29 September 2009
Would You Trust This Man? Unfortunately Michael Did!!
I sat in disbelief viewing the September 25, 2009 interview Rabbi Boteach had with Meredith Vieria on Dateline . His comments on his former client and the fallen King of Pop, Michael Jackson, were the epitome of unprofessional conduct exhibited by this therapist and so-called religious leader.
On a professional level-- whatever happened to confidentiality the basic tenet of the counseling agreement? Moreover, what about those tapes of private sessions or conversations between the two of them? Perhaps Rabbi Boteach had a vendetta as he indicated during one of his interviews that Michael began to behave as if he was a nuisance with some distancing and failure to comply with his recommendations. Regardless of how you frame this travesty of professional ethics; it was ugly and said more about him than Michael.
I understand some of this came about as part of a scrapped effort by the Rabbi to write a book on the pop star, yet,I believe also that most of it was revealed in therapeutic sessions. It's understandable why forming a friendship with a client is frowned upon and not recommended by those bodies that govern the ethics of the counseling professions. This is a textbook example of what can go wrong when there is a breach of conduct by a licensed clinician.
I first observed Rabbi Boteach when his family intervention show was aired and I must say that it was impressive. Frankly, I assumed that the families involved signed releases authorizing the airing of their dysfunctional behaviors and the Rabbi's interventions. It would be rather interesting and incredulous that the pop star signed releases authorizing him to make public what should have remained private. I seriously doubt it. In support of this point, it was heartening to read the article in The Chicago Jewish News Online by Rabbi Michael Sternfield.
In this article he states that the "sacred bond of trust" is critical to not only the treatment relationship but also maintaining trustworthiness with our friends and those who confide in us. As a spiritual leader and helping professional, Rabbi Boteach not only sullied himself but those of us who assist others by honoring their privacy while facilitating the problem-solving process and meeting their spiritual needs. Rabbi Sternfield further asserts that this spiritual leader whom Michael trusted at one point belied Jewish religious tenets; which discourage "tale-bearing", gossip and "lashon ha-ra" (evil talk).
One other point I'd like to make pertains to Rabbi Boteach's book, Face Your Fear and the chapter on celebrities in which Michael was mentioned along with Elvis, Madonna and others. He states that celebrities are so overcome with fear that they self-destruct. He called them "pathetic messes" and referred to Michael as "sad and tragically disfigured and a waste". This spiritual leader also spoke of the tragedy of those "stupid enough to follow them off the precipice". Is he speaking not only of those who have addiction problems but many of us who also admired his talent as a entertainer and a philanthropist? We recognize that the pop star had his eccentricities and share of despair and addiction. Most of us want to remember him for the joy we experienced when he entertained us, his musical legacy and the substantial financial assistance he provided to charities/causes. A final note on the author's rationale in this chapter as to why some people hunger for celebrity because they fear "that we don't matter". It seems to me that Rabbi Boteach should "look at the man in the mirror" given that he is also suffering from this phenomenon!