We would like to continue to clarify issues about our service. To emphasize our first comment, we did not sue patients or ex-patients. We only sued a minority of anonymous redditors who made defamatory, harassing, and farcical statements about myself and my practice. Again, we are pro-free speech as protected by law. The law also protects the rights of those attacked by outright false and derogatory statements to seek available and appropriate relief through the legal process.
As a number of posters have noted, the vitriol of many of the posts are far above the usual negative reviews one can see on-line so that the threads are clearly a type of cyber-harassment and cyber-bullying on reddit. Statements with descriptors about myself like: “fucking maniac”;“piece of shit”;“gives patients the creeps”;“scam artist with a doctorate”;“cast-iron racist”;“a charlatan”and other similar statements makes it clear that the discussion has malicious intent over and above being a review. While there is a lot of good information on Reddit, Reddit also has a long history of being used as a platform to harass individuals.
Regarding my credentials, I, Douglas Berger, am a graduate of New York Medical College obtaining a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. I then completed a full 4-year accredited residency in psychiatry and a 1-year fellowship in psychosomatic medicine after residency. I received US Board Certification in Psychiatry that is still active. I also have a Ph.D. from Tokyo University for psychiatric research done in Japan presented to the Department of Psychiatry at Tokyo University when I was a researcher at the Tokyo University Department of Psychosomatic Medicine.
This is an index of my original Diplomas, Certificates, and Medical Licenses. In alphabetical order: 1. ABPN (American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology Board Certification), 2. AOA (Alpha Omega Alpha, Medical School Honor Certificate), 3. Conn_Lic (State of Connecticut Medical License, expired in good standing, no plan to return to Connecticut), 4. Montefiore (Fellowship in Consultation/Liaison Psychiatry [now called Psychosomatic Medicine] at the Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine), 5. NMBE (National Board of Medical Examiners U.S. Medical Licensing Exam Diplomate), 6. NYMC (New York Medical College Doctor of Medicine Diploma), 7. NYMCPI (Psychiatric Residency at New York Medial College Completion Certificate), 8. Nevada_Lic (State of Nevada Medical License, still registered, inactive, in good standing. To be reactivated if/on return to Nevada), 9. New_York_Lic (State of New York Medical License, expired in good standing, no plan to return to New York), 10. Todaieigo (Tokyo University School of Medicine Doctorate Diploma in English), 11. Todai Nihongo (Tokyo University School of Medicine Doctorate Diploma in Japanese), 12. UCONN (University of Connecticut Bachelors of Science-Biology/Pathobiology).
After residency in psychiatry, I worked in New York for a number of years full-time as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine affiliated hospitals. Then I came to Japan on a research grant co-sponsored thru the U.S. National Institutes of Health and The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. After this grant, I continued to do psychiatric research (the papers published with my Japanese co-researchers are on my personal HP). I managed clinical trial work for industry on both nervous system and other medications, and wished to fill the gap for Western persons requiring mental health care that live in Japan. Neither doing psychiatric research, managing clinical trials, nor running a counseling practice in Japan requires U.S. state medical license. The state medical licenses and faculty affiliation as Assistant professor of Psychiatry at the Einstein College of Medicine needed to expire or be placed on inactive status if an MD does not practice in that state. Graduating a U.S. medical school, completion of an accredited psychiatric residency, completing the U.S. National Board of Medical Exam, active Board-Certification in Psychiatry, a Ph.D. in Japan from a Department of Psychiatry, history of working for many years as a university hospital psychiatrist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and having many research publications, seems to be enough of a “credential overload” for one person who is only running a counseling center.
Redditors noted that I applied for a medical license in Florida in 2011, I wanted to work in Florida a few months a year as a temporary staff doctor because I have family there. You can’t even begin to apply for a license if you didn’t graduate medical school, pass the National Medical Board Exam, and finish an accredited residency program. The Florida Board noted I was indeed still Board-Certified in psychiatry. When it seemed the Florida Board would probably want me to spend more time in Florida than I could in order to start-up a license there I withdrew my application as I can not leave my work in Tokyo for very long. One reviewer on the Florida Board meeting recording stated it seemed I was practicing medicine in Japan without a license because she confused my practice of "psychotherapy" with practicing "medicine". I called the Florida Board and they understand the situation on the phone, but they are not going to change the record just for redditors. It should be a moot point because it is logistically impossible to practice medicine, i.e., give a prescription to a Japanese pharmacy, if you don't have a license. I do not, and have never been able to practice medicine in Japan. It is hard for me to understand how a redditor can figure out how to get my Florida license application information but not figure out that it is impossible to write prescriptions in Japan without a license, nor get to the stage to apply for a license in Florida without graduating medical school, passing the National Board of Medicine test, finishing an accredited residency program, and having specialty Board Certification. This is either due to poor understanding of how medicine is practiced, or they are just trying to use this data as food for criticism.
The vast majority of the many foreign therapists or counselors in Japan do not have any degree or license recognized in Japan (one person may have a counseling association certificate, but that is not a license; see below about foreign MDs). Most have a masters or Ph.D., but only from their home country. My credentials are clearly noted and verifiable on our websites and in recent reddit threads. I do have a Japanese doctorate, and I do clearly state in multiple places on the websites and information sent to clients and in an Informed Consent they sign on starting therapy, that I do not practice medical care in Japan. I've never seen other non-Japan certified foreign therapists state, "I do not practice licensed mental health care in Japan" as clear as we do (I suspect they do not want to wave that sign around). We have always been clear about our credentials and scope of practice on our web sites and Informed Consents clients sign.
It should be noted here that some MDs from the UK or NZ in Japan have received a limited medical license to treat foreigners because there is an exchange treaty between these countries and Japan, but they cannot treat within the Japanese health insurance, are not allowed to do medical care for Japanese citizens, and must still refer to a Japan licensed Dr in order for their patients to use insurance (just like we do). They did not take the Japanese National Board of Medical Licensure test. Usually their charges are very high when they prescribe to foreigners outside the insurance system. Unfortunately, the U.S. does not have this kind of exchange treaty. To get a medical license in Japan would require even a psychiatrist to take the Japan National Medical Board Exam in Japanese on surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, ob-gyn, etc. and my Japanese wasn't up to taking this test in my first few years out of medical school when I still knew these other topics well. There are only a small handful of foreign born and trained medical doctors who did not at least partially grow up in Japan or go to Japanese school or juku as a child, etc., who have taken and passed the Japan National Medical Board Exam in Japanese (not the reciprocal treaty) over the last 50 years, but none in practice in Japan since the mid-90s have been psychiatrists, and only one before that.
Again, we encourage all to exercise their right to free speech, we also urge everyone to do so responsibly, within the confines of the law. These same rights and responsibilities of freedoms apply to myself, to redditors, and to anyone who wishes to enjoy living in our modern free society.
Douglas Berger, M.D., Ph.D., U.S. Board-Certified Psychiatrist in Tokyo
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The Meguro Counseling Center consists of Western-trained therapists able to provide face-to-face mental-health care for the international community in Tokyo. With extensive experience in Japan, these therapists have a deep understanding of the stresses of living in Japan.