During times of difficulty a school counselor can be a tremendous help. One of the things I love about working in a school is that I am available to help people in a setting where they are as opposed to working out of an office that requires the student or family to travel. I am thankful that students feel comfortable coming by themselves or in groups to talk about issues with friends, family, academics, or other personal struggles. I am constantly amazed by students who overcome challenges by recognizing that a particular issue is too tough to handle alone and seek out a supportive adult who will work patiently and effectively alongside them. Very often the work we do together and the new ways of thinking and doing that result resolve the concerns and leave the student empowered enough to move forward. There are also occasions when the needs of a particular student or family exceed the level of support I can provide for any number of reasons. In those cases, having a good outside referral network is essential to provide for the mental health of my school community.
Below are a several suggestions on how to proceed:
- Ask for a referral - As a school counselor, I am in a unique position to know both the student and area therapists. While certainly their is no magic formula, I can often help save time and energy by recommending someone who I think may be able to best support a particular concern or connect with a specific person.
- Find a practitioner who is active in the local mental health professional community – Any reputable therapist will tell you about their referral procedure for those cases where they feel another therapist is a better fit. One of the earliest lessons in therapy is that we are not going to be able to work effectively with every person who comes into our office. Sometimes the best way to help is to refer someone to another therapist.
- Shop Around – The single most influential factor in the outcome of therapy is the quality of the relationship between the therapist and client. A solid connection with your therapist is more important than any diploma on the wall or ranking of their website. You will not hurt a therapist’s feelings if you decide to explore other possibilities. In fact, feel comfortable asking them for help finding someone else if you think that is going to help you.
- Not Just Medication - It seems more and more common for people to expect that a prescription is all they need to help them feel better. With the developments in modern medicine this expectation perhaps makes sense but unfortunately is not the case in mental health. Mental health concerns result out of a complex interrelationship between an individual and their environment. Medication, at best, can help a person take the edge off a particular difficulty but will not change the contextual or behavioral patterns that foster and sustain the issue. Find a therapist first and then together you can discuss the extent that medication might be useful.
- Beyond Google - One of the challenges of finding a good English speaking practitioner in Japan is that within the national health care system, mental health treatment is offered through the hospitals in Japanese or through independent Japanese psychiatrists who run their own clinics. With few exceptions, private clinicians often rely heavily on medication and provide very little in the way of counseling or talk therapy. While there are some outstanding English speaking practitioners in the area, this also means that therapists are left almost entirely unregulated since a national governing body doesn’t oversee either Japanese or non-Japanese therapists.
In Tokyo and Yokohama, in addition to asking for a referral from your school counselor, there are two main places to start looking for a qualified therapist.
International Mental Health Professionals Japan is a professional organization
|TELL counseling is an independent organization that employs a wide range of
practitioners and offers a range of counseling and assessment services that
are best accessed by contacting their office. They do have a small satellite
office in Yokohama with regular hours throughout the week.
They can be contacted through their website.