Beyond the Heart: Dr. Meir Wikler on over four decades of practice in Boro Park
He is a celebrated author and columnist in the area of mental health, a teacher and mentor to a new generation of psychotherapists, and he has helped thousands of individuals in the community overcome adversity and find success in his close to half-a-century of practice—but Dr. Wikler is just getting started. He spoke with Boropark24.com as we went… beyond the heart.
Dr. Wikler reflects on one of the most important influences in his life; the Bostoner Rebbe, Rav Levi Yitzchok Horowitz, zt”l, a connection that came about through a a relationship two generations earlier; his great-grand uncle, Rav Zalman Yaakov Friederman, zt”l, was the first Chief Rabbi of Boston, a brilliant Ga’on and author of Seforim who came to New England in the early 1900’s, and was very close to the first Bostoner Rebbe, Rav Pinchos Dovid Horowitz, zt”l, who pioneered Yiddishkeit there. In addition, Dr. Wikler’s zeidy, (and Rav Friederman’s nephew) R’ Moshe Ephraim Strogoff, z”l, often consulted Rav Pinchos Dovid and the close kesher between the two families continues until today.
When Dr. Wikler lost both his parents at a young age, the Rebbe’s son, Rav Levi Yitzchok Horowitz, zt”l,flew down from Massachusetts to be meanacheim oveil in New York. He told the Wikler brothers: “I want you to be with me in Boston for the first Shabbos after shivah. You may have many friends here, but in Boston you have Mishpacha.”
And from that moment on, the Rebbe was like a father to him. “I consider it one of the greatest chassodim in my life to have had this special relationship with the Rebbe; a role model and mentor who was devoted, caring, and sensitive to everyone around him… wise and insightful to everyone’s needs—” influences that remain with Dr. Wikler until today.
Another important guide was Rav Shlomo Brevda, zt”l, who told him after advising him to turn down a job offer in academia: “Your portion in Olam Habbah will come from your practice.” In addition, Dr. Wikler has davened with the Novominsker Rebbe,zt”l, another of his mentors, and has given a shiur in the Novominsker Beis Medrash, for forty years.
A few years ago, he opened a practice in Lakewood, and began saying a Vaad there on chinuch and sholom bayis, which is also carried on TorahAnytime.
While when he entered the field, “specialization” was not emphasized like it is today—“we had to learn how to do everything”—Dr. Wikler has focused primarily on couples counseling (and authored two books on the subject, published in 1988, and 2003 by Feldhiem and Artscroll respectively), and children and parenting (he has four books on this topic). And his most recent book, Behind Closed Doors, is a behind-the-scenes look at some of his more memorable individual therapy cases.
A central belief that Dr. Wikler espouses when it comes to relationships is what he calls ‘partial credit.’ When we were in yeshiva, we always wanted to know; “will we be awarded partial credit on bechinos?” If spouses and parents could learn to recognize and appreciate the efforts and the intentions of each other, to give partial credit, their relationships would be a lot healthier.”
We are emerging from the Covid era, and the setbacks will take years to assess. But Dr. Wikler is optimistic: “Our yeshivos and our parents deserve medals for their heroic efforts during this time. This time has also brought out many strengths that we never knew we had and which we will continue to draw from into the future.”
Below, Dr. Wikler is seen together with his guides and mentors; the Bostoner Rebbe, the Novominsker Rebbe, Rav Shlomo Brevda.