An IPA: orthodox Jewish women, adherence to the laws of family purity and the marital relationship

Turgel, Amelie (2012) An IPA: orthodox Jewish women, adherence to the laws of family purity and the marital relationship. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Counselling psychology promotes the importance of developing multicultural counselling competencies in order that treatment interventions meet the needs of culturally diverse clients, acknowledging their unique experiences. However, minority groups have been somewhat neglected by the counselling psychology literature. The Jewish population appears to be a case in point. This qualitative study explores orthodox Jewish women's experiences of observing the laws of family purity (which govern sexual behavior between husband and wife) and how such observance impacts their marital relationships. Interpretative phenomenological Analysis (lPA) was employed to access the lived experiences of these women. Analysis of the results highlighted the women's experience of physical separation from their spouse as paramount. This was reflected in their experiences of distancing in their marital relationships, sexual relationship renewal upon reuniting with their spouse and valuing the personal space and protection gained as a result of separation. The participants' mikvah (ritual bath) experiences encompassed feelings of rebirth and renewal as well as contrasting feelings of shame and exposedness, which seemed to impact their adjustment back to intimacy with their spouses. The psychological messages conveyed suggested that fear seemed to motivate the participants' adherence, which in turn offered them a sense of safety and containment. Participants also displayed ambiguous and ambivalent perceptions concerning whether the laws were oppressive to them. Responses throughout offered a sophisticated weave of complex and contrasting experiences. The participants' unrelenting commitment to the laws was emphasised, suggesting the importance of incorporating clients' values and beliefs within treatment in order to ensure that it is both effective and enduring. Clinical applications for marital therapy are highlighted, carrying with them transcultural implications for other cultures that adhere to similar practices during menstruation.

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