The cornerstone of the Beit T’Shuvah program is connection. Connection to your community. Connection to your spirituality. Connection to your mind and body. This week’s spotlight highlights a man whose life’s work has been to help people connect. This week’s spotlight is on Dr. Arnold Gilberg.
Dr. Gilberg grew up in a tenement building on the south side of Chicago. When it was time for him to go off to college, he decided to major in political science with a minor in chemistry. Once he saw that everyone in his fraternity was applying to medical school, he pivoted. After only three years in college, he was accepted into medical school. Once finished with his internship at Los Angeles County USC Medical Center and working at a family practice, he decided to specialize in psychiatry. He trained under Dr. Franz Alexander, who was a famous psychoanalyst and good friend of Sigmund Frued. Dr. Gilberg earned both a MD and PhD and became the chief psychiatric resident of Cedar-Sinai Hospital as well as serving as clinical chief of psychiatry, a member of the medical executive committee, and a distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association medical board. After an illustrious 62 years in the field of psychiatry, he has become one of the most prominent doctors in the world.
Most of us equate psychiatry with pills. This couldn’t be farther from Dr. Gilberg’s approach who conceptualizes healing through a holistic approach. “None of my patients were, or are, on medication. Even 60 years ago, I would encourage people to exercise or find ways to relax with meditation and other forms of relaxation therapies.” His ability to treat his patients, without the use of chemicals, challenges modern western psychiatric thinking and breaks the divide between patients and people.
A field that Dr Gilberg is deeply passionate about is the far overlooked wellbeing of those in the medical profession. He recently gave a gift that enabled a lectureship on psychiatric and behavioral health at Cedar-Sinai. He focused his teachings on how those working as doctors, nurses, EMTs, and any other medical professional, can address their mental health issues and trauma through holistic treatment.
Not only does Dr. Gilberg advocate balancing physical and mental health approaches, he also believes strongly in the role of spirituality in recovery and healing. “I’ve always been very professional, but also have always been more engaged with, and more involved with, my patient’s spiritual lives and other aspects of their development.” The role of spirituality in Beit T’Shuvah’s treatment model is what first drew Dr. Gilberg to our community.
In 1987, The Jewish Community Foundation, which gives grants to various Jewish organizations, sent Dr. Gilberg to Beit T’Shuvah to see if we were worthy of a grant. Dr. Gilberg remembers, “Harriet was very concerned about my coming because I was a traditionally trained psychiatrist and she had such a new and innovative approach.” Once he arrived, he instantly fell in love with everything happening between the cramped walls of that small house on Lake Street and was instrumental in Beit T’Shuvah being awarded the grant.
Dr. Gilberg has been involved with Beit T’Shuvah ever since and has been a longstanding donor as well. Recently, he generously endowed the Beit T’Shuvah Summit and Running 4 Recovery programs. The Gilberg Family Summit Program offers an opportunity for residents to climb to the peaks of mountains like Mt. Whitney and Yosemite’s Cloud Rest. Residents who are involved in this program have described it as a “deeply moving spiritual experience.” The Gilberg Family Running 4 Recovery Program gives residents a chance to run the LA Marathon. All of the fees are covered and the rigorous training starts months in advance. Residents are able to channel their mental and physical strength to overcome a massive feat that directly parallels their journey through recovery. “Dr. Gilberg’s generosity and commitment to holistic care will allow Beit T’Shuvah to continue to operate these programs for years to come and strikes at the core of Beit T’Shuvah’s wraparound approach and our emphasis on treating the whole person—mind, body, and soul,” reflects Sergio Rizzo-Fontanesi, Beit T’Shuvah’s Executive Director.
We owe Dr. Gilberg a debt of gratitude for all he has done for our organization over the years. His innovative holistic approach has rippled into our organization and enabled thousands of residents the opportunity to heal inwardly and outwardly.