NPR has a fascinating segment on psychotherapist Jim Cates, who works with Amish youth who are experiencing the turbulent time of ‘Rumspringa‘ – a period when they get to experience non-Amish life so they can decide whether they want to commit to their parents’ culture and traditions.
The Amish are a community based around Anabaptist Christianity who, to varying degrees, refuse modern technology and the common social practices of North America.
However, during the time of Rumspringa, the youth are free to wear modern clothes, use technology, and may experiment with drink, drugs and sex – on the basis that the Amish want their youth to freely enter their tradition having had the opportunity to experience the alternative.
For some young people, this causes some difficulties, not least with some who encounter difficulties with drink, drugs or emotional adjustment and Jim Cates is a psychotherapist who helps the young people work through the issues.
He describes how he needs to take a radically different approach when conducting psychotherapy with Amish youth, owing to the markedly different way of thinking, particularly about the role of the individual in society.
Cates notes that while traditional American culture is individualist, Amish culture is strongly collectivist, to the point where talking about yourself is seen as prideful and individual work without the involvement of the family is at best uncomfortable and at worst inconceivable.
In the NPR piece, Cates gives some fascinating insights into his take on Amish psychology and discusses the innovative approach he needs when working with the culture.
It’s one of the most interesting and surprising radio pieces I’ve heard in a while, and is by the excellent Alix Spiegel, who also produced the gripping 81 words.
Link to NPR ‘One Man Tackles Psychotherapy For The Amish’.