Cable TV's family relationships expert holds forth on faith and family.

RBL: Your own family seems to serve as a backup for the families you work with when your counseling falls short of achieving its goals. Isn't this a very unusual approach?

Boteach: Most certainly. But you see, it's an unconventional approach for those who treat family counseling as an occupation. For me, family therapy is part and parcel of my being a rabbi. Being a rabbi is about mending hearts and healing broken spirits. It was I who insisted on the show that we bring many of the families to my home, whether it's filmed or not, because that's the best way for me to influence these families. It shows them that I wrestle with the same things and creates a real bond of trust and intimacy.

RBL: Do you worry that any negative traits in the families you bring home will influence your children?

Boteach: Not at all. I'm not in any way concerned. These families who are on Shalom in the Home are courageous families. They want to have a better family life; they want to have better marriages. If anything it's inspiring for my kids to meet these families to see the efforts they're making at healing a broken family structure.

RBL: You are a risk taker when it comes to family counseling. For example, you'll bring in a long-estranged father to make peace with his son without the son's knowledge or permission. Have you ever gone too far?

Boteach: Yes, I have. I think counselors have to take risks. We have to weigh, of course, the risk-benefit ratio. Take that story. The risk was that he would hate my guts for bringing his father. His relationship with his father couldn't get any worse. So the only risk was that Ali would hate me, say "I'm done" and "show's over," slam the door and kick us out.

RBL: Does being a rabbi help you in your role as a family counselor?

Boteach: My title doesn't work for or against me. They couldn't care less if I'm a rabbi. They will judge me on the advice that I give and on my character. Conversely, they don't say, "he's a rabbi, he must be smart, he must be spiritual." The reason it helps me, though, is that Judaism has a wealth, a treasure trove, of advice and wisdom about family life.

RBL: You have 18 books and a television series under your belt. What's next?

Boteach: Well, I wouldn't say that I have a television series under my belt because television is a very difficult medium to succeed in. We've just completed our second series, thank God, and it's set to air March 4. I'm very proud of that. I'm in the midst of writing another book now, called The Broken American Male. It's about how the family rut is primarily due to the fragmented nature of today's man—just how messed up men are today and how we can heal them.

This article originally appeared in the January 17, 2007 issue of Religion BookLine. For more information about Religion BookLine, including a sample and subscription information,click here»