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Biblical Psychotherapy: Reclaiming Scriptural Narratives for Positive Psychology and Suicide Prevention


1-800-462-6420 ­

by Kalman J., Kaplan (Author), Paul Cantz (Author), Thomas H. Jobe (Foreword)

ISBN-13: 978-1498560818
ISBN-10: 1498560814

About the Book:

Much of modern mental health is implicitly or explicitly based on ancient Greek narratives (e.g., Oedipus, Electra, Narcissus). Yet the ancient Greek world, despite its unquestioned brilliance, was fatalistic, depressed, fearful of change, and profoundly hopeless. Suicide was typically tolerated and even tacitly encouraged as an escape from a highly-constricted life. The biblical world, equally brilliant, offers a diametrically contrasting approach, emphasizing free will, optimism (though not naiveté), hopefulness, and an embracement of the future. Since life itself is freeing, suicide and self-mutilation, though, expressly forbidden in rabbinic writings, were seldom addressed.

Over 16 suicides and self-mutilations emerge in the 26 surviving tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides. Countless others occurred in actual Greek and Roman lives. In contrast, only 6 suicides are found in the Hebrew Scriptures, while numerous suicide-prevention narratives exist. To combat the suicide epidemic with narratives implicitly based on ancient Greek narratives and pessimism is akin to treating a patient with influenza with medicine contained on a spoon infected with the virus itself.

In Biblical Psychotherapy, Kalman J. Kaplan and Paul Cantz offer life-enhancing biblical narratives which they employed with 14 patients (actual cases are discussed) as alternatives to matched Graeco-Roman suicidal stories with regard to seven evidence-based risk factors: 1) Overcoming feelings of isolation: Elijah against Ajax; 2) Overcoming feelings of meaninglessness: Job against Zeno 3) Overcoming feelings of being an outcast: David against Coriolanus; 4) Overcoming inability to be oneself with others: Jonah against Narcissus; 5) Overcoming insecurity of being adopted: Moses against Oedipus, 6) Overcoming the empty nest syndrome: Rebecca against Phaedra, and 7) Overcoming an incestuous family of origin: Ruth against Antigone.

While the Greek oracles transmit predictions of the future which cannot be altered, the biblical prophets allow for the possibility that people can grow, develop, and even change. The Greek Pandora locks hope in her urn after releasing all evils unto the world. The biblical Noah, in contrast, is shown a bow in the sky as a sign of hope and a promise of no more floods. The time is long overdue for a Biblical Psychotherapy, especially applied to an in-depth positive psychology and suicide prevention.

Kalman J. Kaplan, PhD, is professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, Fulbright Fellow Alumnus at Tel Aviv University and a member of the Faith Communities Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

Paul Cantz, PsyD, ABPP, is associate professor of psychology at Adler University and clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine and a member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.


Editorial Reviews


Biblical Psychotherapy is a must-read in a time when science and culture question the phenomenon of suicide from different perspectives and pave the way to innovative approaches to reduce a major public health issue. Such new challenges can be fully understood starting from a historical and spiritual background. Written by experts in the field, this book guides readers in the realm of biblical knowledge and allows for a very important experience into the wisdom of the Bible. This is a book for anyone interested in the human understanding of emotions and suicide, regardless of religion. Read it with the eye of mind, heart, and soul, and you will get important notions for grasping other’s human experiences of difficult everyday-life circumstances. (Maurizio Pompili, Sapienza University of Rome)

Kaplan and Cantz offer tremendous hope and insight through this dynamic and creative book that presents biblically based alternatives to suicide. Challenging the narratives of Greek tragedy that undercut so much of psychological thinking, they engage with the biblical text in fresh ways that affirm the value of human life. (Julie Exline, Case Western Reserve University)

About the Authors

Kalman J. Kaplan is professor of clinical psychology and director of the Program for Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois, College of Medicine at Chicago and adjunct professor at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.

Paul Cantz is associate professor at Adler University and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois, College of Medicine at Chicago.


Summary for Aaron Cohen