrum (ASD) can be very challenging for parents as they require a very different skill set connected to relationships and communication. The help I provide includes working individually with the child/teen in order to help them become more aware of the unique challenges they face when navigating social situations and how to handle the emotional responses that accompany this. I use a combination of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as well as Narrative Therapy techniques to help the child to incorporate behaviors that can ease their challenges while enhancing their sense of personal identity in a positive way. The combination of understanding themselves and their struggles, combined with helpful preferred thoughts and behavior, and parental support, provides a new and resilient way of being in the world.
Tell us about your current work using dialogue and collaboration in families?
I have incorporated techniques of dialogue and collaboration when working with children, parents and schools in order to help people hear and understand each other even while disagreeing. Dialogue, in contrast to discussion, involves the ability to suspend one's opinions in order to make space to hear the opinions of another. When done collaboratively with multiple participants (child-parent, child-parent-school, etc.) new possibilities arise out of the collective that could not have arisen from the old, stuck and usual ways of doing things.
About Hillel Zeren
Hillel Zeren M.Sc. is a trained clinical psychologist and Director of the Educational Psychology Department of the municipality of Kiryat Arba.
Hillel can be reached at 054-759-0027 firstname.lastname@example.org