Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Dr. Orly Calderon, Psy.D.

Second Advisor

Dr. Camilo Ortiz

Third Advisor

Dr. Hilary Vidair


The visibility of individuals losing faith in Jewish ultra-Orthodox communities is increasing, with previous research explaining the unique challenges faced by nonbelievers in these communities. Existing literature identifies a group of individuals called “double lifers,” or those “in the closet,” who have internally disavowed Jewish Orthodox beliefs yet remain within their communities to avoid the consequences of disclosing nonbelief. Due to limited research on double lifers, this study seeks to explore the lived experiences of Jewish ultra-Orthodox double lifers through a phenomenological research approach. Twelve self-identified double lifers from ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities between the ages of 28-49 were recruited via online social groups and snowballing. The primary researcher conducted interviews with each participant focusing on the experiences of being a double lifer, reasons for staying in the community, and implications of their decision to stay utilizing a semi-structured interview style. Transcriptions of interviews were analyzed by the primary researchers and two coders using Phenomenological Reduction to derive meaning units, themes, and subthemes from the text to create a description of the double life phenomenon. The findings suggest that double lifers' experiences revolve around family considerations, social consequences, mental health issues and coping, contemplating leaving and staying, and negotiating dissonance and inauthenticity. These findings underscore the need for clinician awareness and education around the double lifer phenomenon, both within and outside of ultra-Orthodox communities, to reduce stigma and improve treatment for such individuals. This research can prompt future research as well as development of culturally-informed mental-health interventions for this population. Keywords: double lifer, in the closet, covenantal community, religious de-identification, phenomenological research