The Yomiuri Shimbun
Dear Fresh Perspective:
I know I need to talk to someone, but I can’t figure out who. Are there any rules or hints for how to pick a therapist? What and whom should I watch out for? Any suggestions or advice you may have would be greatly appreciated.
Looking for a Therapist
Dear Looking for a Therapist:
There are several challenges for new clients, as there are many different schools of counseling. But research clearly shows that you need to find someone whose plan for helping you makes sense and is one you believe will work. The most important part is finding someone you feel good about working with. It will be a partnership, and you need to feel assured that the person who is helping you understands you and is someone you will feel comfortable talking to. You may be disclosing uncomfortable or unpleasant things, so you need to have confidence in the person.
While it’s quite reasonable to “interview” several counselors before picking one, tell them up front that this is what you are doing. Expect to pay for each of these sessions. Choose the therapist who best understood you and related to you in a way you feel will help solve your issues.
A few warnings: Since there is no government licensing system for counselors in Japan, you need to make sure that your potential therapist is well trained and experienced. It is always OK to ask about this. Beware if they do not give clear answers or claim that credentials and experience don’t matter. You also have the right to expect clear and reasonably simple rules to follow regarding payment and charges for cancelled or changed session times. You definitely deserve someone whose main interest is in helping you. Ask what ethics code they subscribe to and where you can find it. (It may be online.) Poor answers in this area should disqualify someone from consideration.
Luckily there are a number of well-trained professional counselors in the Tokyo area. A very good place to find them is http://www.imhpj.org. All the clinical members have had their experience and credentials vetted and all members have agreed to follow the Ethics Code on the Web site. You will still need to interview people to find the best person for you–but going though this Web site will save you time and provide reassurance regarding ethics and training.
Jim McRae, PhD
This is a column in which English-speaking psychologists and members of International Mental Health Professionals Japan (IMHPJ) offer their views on questions involving relationships, family matters and other issues.