Counseling Psychotherapy Japan

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Mental Health Counseling: Situations Facing People in Tokyo and Japan - 2

Do you find it is easier for Japanese to talk about their problems in English rather than Japanese?

Yes, sometimes. This can be the case even with people of varying levels of fluency if they are given sufficient time to formulate what they want to express in their minds before responding verbally and providing that the counselor or group facilitator can speak Japanese.

When speaking in Japanese people may 'hesitate' to express personal feelings and emotions verbally. Even as very young children people here have been 'trained' to suppress, in public and even at times in private, expression of their emotions and individual opinions when they differ from the group view or the views or their elders in order to maintain an impression of social harmony and agreement. (In fact the suppression of personal emotion in front of other people outside one's social or business group may still be considered by some more traditionally minded Japanese to be the hallmark of a sophisticated and mature member of society.) In contrast to this English is thought by many people here to be a more 'direct' language. In Japanese the expression of material and emotional desires, of hopes and also of expectations of others are often expressed indirectly using hints or innuendo in speech or by simply depending on others to guess one's "true feeling" or "honne" without verbal eplanation.

Both in individual counseling and group therapy situations many people here have said on occasion that is it easier for them to freely express their emotions and talk about their worries or problems in English and also, in some cases, that talking in English helped them to become aware of feelings they had never experienced in Japanese. Also I think that it can be easier for younger Japanese to talk freely about themselves with a counselor who is not Japanese because of the belief that it is somehow more 'permitted' to do so in other cultures.

Is bullying still quite common and is it seen in college age population as well?

Yes, it is still very common throughout Japanese society as a whole. Cases of suicide among high school age teenagers linked to bullying tend to get more media coverage here as well as abroad but what is less publicized is the fact that bullying by one's elders and people in a position of authority can be found in many areas of adult society including both the academic and corporate worlds. Colleges here are more authoritarian than in western cultures and the traditional hierarchical (and largely male dominated) Japanese social structure is still strongly in evidence and it is not unusual to hear college students say they are afraid of their professors because they are so "kibishii" which means "strict". One women's university here has the reputation of, to quote a teacher I know who used to work there, "protecting students very strictly" and there are apparently rules regarding the use of make-up, restrictions on wearing jeans on campus and that students are not allowed to be seen in certain areas in Tokyo fashionable among teenagers and young adults after 9 p.m.. The pressures to conform to college, family and social expectations of them can often conflict with the "true feelings" of college age people, especially those with less traditional and more progressive attitudes.

I was a drug and alcohol counselor in USA. Do they provide that counseling in Japan? How does counseling differ?

In comparative terms drug abuse is not as big a problem here as in other countries but alcohol abuse is certainly a problem, especially as heavy drinking is considered by some people to be a socially necessary or unavoidable part of both doing business on a personal level and and also as a way of relieving stress. There are psychiatrists here specializing in alcohol abuse who have their own clinics and rehabilitation day care centers. But counseling here tends to be more generic in the sense that counselors have to assist people with a wide range of social, emotional and mental issues. Not surprising I think considering there are at present 13,253 JSCCP Clinical Psychologists providing psychological counseling within a population of about 126,000,000 people. In other words the level of expertise of counselors qualified here in Japan is very good and there are very hardworking, and highly dedicated professionals counseling here trained, experienced and skilled in assisting clients with a broad range of emotional and psychological problems.

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