I initially came to Japan to study martial arts, thinking that, after ten years in
practice, I' take a break from therapy. I soon discovered that I wasn't going to be able
to do that. I was constantly being called upon to use my skills and training. I found that
there was a real need here for a quality psychotherapist, so I started a practice. I'm now
coming up on my 11th anniversary in Japan.
I wake up around 6 or 6:30am. The early morning is my time with God. I meditate, go for
a walk, read and take time to contemplate some of the important questions of life, like
why am I here and how can I serve better. I take that time to focus and prepare for the
I usually begin seeing clients at am. and I work with clients most of the day, usually
ending about 9pm, so I work the whole day, it's usually completely full with clients. It's
very exciting, very energizing and very draining all at the same time. I work with people
back to back the momentum and the energy builds on itself during the course of the day and
so for me it's a very effective way to work and focus. When I'm on, I'm on and when I'm
off, I'm off. To maintain a balance I take long weekends--my working week is Wednesday
through Saturday--at which time I get away, I travel, I walk, I get out as much as
possible. But I do find my work tremendously exhilarating, so that really helps.
Most of the people who seek me out are finding that Tokyo gives them a different
picture of themselves. They see some things about themselves, some strengths, some courage
they didn't know they had before, and they see some things about themselves that they
really don't like. Dealing with the intensity and stress of Tokyo really brings out
different aspects of people's characters and that's usually what brings them in. I think a
lot of people have very old style notions about what psychotherapy is.
Most people seem to believe you only seek out a psychotherapist if you're mentally ill
or in such an absolute crisis that death is the only other alternative. For many
therapists though, while we still work with people in severe crisis, our work is focused
more and more on helping normal and healthy individuals to really take a look at their
lives and the challenges and themes that run through them and finding ways to deepen their
experience of life, to understand themselves better.
The atmosphere of the room where I do therapy is absolutely vital. I have a very
tranquil office space on the edge of a Japanese garden and the room I have at the moment
is the best room I've ever had for working in. It's sunny, it's full of light and flowers
and it's very quiet. That makes a tremendous difference because clients can come here and
feel that they aren't in Tokyo for a brief period and that allows them to really focus on
what they need to work on.
One of the things that I love most about working in Japan is that my clients come from
all over the world and they're all ages. I never know what kind of issues and problems
will be walking in the door. I have a truly international client base which varies a great
deal in composition. There's always a lot of Americans and a fair number of Japanese and
then the rest are other Asians, Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders. It's one of the
true gifts of working here.
I consider my work with clients to be a sacred trust in that they are inviting me to
help examine their lives in depth and that is a courageous and vulnerable invitation. I
have entered into . It is a commitment I take very seriously and which I feel very
privileged to be a part of.
Ann Spiers spoke with Paul Betney
Do you know an interesting person in Tokyo? E-mail us at email@example.com