In an increasingly globalised world, the confluence of Eastern and Western therapeutic methods can offer novel ways to address mental health.
A recent narrative review proposes a synthesis of a Western-originated treatment for depression known as behavioural activation (BA) with the Japanese concept of ikigai – the purpose of living. The findings were published in the Journal of Contemporrary Psychotherapy.
BA, rooted in cognitive behaviour therapy, is an established method to treat depression. It is premised on the idea that lack of positive reinforcements for an individual’s actions can lead to depressive behaviours, setting off a self-reinforcing cycle. Contemporary BA approaches emphasise the identification of personal values that guide behaviours, urging patients to engage in activities that align with those values.
On the other hand, ikigai, a traditional non-psychotherapeutic approach, emerges from Japanese cultural history. Its inception into modern parlance dates back to 1908, used to denote the essence of a fulfilling life. Although details about its origins remain scant, its significance in modern Japanese thought is undeniable.
Both BA and ikigai center around the reflection of personal values in daily decisions. Where they differ is their approach. While BA is structured and rooted in psychology, ikigai leans more towards intuitive and metaphorical heuristics.
There is a wealth of evidence underscoring the adaptability of BA to various cultural contexts, enhancing its efficacy. However, there’s limited research concerning its application in a Japanese context. The incorporation of ikigai, familiar to many Japanese, might enhance the acceptability and effectiveness of BA.
Blending these two approaches can serve multiple purposes. For one, it can foster adherence in patients familiar with both cultures. It also recognises the importance of considering a patient’s cultural values in therapy, thereby improving the therapist-patient relationship.
Both BA and ikigai emphasise the importance of living in accordance with one’s values. While BA focuses on identifying these values and acting upon them, ikigai prompts individuals to reflect on what gives their life purpose and worth.
The integration of these concepts in therapy could be particularly beneficial in our multicultural world. As societies become more diverse, therapists need tools that account for this diversity, and the combination of BA and ikigai might be one such tool.
While it’s essential to avoid overgeneralisations and remain sensitive to individual variations, the synthesis of BA and ikigai holds promise. Such cultural bridging may catalyse the therapeutic process, resulting in treatments that resonate more deeply with patients, leading to better outcomes.
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