The Abyss of the Mind 

As a psychiatrist for 25 years, Northbrook resident Dr. Alan Lifchitz treats souls in distress. But it wasn’t until he had a medical scare in 1998 that he began to delve deeply into the connection between spirituality and mental health, and how one can have a major effect on the other.
“When you face your own mortality, you start to look at things a bit differently,” said the 63-year-old member of Chabad of Northbrook, whose fresh perspective was informed by Hasidic Jewish philosophy.
In his recently published autobiography, “The Abyss of the Mind” — available on — Lifchitz looks back on some of his most memorable cases and highlights the importance of viewing patients based on more than their physicality. In the process, he erases stigma associated with mental illness and incorporates spirituality into healing the mind, body and soul.
“Everything in this world is under God’s care and happens for a reason,” said Lifchitz. “If everything comes from God, then even mental illness, and some of the most tragic and despicable individuals, are created with God’s approval and design.”
Lifchitz describes man as being made of two parts: the outer physical body and the internal soul.
“The body is a temporary garment that covers the soul. The body is physical, finite and temporal; it has a beginning and an end. Its time in this world is limited,” he said. “The soul, on other hand, is imperishable and eternal; it is not limited by time and space, except for the brief time it is confined inside a living body.”
Lifchitz believes his book will be of benefit, in particular, to those who have a friend or family member with a chronic mental illness and who are open to a heightened understanding of man’s nature.
Loved ones, he said, can sometimes “give up” on the person with a mental illness. 
“But if you look at that person on a soul level, there is a different connection. God has put this individual in this world to do something wonderful,” he said, “and you have to look at that. There is a piece of goodness in everyone that you have to try and see.” 
Lifchitz was born and raised in South Africa under apartheid and was arrested and jailed for protesting as a student activist. 
“It was a brutal system,” he said.
Unwilling to abide by such conditions any longer, he left for Canada after finishing medical school in 1976, and he lived there for four years while completing his psychiatric training. He and his wife, Karen, then moved to Chicago, and on to Northbrook in 1980. They have four children and 12 grandchildren.
His experience has run the gamut of many types of psychiatric practice, and he’s worked with clients of all ages and socio-economic standings, ranging from corporate CEOs to housewives to felons and Skid Row heroin addicts. Among the cases he examines in sometimes gruesome detail “In The Abyss of the Mind” are ones involving suicide, elder abuse, sociopathy, post-traumatic stress disorder, the Holocaust and sexuality. 
“Nothing about the human species surprises or shocks me,” he said.