Japan and San Francisco – the existential connection

 Yes, Europe played a role, but to Kingo Matsuda America is the “origin of psychotherapy” – especially person-centered therapy.

That’s why Kingo, the Director of the Overseas Department for the Academy of Counselors Japan, was at Saybrook this month with 15 students.  Together they went through training in humanistic and existential therapy provided by leading experts on the Saybrook faculty, including Kirk Schneider and Charles Cannady. 

Since 2004 Saybrook has worked with the Academy of Counselors Japan to give its students, who will upon graduation be front line therapists and counselors in that country, a strong grounding in existential-humanistic approaches

Saybrook, Kingo says, has that expertise – although ironically person-centered approaches to therapy may be more popular in Japan than in the U.S..

“Person-centered is very popular in Japan,” says Kingo.  “However, they have never had anything like existential therapy or gestalt therapy.  So they can expand their knowledge here, and bring it back to Japan and as a counselor their insight is expanded.  They can expand their insight.”

This year studies focused on existential-humanistic therapy, gestalt therapy, and sand tray therapy (a technique for working with children).  Next year, Saybrook faculty will travel to Japan to continue the exchange.

Schneider says it’s a wonderful opportunity, both for teaching and for cultural exchange. 

“I am somewhat infatuated with the Japanese Academy folks,” he says.  “I sense a very deep kinship there, and despite our disparate Western and Eastern backgrounds, the existential notions of presence and being (vs. strictly doing) have notable implications for bridge building. My sense is that the workshop went remarkably well, with deep appreciation for each other all around.”

Kingo certainly thinks so.  “I would like to strengthen the relationship between my school and Saybrook,” he says.  “It is a great opportunity.  The people who come to the Academy of Counselors Japan are very keen on becoming counselors.  Often they have had sad experiences themselves, family members passing away or committing suicide, and after healing themselves they want to help others with the same problems.  This training is very important to deepening their knowledge of how to help others that way.”

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