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Family Counseling and Support in Tokyo: CareFinder talks to TELL

Family Counseling and Support in Tokyo: CareFinder Talks to TELL

The families in the CareFinder community are incredibly diverse. They speak many languages and represent countries all over the world. Some have always been in Japan, others are brand new to the country. But while every family we work with is unique, many do face similar challenges when it comes to the mental and behavioral health of their members.
We recently spoke with Selena Hoy, outreach coordinator at TELL Japan, a non-profit organization that offers counseling and related support services to international families in Tokyo. She visits schools, companies and embassies and organizes talks, workshops and lectures throughout the community to better inform and educate people about the various issues around mental and behavioral health.
We asked her for more information about TELL and its programs. She shared lots of helpful information with us and we hope you find it useful, as well!
Who does TELL serve?
We mainly serve the international community, but that includes Japanese people who have international ties or somehow consider themselves to be part of the international community. Our counseling center serves people in a variety of languages including Japanese, English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Bahasa Indonesia.
TELL offers a service named Lifeline, which is free, confidential support via telephone. Anyone, of any age, is encouraged to call if they are struggling and need someone to speak to. While there are many services similar to this in Japanese, TELL's is the only one available in English. How many people make use of Lifeline a year?
On the Lifeline, we received about 9,000 calls and chats last year. This works out to a couple hundred calls per week. The Lifeline operates only in English and about 50 percent of our callers are Japanese people who speak English.
CareFinder note: You can also volunteer as a Lifeline Support Worker. Find out more here
Many of CareFinder's families are international, or Japanese families who want their children to have exposure to other cultures and languages. Can you give us an overview of what services are available that these families may be interested in?
We also deal a lot with families, including international families and expat/migrant/immigrant families. Many of our therapists are trained to work with children in various aspects, and we also have several marriage and family therapists, including our Clinical Director, Billy Cleary. We also have an assessment team that can conduct a variety of assessments on children to diagnose for learning differences such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders and others. 
We have a monthly series called the Exceptional Parenting Program that addresses topics having to do with mental health and parenting. You can find the schedule on our page and upcoming workshops are always on our Facebook. We also have a support group for parents of children with learning differences. Interested parties can contact the group's leader, Alejandra Reyes, at
Are TELL's Exceptional Parenting Programs primarily for parents whose children are affected by the specific behavior/s addressed, or are they events all parents may be able to learn from?
All parents are able to benefit from these workshops. Of course, some topics may be more relevant to your needs than others. We have not only parents, but also educators, administrators and people who are interested in psychology who regularly come to our workshops. Everyone is welcome to these public workshops!
TELL also offers programming in the community, including anti-bullying workshops for schools. What is the process for bringing the anti-bullying programs to a school? Do you work primarily with international schools, local schools or a mixture?
We work with any school that has a significant English-speaking population and would like to work with us. We primarily work with international schools but are open to others. Some of our on-demand workshops and trainings have a fee; anyone interested should contact us for more information. 
Are there any specific behaviors or "signs" a parent might be on the lookout for in determining whether TELL's services may be helpful for their family?
There are so many different possible issues under the umbrella of mental health, that it would be impossible to answer this in a quick or pat way. But if a parent is worried about their child, if they notice behavior that they are concerned about that persists for a long period of time, it can't hurt to reach out. It doesn't have to be formally; talking to a school counselor, checking in with a support group or asking other parents can all be good first steps. We will be doing a "youth mental health" overview workshop in January (Tuesday, 28 January) in the EPP program.
For parents who are or think they may be dealing with a child with behavioral or other issues, do you have any go-to advice or tactics they can put into use right away while waiting on further outside help?
Again, it's hard to say without knowing the specific situation, and I don't want to encourage people NOT to seek help if they have a concern. Too often we wait too long to address mental health issues in a way that we wouldn't if it was a physical health problem. However, I'd encourage parents to be curious, to try to keep calm, and to model behavior (show, don't tell) they hope to teach. 
We know that every child is unique in their needs, but are there are any larger trends you see, especially among international families (for example, issues with bullying or depression)?
Cultural adjustment is a big issue with many people in the international community. There are so many changes that [an international move] can be challenging for everyone involved. Bullying is definitely a concern in Japan [as it is in] many other places. We have also seen a rise in depression, anxiety and youth suicide. Kids who have learning differences, are multicultural or racial, and those on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum may also face additional challenges that make them vulnerable to, for example, bullying. 
Beyond coming to an organization like TELL, are there any additional resources in/around Tokyo, or strategies that can be used in the home, that you often recommend to parents?
Yes, plenty! Check our website for an overview of some of the many topics that we present. There's also a resource tab lots more information!
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