Yachad/National Jewish Council for Disabilities, the agency that is dedicated to the Inclusion of all Jews with disabilities in every aspect of Jewish life, has announced formation of a Dating and Marriage Skills Group for Jewish men and women aged 21-34 with developmental disabilities who will take part in a ten-part series on dating and marriage beginning Monday, February 3 and running through April 7. The program will be held at OU headquarters, 11 Broadway from 5:45 to 8:00 p.m. The fee is $190 to cover the cost of dinner. Dietary laws are strictly observed.
According to Deborah Berman, LCSW, Director of Social Work for Yachad/National Jewish Council for Disabilities and overall supervisor of the program, this is not a one-time group and more Dating and Marriage Skills courses will follow during the months to come because of what she characterizes as a “huge” need for the program. Michelle Mintz, LCSW, is the direct supervisor and facilitator. She will be joined by assistant co-facilitators – one male from the Yachad psychology team and a female practitioner from the clinical social work department who will collaborate to model appropriate opposite-sex social etiquette. This is NOT a shidduch program, but rather a social skills-building group, emphasizes Deborah Berman.
Membership in the program, by invitation only, is not automatic nor is it open to the public. An in-person interview is required for all applicants. Those who apply too late for the first session can apply for the others that will be held following the February-April session.
The Yachad Dating and Marriage Skills Group will focus on a range of topics such as setting up a date, initiating and maintaining conversations, affection and building trust, feedback in a relationship, and going on the date. There will be a variety of practical educational and experiential techniques in this highly personalized program to discuss the necessary components of a healthy and fulfilling dating and/or marital relationship. Participants will have the opportunity to go out into structured, platonic dating environments with co-participants and the support of the facilitators and supervisor.
“The training involves didactic learning including use of visuals, as well as having our participants interact through role plays to learn skills,” Michelle Mintz explained. “We also plan to bring in couples who are newly married to talk about marriage with the group participants.”
“Family involvement is very important and during the course, we will invite parents and guardians to come discuss the skills we have been focusing on with our group members. The goal of this program is to have impact beyond the initial ten sessions, and to continue as an ongoing program with the possibility of hosting retreats where members will have the opportunity to meet people they may consider dating.”
Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, International Director of Yachad/NJCD added, “Developing social confidence is not easy for anyone, and that can be especially true for persons with developmental challenges – there are far more obstacles to achieving a level of relationship satisfaction and the skills needed to seek out and maintain healthy reciprocal connections with others. With the right teaching and support our members and others are capable of engaging in meaningful relationships, and this unique program is one important support to get them there.”
According to Deborah Berman, “Love, closeness, and emotional intimacy are something human beings are hard-wired to want and need, regardless of whether or not a person has a disability. Having a disability does not mean that you are a misanthrope or a hermit or unfriendly or do not have the same longings as the rest of humanity. To think differently is, in my opinion, bigotry.”
“The real world,” Mrs. Berman explained, “is a mix of men and women and, as such, this Dating and Marriage Skills Group is co-ed and carefully designed, supervised, and facilitated by multiple highly experienced licensed professionals so that in a safe and supportive setting, adults with developmental challenges can develop relationship skills and social proficiency to the fullest.”
For more information about the Dating and Marriage course, please contact Michelle Mintz, LCSW at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 212-613-8325. Please visit the link for more information at http://www.njcd.org/dating./
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