Every Child

Has Two Parents


Counseling in Japan


CRN Japan suggests that many child related issues can be best resolved through counseling rather than legal activity. Improving the parents' relationship so that they want to stay together is almost always going to be better for a child than a divorce.  In other cases, a mutually agreeable resolution is better for the child's mental heath than seeing his parents battle it in court.

Unfortunately, Japanese do not have a history of counseling.  Instead, it is common to deny problems both in personal lives and at work, simply attributing them to bad personal relationships (NINKEN KANKEI GA WARUI), as if such things were completely beyond the control of any individual.  It is easier to cut all ties than to improve the relationship.  When a problem gets so severe that it interrupts life or work, Japanese tend to use psychologists who prescribe drugs, rather than counselors who will talk to you and try to work out problems. 

But counselors do exist throughout Japan, even bilingual ones trained in western style counseling.  They are familiar with common relationship problems in an international relationship and can help each partner see the other person's point of view.  When this is not enough, they may even be able to help avoid family law problems by helping everyone understand that a relationship with both parent is in a child's best interests.

Since it is so common in Japan to completely cut the child off from the other parent, we also believe that it is common for that parent to try to turn the child against the other parent. Outside Japan, this Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is recognized by psychologists and by courts.  Inside Japan, it is just beginning. CRN Japan has a special section on PAS, and lists separately, Re-integration Counseling and Services, designed to help a child or adult suffering from PAS re-form a normal relationship with his or her parent.

  1. seishinkai (psychiatrist)

  2. kaunsera (qualified psycholgical counselors)

  3. rinsho shinrishi (clinical psychologist)

  4. utsubyo (literally, "mood disorder")\


Introduction to Relationship Counseling in Japan  What types of relationship counseling is available in Japan (what's the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist here, and why do they seem to use drugs as a replacement for counseling?)

In a sense all counseling is about improving relationships, be it with their spouses, children, or people beyond the family network. These are all examples of what can be called “interpersonal relationships”. Ultimately counseling helps by nurturing a better relationship that the individual has with themselves, what’s known as the “intrapersonal” or “intrapsychic relationship”. For this reason counseling can take place between a counselor and a single individual, a couple (or “dyad”), a family, or even a larger group of 3 or 4 to a dozen members all of whom may possibly have no direct day-to day contact.

The following is a summary of these types of counseling with a brief discussion of terms given to the different types of clinicians who practice in Japan.

Individual Counseling

Perhaps the most common counseling situation is one where someone in personal crisis seeks out the help of a professional. Sometimes a single session will be enough to help a person feel more empowered to manage their predicament. They come away with a conviction of some change they can make and feel sufficient energy to carry it out. During the process of the first session, the person may discuss aspects of their personality, behavior or mood style that cannot be resolved within a single session. If they have the desire to direct attention to themselves on an ongoing basis they may choose to continue seeing the counselor again.

There are many forms of therapy that fit into the model of two people committing time, talking and allowing a deeper intra-personal relationship to evolve. As a person becomes able to accept an expanded range and depth of feelings into their daily life, they become better able to positively face and resolve situations that have previously proven too difficult. Some of the depth oriented therapies, such as the psychoanalytic or Jungian kinds, work on the assumption of bringing a person into meaningful contact with the aspects of their personal experience and emotional life which have been driven out of daily awareness. Any good therapy however, regardless of what name it goes by, supportively brings a person into contact with a deeper layer of feelings than those immediately present, and results in greater empowerment.

In Japan a person most likely to be practicing in the above manner will be calling themselves one of the following:

  1. a counselor (“counsellor” if from the british commonwealth)

心理カウンセラーshinri kaunsera

  1. a therapistセラピストserapisuto

  2. a psychotherapist心理療法士shinri ryouhoushi

  3. a clinical psychologist臨床心理士rinshou shinrishi.

There are a very small number of

  1. psychoanalysts精神分析官seishinbunsekikan and

  2. analytical psychologistsユング派分析家 Yunguha bunsekika who are accredited by their International bodies.

To the above list must be added doctors, specifically those doctors who have a specialty in mental health i.e. “psychiatrists” 精神科医seishinkai. They are the only professionals in Japan legally qualified under a law relating to mental health, entitled to proffer a diagnosis, and help through medication. The psychiatrists who do have an inclination to counseling here seem to favor cognitive behavioral therapy (“CBT”), a model that originates out of behavioral experiments on pigeons and rats. In reality it is the experience of many foreign patients in Japan that psychiatrists have heavy patient loads and a strong preference for prescribing medication. Unless the patient has a high level of Japanese, linguistic communication may not be such that counseling is actually possible.

Couple counseling

When “Relationship” counseling is talked of the speaker usually means help for a relationship between two intimates. Often it will be the case that one member of the intimates feels motivated for counseling, but that the other is skeptical or has already given up on improvement, and so the motivated member takes individual counseling. When intimates do come to counseling together the most frequent makeup is of a Western male and Japanese woman. The opposite gender balance is also seen, but in lesser number, possibly a reflection of less type of this marriage. Other variations are steady couples, expatriate couples, and same sex couples.

In couples of mixed culture ideally the counselor has deep enough mixed-culture experience themselves to be able to genuinely empathize with the feelings and predicament of each party. Couples coming in feeling hurt and vulnerable will be quick to pick up any bias in the counselor and are unlikely to submit to a process that they fear will marginalize them. By the end of the first session generally each member usually has an idea of whether they feel comfortable enough and hopeful enough to continue further. Ideally the healing and growth process of counseling should be afforded the same timespan one would consider normal for a serious illness. 

Family counseling

An extension of counseling for the couple with children is therapy for all family members. Family members are at different developmental stages. In families of mixed culture there may be tension over norms and ideals. This is complicated further in blended families where the usual given of a common history is absent. Therapy is there to provide a safe nest where all members know that the therapist is neutral and does not take sides but will support them in finding their voice and place. Family members sometimes may not all participate at the same time and may individually grow into or out of the therapy over time.

Group therapy

Perhaps the most common and successful model of large numbers of people meeting for support and growth is that of the Alcoholic Anonymous group. When the focus of the group is in supporting couples and individual spouses the regular weekly “Bion group” or “Experiential group” provides a useful model. Here a professional facilitator allows the group dynamics to unfold while managing the overall structure of the counseling and protecting the emotional safety of all members. Among other things participants learn how they are experienced by others, how they are good counselors to one another, and how they are able to give and receive empathy in relationships with types of people they had not been able to.

Resources and Counseling Organizations

  1. Tokyo Meguro Counseling Center (English & Japanese)English speaking American board-certified psychiatrist psychotherapist, cognitive-behavioral counseling (CBT) therapist, and Japan-certified Tokyo psychologist staff provide psychological counseling, psychotherapy, support, marital & family counseling, and life coaching, at this psychology service and mental health care counseling service for foreigners in the Shibuya-Ebisu area of Tokyo Japan (Meguro-ku, Shibuya-ku, Setagaya-ku, Minato-ku area of Tokyo, 25 minutes from Yokohama).



  1. Ikebukuro Counseling Center (in Japanese)  ICC provides confidential counseling in English, Japanese, and French, and also multicultural and  support groups, in addition to dance therapy groups for all residents in the Tokyo community. Bilingual counselors, JSCCP clinical psychologists and JFP psychotherapists assist individuals, couples and families experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, abuse and other difficulties in their personal, social, working, and multicultural relationships.  The ICC is associated with the Hoizumi Clinic.

    1. Helmut Rudolph, MHSc(Hons) English, Qualified bilingual therapist working at the Ikebukuro  Counseling Center and in private practice. Married to a Japanese woman and with 4 children. He is familiar with many of the challenges and opportunities that are particular to mixed marriage families, and has practiced in a variety of settings.  He is one of the few foreign therapists in Japan to offer psychoanalytic therapy. In private practice he makes counseling affordable by providing a sliding fee scale

    2. Hozumi Clinic, which is a medical and daycare center providing professional and confidential client centered, adult rehabilitation day care services, medical support, certified psychotherapy and licensed psychiatric consultation for Tokyo area residents. Assisting individuals, couples and families experiencing stress or difficulties in their interpersonal, family, social or working relationships. Japanese health insurance accepted.

  1. Tokyo Child and Adolescent Counseling  Service (In Japanese) with counselors fluent in English, Japanese, and Spanish, who are experienced in treating children and adolescents from a number of cultural backgrounds, and in particular mixed Western-Japanese children.  The director is Dr. Douglas Berger whose personal website is here.

    1. Counseling and Psychotherapy in Tokyo Japan. (In Japanese) Website of Dr. Douglas Berger, an American Board-Certified Psychiatrist conducting psychotherapy and counseling in both English and Japanese, and psychiatric research, in the Shibuya-Ebisu area of central Tokyo, Japan. Dr. Berger is experienced as a therapist in individual counseling, marriage and couples counseling; particularly Japanese-Western couples, family counseling, and group psychotherapy. 

  2. Counseling and Psychotherapy in Tokyo and Japan (In Japanese) A bilingual English Japanese site giving information on finding an approved counseling center, a Japanese Federation of Psychotherapy registered psychotherapist, a Japan Society of Certified Clinical Psychologists qualified clinical psychologist, licensed psychiatric clinic services for Tokyo community and Japan residents, plus information on how to tell a counselor, clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, psychiatric social worker or psychiatrist is certified, registered or licensed in Japan to offer mental health care and emotional, social and psychological support services.

  3. Kansai Counseling Centre - For anyone experiencing difficulty adjusting to Japan, or any other problem for which psychotherapy or counseling services are needed. Serving the Kansai (Western) area of Japan, ICC's Master's level, western-trained staff is available in English, Japanese and Spanish.  Primary focus is the foreign community, but anyone is welcome.

  4. Tokyo English Lifeline.  Tokyo English Life Line (TELL) is a multifaceted, nonprofit organization that has been serving the international and business communities since 1973. Our services include free phone counseling and information, professional face-to-face counseling, and educational workshops.

  5. Prem Dana Takada MA. Fully trained Clinical Psychologist and Family Therapist providing effective individual and couple psychotherapy for the treatment of stress, depression, anxiety, relationship, sexual and eating disorders, abuse history, psychiatric disorders, cross cultural issues, work issues and for personal growth. 17 years international work experience in Australia, England and Asia. Prem Dana's approach draws on diverse training in Cognitive Psychology, Couple and Family Therapy, Hypnotherapy and Brief and Solution Focused approaches in Australia, London, Asia and the U.S. Call (03) 3449 2526

  6. Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Tokyo University, who works with divorced couples.  Mentioned in Asahi Shinbun article.

  7. Frances Marr, the director of the Tokyo branch of DivorceCare, a counseling program for people coping with divorce.  Mentioned in Asahi Shinbun article.

  8. Hiromi Ikeuchi, divorce and marriage counselor and representative at Tokyo Kazoku Laboratory. Telephone: 813 3953 3395. An English speaking counselor is available. Fax: 813 5996 3860. Web site (in Japanese): www.ikeuchi.com

  9. International Mental Health Professionals Japan URL: www.imhpj.org  A multi-professional association of therapists who provide mental health services to the international community.

  10. ISSJ - International Social Services in Japan.  - Their website claims they are "Sanctioned by the Ministry of Health and Welfare" and they appear to have a relationship with the UN and the Philippines.  They have counseling and several other services.  Reports are mixed.  Some people thank them heartily for their help and others say they wont get involved in anything controversial.

  11. Mood Disorders Association of Japan (Japanese only) -

  12. Federation of Inochi no Denwa (Japanese only) - Looks like an association for counseling hotlines.  The phone numbers are hard to find, but look here.  There are also some in English.

  13. Utsu-sapo Seikatsu Kojo Iinkai - Japanese language internet support group for spouses of people suffering from depression.

Resources (Reintegration Services)

  1. The Rachel Foundation for Family Reintegration provides reintegration programs and services for parents and children whose bonds of love and affection have been damaged or destroyed by abduction and/or alienation.


  1. Feminism, Autonomic Imbalance, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  In Japanese it's called jiritsu shinkei shichosho"but despite the serious-sounding name, autonomic imbalance is not generally a major problem. The books [in Japan] make it clear that it is a problem caused by "stress," and surprise, surprise, the treatment is mainly tranquilizers and rest."  (cached copy)

  2. Depression; Japan Times; July 10, 2005.  Although the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimates of Japanese suffering from depression are less than one percent, an NHK documentary claims it to be one person in seven, nearly 15 percent.  Depression has been a hidden disease, but is becoming more recognized in Japanese society, and hence more treatable.  (cached copy)

  3. Pills To The Rescue?; Japan Times; July 10, 2005.  Modern anti-depressants have finally come to Japan, and are making more and more money for the drug companies. (cached copy)

  4. Support groups to aid of all affected; Japan Times; July 10, 2005.  Support groups in Japan for depression are scarce but growing. (cached copy)


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The information on this website concerns a matter of public interest, and is provided for educational and informational purposes only in order to raise public awareness of issues concerning left-behind parents. Unless otherwise indicated, the writers and translators of this website are not lawyers nor professional translators, so be sure to confirm anything important with your own lawyer.

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