Expat Therapist Networks: IMHPJ

As practicing clinicians, we at the International Therapist Directory know firsthand the importance of having a supportive professional network of fellow practitioners available to grow alongside while engaging in clinical work. However, for therapists living the expatriate lifestyle themselves, finding such a network can be a real challenge.

In light of that reality, International Mental Health Professionals Japan (IMHPJ) have been pioneers in developing a professional support network for expatriate mental health therapists living and working in Japan.

Though the wonders of the Internet, I had the opportunity to interview Reggie Pawle, a past IMHPJ president and member since 1999.  Reggie is also listed here in the ITD.

Josh Sandoz: Reggie, in brief, how did IMHPJ first come to be formed in 1997?

Reggie Pawle: IMHPJ was formed as a result of services provided by psychotherapists to victims of the Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe, Japan, in 1995. During the process of assisting people in need, which continued for quite a while after the earthquake, psychotherapists in the area came in contact with each other. They realized their services would be improved by an organization that would facilitate continuing education, case discussions, and networking.

JS: What are IMHPJ’s core purposes?

RP: According to the IMHPJ website, they are:

– Maintaining an up-to-date database of professional therapists
– Providing a forum for discussing and making co-ordinated joint efforts related to important issues or events
– Encouraging a high standard of ethical and professional performance for mental health professionals
– Providing opportunities for continuing education for members
– Facilitating peer support and networking among members and with related Japanese mental health organizations

JS: What have been some of the benefits of establishing and maintaining IMHPJ over the last 14 years?

RP: One of the prime benefits has been to create a community of English-speaking therapists in Japan, so therapists are not isolated while working in a foreign country. Another benefit is expanding a referral network for both receiving clients and referring clients with specialized needs to qualified professionals. A third benefit is to provide credibility and standards for English-speaking clients who are seeking qualified, ethical psychotherapists. A fourth benefit is having a website, which really helps both therapists and clients find each other and coordinate services in this internet age.

JS: What have been some of the challenges?

RP: One of the challenges has been ethics, as some psychotherapists in Japan had been practicing with ethics that created problems with clients. Another challenge has been motivating psychotherapists to participate and contribute efforts to the functioning of the organization. A third challenge has been trying to decide what defines a “qualified” psychotherapist, because the standards of certification vary greatly around the world.

JS: What advice would you offer expatriate therapists in other parts of the world who might wish to emulate your association by establishing their own network of mental health professionals?

RP: I would say be gentle and persistent, and don’t compromise on your standards. It is important to offer benefits, like a website that helps get clients, and to offer quality psychotherapy events that draw people to attend and participate.

JS: Reggie, thank you. We appreciate your time and the efforts of IMHPJ. When it comes to establishing expat therapist networks, IMHPJ is an inspiration. Thank you for helping the rest of us to learn from your experiences.