Yisroel Roll is a psychotherapist and rabbi from Baltimore. He’s helped hundreds of people overcome fear, anxiety, and depression to find their true selves.
About Yisroel and His Model of Identity Therapy
Yisroel Roll’s desire to help people has carried him all over the world: divorce mediation and marriage counseling in Toronto, leading a Jewish synagogue as a rabbi in London, and now psychotherapy in Baltimore. He realized he truly wanted to inspire confidence in others after a chance encounter in London with the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and her son, Prince William.
That evening, a Friday, Yisroel returned home to observe a Sabbath feast he had prepared with his family and friends. While telling everyone that he had met Diana and the future king of England, he had a realization. “They’re royal, and I’m royal,” Yisroel said in Episode 34 of The Plural of You. “Look at this royal table.”
He began to consider what a traditional king does, things like establishing laws and administering public services. That’s when it occurred to him: a king’s primary task is to provide for his people, to be a giver. “I thought, ‘I could also be a giver as a king. That’s what I do in my family, in my community.’”
“In order to be a giver, you have to believe in yourself.” Yisroel said. “You have to like yourself. If you feel needy or if you have issues, then you can’t be a giver because you’re always thinking of yourself. I figured, if I get myself straight and help other people get their minds straight and think positively about themselves, then they can be a king, a queen, a giver.”
Why Yisroel’s work matters
I talked with Yisroel about his work about a week after the US presidential election of 2016. There was a general anxiety about how President Donald Trump’s administration would alter the nation. Because Yisroel’s identity-based model of therapy had helped hundreds of people to manage their hardships, I thought it could help others troubled by world events, election-related or otherwise.
Overcoming fear, anxiety, and depression
I asked Yisroel about his approach to psychotherapy. He said, “I believe the common denominator of all counseling is, if a person knows who they are, what their strengths are, and believes in themselves, then they can be the best they can be.”
Simply put, Yisroel’s model of the self is based on three dimensions: the mind (cognitive), the heart (emotional), and the body (behavioral). First, Yisroel has his clients write down things they like about themselves across six different dimensions, which he refers to as the Wheel of Strengths. This list helps his clients establish a baseline for who they are, and it provides them with a clearer picture of themselves.
Second, he has his clients close their eyes and imagine an ideal place or memory that they have experienced in their lives, such as an ocean, an orchard, or a sunset. “A person automatically feels calm, relaxed, peaceful, inspired in that place,” Yisroel said. “This place you’re in right now makes you feel aligned with the universe. The deeper reason why you are aligned with the universe is because you are aligned with yourself.” Yisroel believes feeling happy in one setting over others is symbolic of our true nature.
Finally, Yisroel describes the third dimension of self: behavior. He believes this is best visualized as a Circle of Control. “What I usually think about or worry about are all things outside my control.” He added, “The only thing [I] can control are my own thoughts, my own feelings, my own reactions, my own words. If I focus on what I can do, what I can say, what I can deal with in a particular situation, then a person can act in the moment and say, […] ‘I can worry about things in my own world and not what other people are doing.’”
There’s always hope
Yisroel’s approach to therapy encourages individuals to build upon what they like about themselves already instead of the aphorism of “fake it ’til you make it.” “You have to believe in yourself based on real facts and not faking yourself out,” Yisroel said.
I asked Yisroel how could people could learn to relax over the future of the United States. He said, “Most issues that presidents [deal with] don’t affect us directly.” He continued, “At the end of the day, I have to maintain control over what I can do in my own life.”
“Each person is unique and special, and has a unique contribution to make.” He added, “I think a person can feel inside themselves, ‘What do I want to do that I can make a difference in?’ and then you make it happen.” He finds gratification in helping clients reach this point for themselves.
The other thing that gives Yisroel hope, besides enabling it in others? Hockey. “My favorite team are the Montreal Canadiens,” he said with a smile, referring to the NHL team from his hometown of Montreal. “They have not won the Stanley Cup for 23 years, […] but this could be the year.”
Homework for you
Check out Yisroel’s Wheel of Strengths. Print out the wheel or draw a mockup of your own, then write down two or three points in each category that you like about yourself. I hope you’ll give this a try because it’s made a huge difference for many of Yisroel’s clients, and it can for you, too.
For help with your Wheel, here are loose summaries of the six dimensions:
- Intellect: How do you tend to think? Examples: Analytical, quick, problem-solver, detail-oriented.
- Social: What do you do for others at work, in public, at home, or elsewhere? Examples: Smile, hold doors, volunteer.
- Personality: What general characteristics do you like about yourself? Examples: Caring, funny, patient, honest, hard-working.
- Spirituality: What inspires you? What beliefs motivate you? Examples: Beliefs about people, hope for the future, religious teachings.
- Family: Who loves you and who do you love? What do you do for them?
- Accomplishments: What have you done so far that makes you proud? Examples: Having a family or partner, education, career, hobbies, awards.