|LIFE IN JAPAN
Dr Jonna D. Douglass,
Clinical Psychologist and Family Therapist
Time in Japan:
Two and a half years
Where are you from?
I' from the States. I lived in Florida for about 17 years before I came to Japan, and
numerous other places before that. I grew up in the Midwest.
What brought you to Japan?
This is my second time in Japan. Thirty years ago I was here with my husband, who was
career Navy, and we lived in Hayama. This time I came for a job and stayed in that
position for about four or five months. Then I resigned and opened my own office.
How did you go about opening your own office?
Well, it required that I have a Japanese sponsor, so a friend who knew that I faced
leaving Japan otherwise said he thought he could help. He knew a wonderful Japanese couple
in Tochigi Prefecture who were in a position to sponsor me, and now I do a bit of
consulting for them regarding families who have disabled children. The rest of the time I
have a psychotherapy and consulting practice with the foreign community.
What kind of clientele do you have?
From the nationality perspective, about half of my clients are from North America. The
other half are made up of people from all over the world. The problems are pretty much the
same as you encounter anywhere, like relationship issues, work problems, stress reactions,
school problems, and more medical issues of depression and anxiety. But because of the
international aspect, the life stories are very different from those in the States.
Do you have a specialty?
One focus I have is "family systems therapy," meaning the stresses put on a
family when changes occur. That could be couple work, difficulty with kids, or other
problems between people within a family or organization. I use a lot of dream and art
imagery. I sometimes have people draw, and I look at their art in a psychological way and
see what unconsciously might be going on that affects their life.
Do many people come to you with international marriage problems?
Yes. In international marriages often people will look at their problems as a product of
their different cultures. That's certainly one factor, but even within the same culture,
people decide to share a life with people from different families and different places.
Gender differences are almost like a different culture as well, so international
differences are just another overlay. When two people decide to make a home together, they
come with all their different backgrounds and they need to respect those differences and
learn to effectively communicate and negotiate across them rather than try to erase them.
What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a foreigner in Japan?
Not being able to speak the language. I have friends who are fluent in Japanese and I
think they have made relationships in a different kind of way than you can if you don't
Do you have any advice for people coming to Japan?
Be open-minded and adaptable. Adaptability is a necessity when you're living in another
culture. You can be really excited about all the differences at first, but after a while
you want things to be like you know. Curiosity and a desire to constantly learn new things
makes you more patient with things that seem different.
What's your recipe for a happy and successful life in Japan?
Patience and the realization that a different way of living isn't better or worse, it's
Contact Dr Douglass at 03-5570-5225 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Jonna D. Douglass spoke to Maki Nibayashi.
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