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Japan Times Article by Angela Jeffs - August 10th 1997

Recovering ourselves from the muddle of our lives

Are you stressed, anxious, even deeply depressed? Abusing yourself with food, drugs or alcohol - possibly because you were abused as a child?

Or is it more a feeling that Japan is driving you crazy, that your established ways are just not working here? Maybe you're finding it hard to adjust, leading to trouble at work, in your marriage, with your kids.

Certainly modern-day Japan is not the hardship post it was considered even a decade ago, but it still may be necessary to create new modes of behavior and thinking to get a handle on life here. Alternatively, you may just want to use the unique opportunity to grow and expand your current state of being, utilizing the "Japan Experience" for personal transformation.

There can be few people in the world, believes psychotherapist and healer Prem Dana, who could not benefit from working toward recovery from long-term problems, a more immediate crisis, or just the sense of not wanting to waste a potentially positive experience.

For the last few years she has been counseling foreign and English-speaking Japanese clients in Tokyo who are ready to face their problems, and who want to resolve their difficulties and move on in their lives in a constructive way. Previously she was in Omote-sando. More recently she moved her office to near Meguro station.

PSYCHOTHERAPIST AND HEALER Prem Dana counsels foreign and English-speaking Japanese clients in Tokyo who are ready to face their problems, and who want to resolve their difficulties and move on in their lives in a constructive way.

A slim, gentle, attractive woman in her 30s (so "nice" that the initial impression at least is definitely more sugar than spice), Prem Dana talked in her counseling room. Though the decor is simple, it is distinctly unspartan with daffodil colored chairs, sweet-pea hued scatter cushions, a "shoji" screen and ethnic rugs. Very easy to relax in and feel "at home."

Yet she reacted in surprised discomfort as I began to ask questions. It was a new experience, she said, laughing nervously, to be on the other side of the fence in such a situation, having to discuss her personal life and feelings to a stranger instead of the other way round. "I'm not sure how I feel about it yet," she admitted.

Explaining that her approach combines the spiritual understanding of Eastern practices with the psychological and emotional healing expertise of Western psychotherapeutic practices, she stressed "integration, understanding and trust" as the primary focus her work.

Personal and work experiences have shown that it is often when one is away from one's home environment that the aspects of a personality or a relationship tend to surface. She believes it both a challenge and a paradox that such aspects can be the door to self-awareness and personal advancement.

"I've always been a listener, as much concerned with the problems of the world as wanting to listen to myself," she revealed. "Even as a child growing up in Australia I was like that."

Her mother was a kindergarten teacher, her father a carpenter, and with her brothers and sister, her 94 year old grandmother and twin sister (Australia's answer to Kin-san and Gin-san), are all still in Melbourne. "Though geographically distant we're still very close, respecting the differences in our work and life styles. But I'm the most different, I guess."

After training in clinical psychology she developed expert skills through specializing in depression and eating disorders. She then gained registration as a Family Therapist. This enabled her to work with individuals, couples, even entire families, all within the context of what she regards as "the interactive and powerfully molding force of the family unit."

She left Australia two days after her 30th birthday, wanting to gain a broader outlook in her chosen profession. "First, I went to England" she explained. "I worked with a practice in West London and also studied hypnotherapy in Oxford. Then I went to India.”

With a name like Prem Dana, the meditational name she was given in Poona (Prem means love, Dana, giving), it is obvious that India was a powerful influence, both through time spent living in an international therapy and spiritual center and the people she met there. One of these was her Japanese partner, which in large part explains why she finds herself at home these days in Tokyo.

"It was while living in the ashram that I further developed my thinking and techniques in the link between spirituality and psychology," she explained. "I believe this understanding helps me provide therapy as a bridge to healing and recovery at the very deepest levels. Hence the name, 'Psychotherapy and Healing Practice.' "

Asked to describe case histories that might offer some insight into her approach. she shook her head. "Not without permission - and obviously those most seriously troubled people wouldn't want their problems made public. You have to understand my clients trust me with their lives. But if you give me time, I'll ask around."

Two non-Japanese women proved willing to talk. (Male clients, whatever their nationality, are apparently much more hesitant.)

One in her 20s recently sought assistance with overcoming a block in following her chosen career. Within several sessions, she began to take practical steps in achieving her goal while repositioning herself in relation to her family members. "I would say that overall, therapy led to an increase in clarity and direction for herself in life," said Prem Dana.

This first woman, "M," said that after two months of working with Prem Dana, she felt only gratitude. The Australian therapist was able to give her exactly what she needed at that particular point in her life, making her see things more clearly and with renewed confidence.

"M" believes Prem Dana has a deep intuitive understanding for feelings and situations that could otherwise sometimes be hard to express. "Prem" is a "nice" person, and definitely a great therapist!" said "M."

The second woman, in her early 30s, has been in therapy on a longer term basis, working on her sense of identity, and her ways of being in the world in relation to herself, her career, family and partner.

This client, having been through therapy before, had been made aware of various experiences in her past that had contributed to her adult personality and behavior, but had not been properly guided on how to change that behavior. Prem Dana, however, she believes has a treasure store of "tricks" up her sleeve; she is brilliant at choosing a precise "exercise" that is most appropriate to the session's challenge.

"Whether it is hypnosis, guided imagery, an active exercise like communicating with various aspects of oneself, or just careful listening sparked with poignant questions, "K" kindly faxed, "most sessions end up being incredibly valuable."

With both these clients, Prem Dana felt her capacity lay in continuing to encourage and guide them in the discovery and expression of their preferred outcome. "It would seem that Japan offers a unique experience to people that is both exciting and stressful at times. Examining oneself outside the confines of one's own culture allows for people to begin to be the determiners or authors of their own lives."

Not only is she protective of her clients privacy, but also very careful in handling their psyches and egos, Her softly thoughtful, slightly breathy manner of speaking may in large part be a reflection of this approach.

As for the future, she plans to run a series of group workshops that focus on specific topics like relating, emotions and gender issues, as well as work progressively in a general way through communication and integration.

Prem Dana apologized for that early touch of paranoia in being questioned. Yet while talking a lot and appearing very open, she had managed to give very little away on a truly personal level, which can only be described as psychologically very adroit.

"I've been lucky," she countered. "I've faced many difficulties in my life, therefore, I have an experiential knowledge of the recovery process on top of the learned one. While grateful to all those problems for that, I 'm protective, too. It's true that there is still a lot of stigma attached to the human condition of emotional and psychological distress. So while I'm nowhere near so-called perfect, really I'm good enough."

The Psychotherapy and Healing Practice is now located near JR Shinagawa Station. Sessions are one hour in duration unless otherwise scheduled. For an appointment or to inquire about group therapy call 03-3491-8144 or phone fax 03-3449 2526.


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