Dr. Sharp: [00:00:00] Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Testing Psychologist podcast, the podcast where we talk all about the business and practice of psychological and neuropsychological assessment. I’m your host, Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach.
This episode is brought to you by PAR. The Feifer Assessment of Writing examines why students may struggle with writing. The FAW and the FAW screening form are available on PARiConnect. PAR’s online assessment platform. Learn more at parinc.com\faw.
Hey, everyone. Welcome back. I’m really excited for this episode here today. I think I’m excited about most episodes. I can’t remember an episode I wasn’t excited about but it’s always genuine.
Today’s episode is interesting. It is a little bit of an addendum to the international assessment series that I did several months ago. During that [00:01:00] time, Dr. Michael Roth reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in chatting about his experience as a school psychologist in Israel. And while at the time he didn’t quite work out to have it be part of the original international assessment series, I am so glad that we set up a time to do this interview, and I’m happy to release it a few months later here as a little bit of an add-on to the original series.
Let me tell you a little bit about Michael. He’s a licensed school psychologist and supervisor, and the Director of School Psychology Services for the town of Bet El Israel. He’s also a member of the Psychologist’s Registry Board and a member of the Jerusalem District Committee for testing accommodations for students with learning disabilities. He maintains a private practice primarily focused on psychoeducational testing and school-based issues.
What makes his story quite interesting is that prior to moving to [00:02:00] Israel in 20005, he worked as a school psychologist in the US and was educated here in the US. So it was a pretty compelling experience and perspective to share as far as practicing both domestically and internationally.
I will give a little disclaimer. The sound on this episode is slightly below par but absolutely understandable. I don’t think much is lost there. That’s due in part to me having a little bit of a cold and a sound quite congested. I think you’ll be able to get past that and enjoy this conversation with Michael.
So without further ado, let’s transition to my interview with Dr. Michael Roth.
Hey, Michael, welcome to the podcast.
Dr. Roth: Thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be able to share my story.
Dr. Sharp: I’m excited to talk with you about your story. I’m very curious to dive into this practice in Israel. A lot of people know that we did an international practice series a few months ago, and then you reached out to me during that series and said, Hey, do you need somebody else? And even though it wrapped up, I was really interested. I’ve looked forward to having this be an epilogue to our international assessments series. So, thanks for being here.
Dr. Roth: My pleasure. I really enjoyed listening to the guests that you had on. And as I was listening, I thought to myself, well I have some interesting experiences also to share. And [00:04:00] so, I’m really glad that you let me have this time.
Dr. Sharp: Oh yeah, I love that. I love that you reached out.
Well, I’d like to start just with your story. I think that’s always an interesting part of folks practicing internationally, especially when you start in the US and then go elsewhere. So, take that where you may, but I would love for folks to hear how you ended up where you are.
Dr. Roth: Yeah, sure. I was born and raised in New Jersey. The reason that I came to Israel, I think it’s intertwined with the history of the state of Israel. So I need to give a brief history of how the state of Israel came to being and then can understand how I make my way here.
The state of Israel was created in 1948 after the Holocaust tragedy. The Holocaust is a place for Jews to seek refuge. And following people came to Israel from all over the world both to seek a better opportunity and [00:05:00] also ideologically, the Homeland for the Jewish people.
I came to this role for the first time when I was 13 as part of a family trip. I tell people that I had almost a physiological reaction when I got off the plane. I felt that this is where I need to be. It’s hard to almost even describe- just the culture, the people, the history, it really made a powerful impact on me. That’s when I was 13 and I knew that I was going to end up here.
I spent some time here after high school and my gap year getting to know the people, learning the culture, and speaking the language. I went back to the states for my college and graduate training. I got married along the way. I had two kids. But I knew that I was going to end up here. And in 2005, two years after I got my doctorate, I moved to Israel. And it’s been [00:06:00] a thrill. So I’ve been here since 2005. And that’s pretty much how I ended up here.
Dr. Sharp: I love that. That’s so interesting. We were talking with some guests the other night, dinner guests about a similar experience. I don’t know if this is maybe what you felt but one of our guests was describing this experience of going back to, I think in her case it was Norway. They knew there was some family history there and the ancestry line and so forth. She described a very similar experience where she got there and it just felt it was almost indescribable, but there was a very felt sensation of this is just where my people are. This is where I need to be.
Dr. Roth: Connection- a total connection. That’s exactly what I felt.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Well, we could go down that path for a while, I suppose. It sounds like a powerful experience for you. You knew right away.[00:07:00] Dr. Roth: Yeah.
Dr. Sharp: So then, did you have it in your mind when you got into grad school that that’s where you were going to go? I mean, did you always have that goal of moving to Israel?
Dr. Roth: Yeah. Like I said, I knew that this is where I was going to end up. I wasn’t sure exactly when but what factored into it pretty much was that my oldest child was going to first grade and I said, this is the time to do it. If they get a little older and I have to move them away from their friends, it’s going to be more complicated. So that was the factor that determined when I went. I had worked for seven years as a psychologist in the states prior to that, and then then I came here.
Dr. Sharp: I got you. So tell me a little bit more about the time that you spent in your gap year and what it was about that experience that really solidified things?
Dr. Roth: It’s very common for [00:08:00] more of the religious students after high school in the states to come to Israel for a year and they enroll in different institutions here to further their religious studies. So I did that. Most of my friends did as well. It’s a thing that you do after you finished high school. And then I actually, for my second year volunteered in the army here. I drove a tank on my job. I did that for a year. So I spent two years after high school here. And after that, I went back to my college for undergraduate.
Dr. Sharp: I see. So I’m so curious about this whole development of how you got there. When did becoming a psychologist fit into this picture? It sounds like you knew you wanted to end up in Israel. [00:09:00] So then being a psychologist was secondary to that, but I’m curious how that came to play.
Dr. Roth: When I started college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had a really great psychology professor in college that I was really close with. And to be honest, I was looking into the field of music therapy, because I also do music. I play music. I’m an amateur musician and I thought maybe I do that. I volunteered for some summers in an inpatient facility shadowing the music therapists there. And this professor I was close to, at one point, said to me, why limit yourself to music therapy? You can be a psychologist and maybe if you want use music as a modality if you choose, but maybe broaden yourself a little bit.
And then through my studies, I like was attracted to the field of learning disabilities and testing and those kinds of things. So that’s where that decision [00:10:00] came together for me.
Dr. Sharp: I love that. I have to ask. What’s your instrument of choice?
Dr. Roth: I play drums.
Dr. Sharp: Oh, I love it. I always say…
Dr. Roth: Yes, that’s my therapy. That’s what I talked about, my therapy.
Dr. Sharp: That’s fantastic. I don’t think I mentioned this on the podcast, but playing the drums is like one of my lifelong, I guess regrets/dreams. I wish I’d started a long time ago and hope to maybe still do it.
Dr. Roth: Go for it for sure. It’s a great mental health escape for sure.
Dr. Sharp: Nice. So tell me, when did you start preparing for this? So you moved two years after grad school, is that right?
Dr. Roth: Yeah. I started my master’s program in, I think was 1995. I finished in 1997. And then got accepted to a doctoral [00:11:00] program right after that. I got my doctorate in 2003, all in school psychology. And then I moved in 2005.
Dr. Sharp: I hear you. I’m just curious about when you decided you were going to move and what that preparation looked like? Was that happening during grad school or was it all after or how did that begin?
Dr. Roth: It was a difficult process getting ready. There is getting organized in terms of moving your whole family, my wife and all. And then there was professionally getting ready. And that was even more challenging because there weren’t a lot of people to talk to at that time. I had one contact here who every time I tried to ask me for details of responsibility, said, just come you’ll love it. It’ll be fine. And that was just a typical Jewish answer. Don’t worry. It’ll be fine.[00:12:00] Looking back I wish that he had prepared me more because coming here was a bit of a shock professionally, and I can expand on a little bit more if you want, but since then, things have been a lot more streamlined. There are different organizations that help people who come over in the field of mental health professionals. So there are people who are guiding you. I actually got a lot of emails from people and I try to give them as much information as I can so that they can make a decision as to whether that’s the right choice for them.
Also the regulations, as far as people coming over from different countries with licenses or certifications when I came over, certain things weren’t written down, weren’t consolidated, now that we can find everything online. Again, it’s been improved a lot since I moved, but when I came, it was a little bit of a struggle actually [00:13:00] making that adjustment professionally.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I was going to ask, were there any resources in particular that helped you, but it sounds like you’re saying there weren’t. It was not consolidated.
Dr. Roth: Yeah. Compared to what they have now, again, everything is available online and it’s really great. There weren’t those resources when I was moving. And like I said, the person who I was in contact with by phone or even by letters, once upon a time used to send letters, he was a great guy but not very helpful in terms of what I needed to know when I needed to know. So it was a big shock for me.
Dr. Sharp: I got you. It sounds very enthusiastic not super thorough.
Dr. Roth: Exactly.
Dr. Sharp: So you mentioned some professional hurdles or hoops that you had to jump [00:14:00] through. Can you remember back then and if those are similar to the present day, what professional issues do you have to deal with to make that move?
Dr. Roth: Yeah, certainly. The most basic one is though is the language. Here the language is Hebrew. So you’re working in Hebrew. You’re communicating to clients in Hebrew. I thought that I was pretty good at speaking Hebrew, but there’s a complete difference obviously between conversational Hebrew and professional Hebrew, and that took me a while to get adjusted to and learn.
I’ve worked the seven years giving intelligence tests to kids, but giving it in a different language is something different. So I almost have to relearn that. I remember testing 6-year-old kids and I give them the first questions on the exam, which obviously everybody knew and I had to sit there and make sure that I understood the question, I understood their [00:15:00] response. So that’s an example.
The other thing is the model. The education system in Israel is different than in the US. I can give several examples. The kindergartens and the pre-Ks are not housed in the same building as the school. They have their own separate buildings. That’s just one example. The class size. It’s not uncommon here to have classes of between 35 and 40 students.
The service delivery of the psychologist is a very different model. So whereas in the States you basically worked in the school, for the municipality, but you were placed in the school. Here you work for the psychological services. So you come to work, you go to the psychological services building, and then you’re assigned different schools or kindergarten. Now you pop in and out during the week. So you don’t spend your day in [00:16:00] the school. So that are just two examples.
And the other major issue was the salary. School psychologists here are not paid well. I wish that I was more prepared for that because that caused a lot of anxiety. Struggling financially was a major issue when we first moved here and that is still an issue actually. In 15 years, things haven’t changed much in terms of salaries for psychologists here.
Dr. Sharp: I see. So even compared to the United States, it’s relatively low?
Dr. Roth: Yes. In the States, you can make a decent respectable living as a school psychologist even without a private practice. Here in Israel, it’s expected that you supplement your school psychology income with [00:17:00] private practice. And so, a lot of people do that, and unfortunately, it’s almost like a vicious cycle where people after completing their internships and once they get their licenses, they’ll just run out and open up a private practice instead of staying in public service.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, that makes sense.
Dr. Roth: It’s a struggle.
Dr. Sharp: So I was going to ask about your moving process. Did you have a job lined up when you moved or did you move there and then find a job? How did that work?
Dr. Roth: Yeah. So luckily, the person that I was in contact with, I mentioned before, was actually in charge of placing immigrants school psychologists. So that wasn’t an issue, actually. He basically said to me, I remember going to interview with him when he came to America, and I had bought a whole lot of my documents and my diplomas and my recommendations and other openings, and he said, “No, [00:18:00] don’t worry about that.” He goes, “Do you want to work?” I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “Okay, you’ll find work.” That was the interview basically.
That’s the other part of school psychology here is that there’s a huge lack of a psychologist in Israel. So I tell people who are thinking of coming over, that’s not an issue. In other words, you will work wherever you want to work. That’s not a problem. You won’t get paid that much, but you’ll have a place to work.
Dr. Sharp: Oh, I see. Do you have any insight into the low payment? Is there poor funding for public services across the board or is it specifically education or what?
Dr. Roth: Yeah, unfortunately, in the political scheme we don’t have a lot of power. So when it comes time to negotiate the salaries, there is not a lot of leverage. That’s one of the issues. But in the public sector, there are social workers who also don’t make tons of money here. It’s just not [00:19:00] considered real significant important parts or important enough. There’s a lot more awareness now. There’s movement, especially from the younger generation. The millennials are really making a strong meeting with politicians and really making our case. So there’s a lot more awareness than it used to be but we’ll see what happens.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. I didn’t want to ask too about just the transfer of licensure. How was the US license recognized? Did you have to jump through some hoops to practice with it?
Dr. Roth: So I’m actually on the board of registry for psychologists in Israel. So I can definitely speak to that. And again, when I came, things were not streamlined. The [00:20:00] director of psychology services where I first worked really, I would ask every week. So I’m like, can I get my license? She would have really no idea what to answer to me. It took about three years actually before I found the right person.
It turns out there was a person who was in charge of people coming from out of the country. I met with her. I showed her all my papers and she said, yeah, it seems like you know what you’re doing. A week later, I got my license. That was the process. It’s a lot more rigorous now and streamlined, but essentially what happens is, I’ll speak like this:
There’s basically a two-pronged process for getting your license in Israel. I’ll start with what Israelis have to go to. So Israelis in order to become a psychologist, you have to have a BA bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in psychology. Once you have your master’s degree in psychology, you could apply to become a [00:21:00] registered psychologist. What that means is that you are allowed to do an internship.
Israel has six areas of recognized areas of psychology: Clinical rehabilitative which would be the equivalent I guess neuro-psychology in the States, Medical psychology, elemental, industrial, organizational, and school psychology, six areas.
So once they’re registered as a psychologist, they can start their internship in any one of these six areas. The internship takes around four years to complete. Most people work part-time, as I said. There aren’t a lot of full-time positions for interns in psychology. And once you complete your internship, the Israelis have to take a very rigorous oral exam.[00:22:00] There are three areas of expertise that they have to show proficiency. In school psychology, the first area would be systems-level intervention- understanding the school system. Secondary would be individual intervention- so counseling, therapy, and those issues. And then the third area is psychodiagnostic testing and assessment.
All Israelis have to take oral exams and show proficiency in those three areas. And once you pass the oral exams, you are considered an expert psychologist and that’s equivalent to a US license. So that means that you can actually practice privately. So that was one of the steps for an Israeli who wants to become a psychologist.
If you are from say, the state or somewhere else, and you come with a license, you have to go through both processes. You first submit your paperwork to the registry [00:23:00] of psychologists. They look at your training and background. And if they see that that’s sufficient, then they’ll tell you, okay, you may have to do a year or two of an internship to learn the system in Israel, learn the language, and then they can grant the expert status.
Dr. Sharp: I see. How often does that happen? I’m thinking, for Israeli citizens, you have a year or two for a master’s and then four years of internship. That’s basically a doctoral degree.
Dr. Roth: Yes.
Dr. Sharp: So for folks coming from the US, is it pretty common for them to have to do an extra year or two of internship to get acquainted and be ready?
Dr. Roth: So it varies. Usually again, like I said, there’s the registry board that will look at your training, and then there’s the professional board which will look at what was your actual experience [00:24:00] in the States and then will consider how much of an internship you have to do based on your experience in the States?
I find that in school psychology it’s really necessary to take time to understand the system, whereas in clinical psychology, maybe you’re just doing a year of an internship in maybe a hospital or something, but I find in school psychology, the system is so different that it really takes time to understand it. So I would tell people, don’t rush into things. Be patient. It may take some time. There’s a different way of doing things here. That’s just the bottom line. The instruments that we use here are quite different than what is used in the States. Like I said, the approach to intervention and therapy is quite different. So you really need to learn how things are done.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. I wonder [00:25:00] if that might be a good segue to what the practice actually looks like there especially compared to the US? I think that’s probably where most people are going to be comparing. So, can you speak to that? So let’s start on a broad level. So as a school psychologist, what do your duties look like there?
Dr. Roth: Okay. So I direct the school psychological services for a small municipality. So my job is very administrative. I have a staff of 5 psychologists and I send them to the schools within the municipality. The predominant area that school psychology is responsible for is consulting with teachers, school staff, and principals.
Another difference between the Israeli system and the American system, [00:26:00] the Israeli position of the guidance counselor is a very dominant position in the Israeli school system. Whereas in the states guidance counseling may have two responsibilities. In Israel, the guidance counselor was very dominant. And so we worked very closely with the guidance counselor there. And she refers students to a psychologist for further evaluation intervention with parents et cetera. So, you do a lot of consulting, testing, and evaluation, and obviously, what would be considered eligibility meetings, I guess in the states, the same thing here we sit in those meetings as well.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. So it sounds like it’s fairly similar. A good bit of testing.
Dr. Roth: Yeah, it’s just the way that things are done are different, but in terms of the knowledge area right there, it’s not very different.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. [00:27:00] What’s the view over there or the conceptualization, I suppose, of mental health and particularly in the schools? And this is a very naive question, but are learning disorders a thing? Is autism a thing over there that you’re actually being concerned about?
Dr. Roth: Yeah. So what I tell people is that in Israel we’re very advanced in certain areas of mental health and we’re very behind in other areas because Israel is in the high tension area in the Middle East. We’ve experienced worse terrorist attacks things like that. So we’re actually pretty good with things like trauma, PTSD, anxiety, all those things. We’re pretty good at treating.
Where we’re behind is in the area of learning disabilities, diagnostics, [00:28:00] treatment approaches is a very heavy European psychoanalytic psychodynamic influence in Israel that’s starting to change but it’s still very dominant, especially with the older psychologists who are supervisors. You still definitely feel that approach.
And so that was a big adjustment for myself because when I was training, I was at a time like the late 90s, early 2000 where you read, I really felt the shift between moving away from dynamic more towards behavioral interventions. And then coming here, there’s very little in the way of behavioral intervention, both in terms of the training and implementation. So psychologists don’t have much background here in behavioral interventions.
Dr. Sharp: Even in the schools? [00:29:00] I mean, even with kids?
Dr. Roth: Yeah. We’re not great at data collection. Constructing an evidence-based treatment is foreign to psychologists here.
Dr. Sharp: How does that work in the schools then with intervention? I mean, what intervention even happens in the schools over there? And do you measure the progress or the data? What does all that look like?
Dr. Roth: Yeah, I’ve been attending the NASP convention for the last three years and my mind is blown between the two professions. After having not attended for so many years and not really being up to speed about what you guys are doing in the states, it’s almost a different profession. You guys are talking about MTSS RTI, really strict behavioral stuff and we are not there at all. [00:30:00] We’re not doing any of that. Here and there you’re starting to hear RTI filter into Israel now, but we are very far from being at that stage.
Dr. Sharp: I see. So does that mean, are you collecting that at all on these kids and their progress, or is it just, I’m just very curious now, like what interventions are happening and how do you know if a kid is doing better?
Dr. Roth: Yeah. So like I said, the data collection, that’s just culturally I think just very foreign. We don’t do that. It’s not something that a psychologist will do. When I’m doing supervision and training, I try to bring that in a little bit more, evidence-based intervention data collection, but you’ll find very little of that here. There’s a very heavy clinical influence also. So [00:31:00] you’ll find people take you a child and working with the child or working with the parents as an intervention, not necessarily developing a classroom-wide intervention, but working with individual kinds of things.
Dr. Sharp: I see. Yeah. That is fascinating. And to me, it just makes me go down this rabbit hole of what is the testing for? So maybe that’s maybe a question you can answer? What role does testing play in this whole process then?
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Dr. Roth: Yeah. The interesting about testing here in Israel, when I was working in the states as a psychologist I did mostly IQ tests. I didn’t really do any educational kinds of evaluations. I was doing consulting in that area. And in Israel, the psychologist is expected to do both or at least be prepared to do, and is trained to do both. So that was actually one of the exciting things.
And although our instruments are very behind, [00:33:00] but actually being able to look at kids’ achievement and get a sense of where it is reading and math levels are. That was exciting because I had not done that in the states. So that’s one area that’s interesting.
Yeah, we’re asking those questions as well. And again, the whole movement in the states about we want to keep testing kids, we want to minimize the testing. That’s starting to be discussed here. We’re moving more towards let’s help the kid first and then test, that kind of movement. I don’t want to call it RTI because that’s not what it is, but that philosophy is filtering in, but psychologists are expecting to test a lot of times that is for eligibility meetings to find out what the diagnosis classifications are going to be.
One project that I got involved in over the last [00:34:00] year is that high school students have to take a series of national tests in various academic subjects, almost like the British model. And the ministry of education came to the realization two years ago that the numbers were inflated with regard to how many students are getting testing accommodations and those huge inflations.
So you would have kids, especially kids who could afford it would go for private evaluations and would have a whole slew of recommendations without any extra time, the test has to be read, this and that. That was becoming a major business. And so, the ministry of education became more aware of that and they started this pilot project where they really want to cut down the number of students and take a real good look at who’s getting those common testing accommodations.
And so I coordinate that project in another city and that’s also really [00:35:00] interesting. That was for a long time another area for a psychologist to test kids who need to get accommodation through those national press.
Dr. Sharp: Right. Can you share any of the findings from some of that work, conclusions, or anything that you’ve taken away?
Dr. Roth: Yeah. Well, I agree. In other words, the intention is correct. There’s real inflation. Like I said, the kids from the wealthy areas were the ones with the accommodation whereas the kids within the periphery or the NLD, the socioeconomic levels who couldn’t afford to get private tests were really struggling. And obviously, it’s not fair, not equitable. So I agree with the intention of the program.
The problem that we’re seeing is that there are a lot of kids were struggling and [00:36:00] they’re in a hard place because on the one hand, they’re not eligible for the testing accommodation because they don’t get the category of learning disabilities necessarily. On the other hand, they’re not getting the resources that they need to be successful in school. So where do you put them? That’s where we’re at now.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Well, I think that sounds like a universal problem is how do you support those who need it and keep those who are already at risk of falling behind?
Dr. Roth: It’s almost as if they’re saying, cut down the numbers but we don’t want to give any other resources for them to be successful.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. It’s really a hard place to be. You’ve mentioned clearly you have some administrative responsibilities and you’re operating on a bigger level in terms of policy and [00:37:00] some of these projects. So, would you say the opportunity to do things like that is greater in Israel than here?
Dr. Roth: Well, I’ll say this, I never expected to be, I thought I’d be just your average school psychologist. I thought I was happy doing it until one day that my director said, Hey, there’s this job opening up as a director in this town. Why don’t you go for it? And I didn’t really think of myself but once I got to that place, a lot of opportunities opened up. Like I said, I’m now on the registry board of psychologists. Just things open up.
And I think also when you’re in an administrative, you used to see things differently also in terms of your private practice, you see like the big picture of things, more of a zoom-out approach. So that was very helpful. Like I said, I didn’t think that I’d end up in that position, but I’m grateful that I did.[00:38:00]
Dr. Sharp: That’s great. It’s funny where we find ourselves. We stumbled into these things and finally… It sounds like somebody else in the house is excited about the opportunities.
Let’s see. I do want to talk a little bit about the nitty-gritty and the details. You mentioned earlier that you’re a little bit behind in terms of measures and processes. So can you say a little more about that?
Dr. Roth: Yes, for sure. So when I was training in 1997, I remember the WISC-III came out. And then in 2003, the WISC-IV came out. So in the span of just two years, we had these two brand-new intelligence tests. Now, when I came to Israel, [00:39:00] they were using, I guess the equivalent of the WISC-III would be. That was in 2005. So they were using the equivalent of WISC-III.
This year, over the summer, they just finished this huge project of translating and norming the Woodcock-Johnson for the Israeli population. It was a project that took years. And I just underwent a month of training on the Woodcock-Johnson and that is going to be our test of the future. But you can find people who are even Jeremy, I dare say they’re using the original Couchman test from 1982 or 1983.
Dr. Sharp: Oh my goodness.
Dr. Roth: That’s where we are. So we’re very behind, I think I remember listening to a South African psychologist and she was using the WISC from 1989. That’s where I saw that. Okay. [00:40:00] So I felt for her because I know exactly what that’s like.
Dr. Sharp: And what is driving that as far as you can tell? I’ll leave that open. I have some guesses.
Dr. Roth: I have a bunch of punches and factors I think that goes into it. I find that a lot of psychologists are just not interested in testing. Even though obviously it’s one of our responsibilities, they don’t look at it as the glorious part of the job or the glamorous part of the job. And like I said, there’s a very heavy clinical influence, school psychologists to be almost like a clinical psychologist and the therapy and the talking and then less of the testing. That’s one factor.
I think you don’t see a lot of people going into research also as far as [00:41:00] diagnostic, learning disabilities, those areas, you don’t see people continuing in that. I think another factor is that we have so many different populations here in Israel. Also, it’s a very immigrant population. I think, per capita, we have the most immigrants out of any country in the world. So we have people from literally every corner of the earth coming to Israel and finding some instrument that will be useful for everybody or funding and norming it is a huge undertaking. So that’s why I think it’s taking a long time.
Dr. Sharp: I wanted to ask about that. Are there measures that are, let’s just stick with Hebrew, it sounds like there’s a very diverse population there, but are there measures that have truly been normed and developed in Hebrew?
Dr. Roth: Yes, there are. The WISC-IV was translated into Hebrew. The WAIS is [00:42:00] translated to Hebrew and both of those are also translated into Arabic as well. We obviously have a Palestinian Arabic community here. So a lot of the measures are translated both to Hebrew and into Arabic and this brand new Woodcock-Johnson is translated and normed with various populations in Israel as well.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. That’s great to hear. So the WJ is what is coming out?
Dr. Roth: Yes, the expectation is by the end of the school year we’ll basically transfer over to that test.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. So I don’t want to put either of us on the spot and really have to get into the weeds of test norming and development, but can you speak at all to the concerns or the validity of translating a measure versus actually norming a measure in a certain language or culture?[00:43:00] Dr. Roth: Sure. So I’ll give you an example. We have a population that is the ultra-Orthodox population in Israel. So they’re more the religiously observant sets of Judaism. Their philosophy is that they don’t really believe in secular education. Most of their studies are religious studies but they do get funding from the government. So we do provide services for them.
So if you ask them certain questions, even if you translate items on a test, they may not be culturally appropriate for them. I’m trying to think of an example, but things that have to do with television. Most of them don’t own televisions. I remember on the old cows from cartoon characters or television characters that they have to recognize that obviously, it’s not appropriate [00:44:00] at all. But that’s an example. So it doesn’t matter if you translate it. It’s just not culturally appropriate for that population.
Dr. Sharp: Right. That is a great example. I think that’s an ongoing concern. Not many of the folks that I’ve spoken with internationally or even in the US unit who work with language-diverse populations have measures that actually have been normed or even translated. It’s very challenging.
Culturally speaking, how has that been either? We talked about professionally, if there’s anything else you want to add professionally, but personally too, how has it been to move to another country and particularly this area of Israel? What’s that been like for you and your family?
Dr. Roth: It’s always interesting here. There’s always something whether it’s politics. It’s a very interesting place to live. The [00:45:00] people have energy and drive. They are very, I would say almost short-tempered. Israelis are almost short-tempered. They’re the same without giving the shirts off their back if you were stuck somewhere so they have this complex kind of personality.
But there are definitely things that you have to learn. I remember coming here and I was trained in the CBT model and it took a while for me to understand that that model may not be so appropriate to work with Israelis, giving them assignments and giving them tests that they’re not willing or just culturally, might not be appropriate for them.
So it took me a while to learn that [00:46:00] but just living in this country is great. It’s great for my kids. My kids love being here. We used to visit the states every summer and at the end of the summer, they all want to go back home now. And I was always afraid that they’d get stuck in America. I call it Disneyland. It’s huge. There are places to shop. It’s great. It’s wonderful. But they all want to go back to their friends.
And then the other half of the step, that’s the difficult part is that we left family behind in the states. That’s been the most challenging. It’s being there on her own. And luckily actually before COVID our family came over to visit family occasions like that’s been a challenge.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, of course. Well, for some people, one of the hardest parts is leaving family, or at least [00:47:00] those that you’re close to if that’s family or not. Can you speak to that dimension of Israeli culture in terms of a collective culture are they individualist or what?
Dr. Roth: It really depends. That’s the best answer I can say because there are so many different cultures and populations. It really depends. The immigrants that have come from the north African areas tend to be more family-oriented but then you have a lot of immigrants from the Western countries, America, England, Australia, things like that. They bring their culture from there with them. It really varies. I think that’s what makes it really nice. On my block, we have friends who are Israelis. We have friends who were Americans. We have friends who [00:48:00] are from England.
Dr. Sharp: That’s amazing. Say it a little bit. I think we spoke off-mic about your area, but can you speak a little bit, like the area you’re in? What size of a town or city it might be, that sort of thing?
Dr. Roth: Sure. So I work in the town, and it’s called Bet El […] I can find a lot of them in the states, but I actually work in the original. It has a lot of historical significance and a lot of biblical significance. So it’s neat to be able to work there. It’s a small town about 20 minutes north of Jerusalem. The folks that live there are all religious. About 5,000 people live in the town. The education there is separate. So we have separate schools for boys and girls, for religious reasons. That is also interesting.
Dr. Sharp: Fantastic. So let’s see. What else? I’m always curious, advice for anyone who might be thinking about making a leap like this is- things they consider, resources that might be helpful, anything in that realm that you might be able to provide?
Dr. Roth: The ministry of health is the board that is in charge of the licensure here. They have a website that’s available in English with instructions about what requirements are needed here for licensure, what documents you have to submit [00:50:00] et cetera. I believe you can even submit them even before you actually moved. You can submit them while you’re still overseas and then they’ll take a look at it and give you actually an idea of what’s next, what you need to make up or what’s missing, or to go find that old syllabus with all recommendations from you. They’ll tell you what you need to submit.
I would say again, come as informed as you can. People are certainly welcome to email me. I don’t try to hide anything. It is what it is. There are a lot of challenges. It’s a great place to live. The work is challenging. I’m very upfront about the salary and that needs to be part of the consideration, I think. To be honest with that, it’s just not fair. So I would say, start with the website ministry of health.[00:51:00] Dr. Sharp: Great. Can you speak to other challenges? What are some of the tougher parts about being there that we haven’t touched on so far?
Dr. Roth: Thankfully it’s been quiet in terms of politics. Geopolitically, it’s been quiet, but that hasn’t always been the case. I’m in my current position for seven years now and we’ve had bout 3 or 4 terrorist attacks including shootings and terrorists in the town that I work in. That’s not pleasant. There’s almost as chronic anxiety, I would say amongst the people that live there.
Dr. Sharp: Do you see that in your work? I mean, with the kids or families, does that show up?
Dr. Roth: I definitely get that sense. I [00:52:00] would say yes, from working with the schools, there’s almost hyped tension and anxiety that everyone’s like almost on edge. That’s definitely palpable. So that’s there and hopefully, they’ll remain quiet for a long time, but that’s been a challenge for sure. And the language, like I said, the language was… I find that from talking to other immigrants, a major hurdle is learning the language.
Dr. Sharp: It’s important to keep in mind. It sounds like you were fluent before you got there and it’s still been a challenge to get up to a professional level.
Dr. Roth: Yeah. I’d say it took me between 3 to 4 years to be comfortable writing a report in Hebrew. And I then came to the realization that no matter what, I will never write like a native Israeli. So once I came to that realization and it was like, I just need to get my [00:53:00] point across. I still have someone spellcheck or a look over my reports because I make mistakes but yeah, the professional language and that’s again, another challenge being comfortable with it.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, of course. It was such an undertaking. I’ve never tried to do it myself. I think here it would be Spanish. That’d be the natural second language. It’s so intimidating, especially as an adult, I think about trying to become fluent in another language.
Dr. Roth: Yeah.
Dr. Sharp: Let’s see, just to close, and you may not be able to speak to this. If so, that’s totally fine. Do you have a sense of like the landscape in private practice for psychologists there in terms of the market, the health insurance, do most take insurance or not, anything [00:54:00] feels relevant to add there?
Dr. Roth: Yeah. The way it works is that most people who see a private psychologist pay privately. Some psychologists have arrangements with the different insurance programs so they can get some kind of payment back or a rebate or whatever you might call it. I find that the testing market, if I can like look into the future is that the market for testing is probably going to go down because the ministry of education, again, part of this pilot is they’re working to take over the whole testing process and to have everything on come under their auspices. I can see that as a trend.
There might not be a lot of… I know in my own practice, the demand for testing is not as great as it once was. [00:55:00] So private therapy, psychotherapy, I think that’s going to continue to exist. English speakers, there are pockets of neighborhoods that have a concentration of English speakers. And obviously, it’s easier for them to communicate in English. So they’re looking for English-speaking therapists. So that’ll continue to exist I imagine.
Dr. Sharp: Nice. I appreciate you talking through all these different aspects of living and practicing over there. I feel like many of these there are so many trails we could go down and paths we could take. But it at least gives an overview and a sense of what it might look like for someone to take this leap.
Dr. Roth: Yeah. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.
Dr. Sharp: Of course. You’ve said two times you’re open to speaking with others. What’s the best way to reach [00:56:00] you if someone wants to get in touch?
Dr. Roth: Definitely through email. That’s the best way. And I can get back to you in a day or two.
Dr. Sharp: Great. Right. We’ll make sure to put your email address in the show notes if people want to get in touch. I think especially these days, there are a lot of folks in the US thinking about not living in the US so I’ve heard a lot of talk of how to get to other countries and where, and what that might look like. I’ll be curious if folks reach out to you.
Dr. Roth: Yeah. If I can help, it’d be my pleasure.
Dr. Sharp: Well, Michael, thank you again. This was just personally very interesting. And I think a lot of people will probably find it helpful as well. So thanks.
Dr. Roth: Thank you.
Dr. Sharp: All right, y’all. Thanks so much for tuning into my episode with Dr. Michael Roth about school psychology in Israel. I hope you could tell, Michael is just a kind [00:57:00] genuine down-to-earth guy. This was a really enjoyable conversation. And if nothing else, it just paints a picture of what it might look like to practice internationally. I know that my family has been talking about moving internationally for years here and there and each of these conversations just gives me more hope that it is possible if that comes to bear. So thanks again.
If you have not rated or subscribed to the podcast, I would love for you to do that. I put out a call recently to try to get us to 100 ratings in the apple podcast app. As of this moment, we’re at 96. So I am just OCD enough to care enough to ask you to get us to 100. So if you have not rated the podcast, I know we have a ton of subscribers and if just a small fraction of y’all will take a second in the apple podcast app and tap the ratings, that would be awesome [00:58:00] to get us to 100.
So thank you all so much as always. Take care. We will catch you next time.
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Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here, and similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and the listeners of this [00:59:00] podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with expertise that fits your needs.