Culturally sensitive mental health care: A study of contemporary psychiatric treatment for ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel

Tali Stolovy*, Yvan Moses Levy, Adiel Doron, Yuval Melamed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: The literature describes psychiatric treatment of ultra-orthodox Jews as complex and challenging, in light of this community's unique characteristics and the ideological gap between ultra-orthodox patients and secular professionals. Recent data indicate that patient-centred culturally sensitive care contributes to the treatment outcomes among cultural minorities. Aims: To examine the effect of the level of a physician's religiosity and cultural sensitivity, as perceived by ultra-orthodox Jewish psychiatric patients, as well as the treatment venue (i.e. The distance of the treatment facility from the patients' community) on treatment outcomes (working alliance, medical adherence and the patients' social adaptation). Methods: The sample included 38 ultra-orthodox Jewish men and women receiving psychiatric treatment at the Lev Hasharon Mental Health Centre. The participants completed questionnaires about the physician's religiousness and cultural sensitivity, working alliance, medical adherence and social adaptation. Results: Working alliance was positively related to the treatment location, meaning that patients were more committed and involved in the treatment when it took place in a facility distanced from their community. Working alliance was also correlated with medical adherence. Regression analysis revealed that the doctor's acquaintance with religion and cultural sensitivity predicted patients' reported social adaptation level. Conclusions: In contrary to common perceptions, ultra-orthodox patients are not necessarily reluctant to be treated by secular physicians. These patients prefer a discreet treatment far from their community's public eye. Their perception of a doctor who acknowledges and respects their religiosity positively affects the way that they perceive their social functioning. Culturally sensitive treatment enables patients to feel respected and acknowledged through their sociocultural affiliation, and not only through their disorder. It seems essential to train physicians about the importance of culturally sensitive treatment with this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819-823
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Cultural sensitivity
  • mental health
  • ultra-orthodox Jews


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