Sleeping on the enemy's couch: Psychotherapy across ethnic boundaries in Israel

Ramzi Suleiman, Yifat Agat-Galili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article discusses the impact of the Jewish-Arab conflict on overt and covert layers of therapeutic encounters that take place across boundaries between the 2 nationalities. We refer mainly to the prevalent case of Arab patients treated by Jewish therapists. We discuss the implications of intergroup tension, cultural differences, and status disparities on the therapeutic dynamics. We focus on the effect of these variables on the processes of transference and countertransference, on perceptions and interpretations of behaviors, on sources of resistance, and on the inability of therapists to take the patients' perspective. Side by side with the psychoanalytical approach, we use various social-psychological theories, mainly social identity theory, to derive insights regarding tensions between the interpersonal/therapeutic dimension and the intergroup dimension. Recommendations for improving therapies in the case discussed are suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-196
Number of pages10
JournalPeace and Conflict
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.


  • Ethnic mismatch
  • Jewish-arab conflict
  • Psychotherapy
  • Social identity theory
  • Transference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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