STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 12/15/2009

ALUMNI NEWS: Studying Evangelicalism at a Jewish University

Ruth Santos Levy ’73 completed her Ph.D. degree at Yeshiva University’s School of Social Work in January 2009, with a dissertation titled “The Expectations of Evangelical Protestant Christians with Regard to Mental Health Counseling.”

Levy, a licensed psychotherapist and part-time professor, is a former student of Dr. Marvin Wilson, professor of biblical and theological studies at Gordon. Wilson served on her dissertation committee as the evangelical representative, with two Jewish faculty members. Yeshiva, an Orthodox Jewish university, has little experience with dissertation topics dealing with evangelicalism.

One of Levy’s strongest arguments is that therapists need “cultural competency” in order to empathetically enter the world of their clients. Because many secular (i.e., non-evangelical) therapists lack knowledge of the worldviews and value systems of their evangelical clients, Levy argues that such therapists may minimize the strength and importance of faith with regard to life decisions.

Levy collected her data at a number of evangelical churches in the Greater New York area. “Ruth’s research will be especially helpful to non-evangelical therapists,” says Wilson, “especially those who don’t have an understanding of the values and worldview of evangelical Christians.”