With Jakarta back to its old self after the Idul Fitri holiday, the nightmarish traffic has returned in full force. But instead of ranting and raving as usual, we looked for someone to talk us down off the ledge. But if you’re expecting Doreen Biehle to start blabbing about the stress-related complaints of Jakartans it’s not going to happen. There’s a little thing called doctor-patient confidentiality, which means Biehle, who splits her time between work in Jakarta and relaxation in Bogor, isn’t about to tell you whether it’s the traffic or the hectic pace of the city that has everybody pulling their hair out.
How did you end up in Jakarta?
I’m from the US and have been working and living in Jakarta since 1992. I came here after marrying my husband, Widjanako.
I’m a widow now, after he died in 2003. I’ve done many things professionally in Indonesia, mostly with international public health projects, as well as providing private psychotherapy for expats and Indonesians.
Have you ever dealt with traumatic events in Indonesia?
I have over 20 years of work experience in the mental health field. Early on in my career in Indonesia I was recruited as a technical assistant for the counseling and mental health components of dealing with HIV/AIDS.
I have work experience with USAID, international NGOs and UN agencies. Recently I’ve been focusing on trauma work. I manage a capacity-building project for mental health professionals in Aceh, which started after the tsunami.
Is there a big demand for psychotherapists in Jakarta?
Yes. I mostly get referrals from embassies, international agencies and schools.
How does someone know which therapist is right for them?
It’s important to know something about the therapist’s experience and license to practice. If the therapist holds a professional license, you can contact the license board and inquire about their standing.
This is important since there can be fake professionals out there or professionals who have violated their code of conduct.
Can you talk a bit about confidentiality?
The confidentially principles are the same as with your doctor. The exception is if there is information that may affect the client’s or another person’s safety or welfare.
In these cases I must encourage the client to tell a family member or their doctor, or if they do not agree, to assist them in telling someone.
What is the most common problem among people in Jakarta who seek treatment?
There are myriad problems, similarly to any other urban setting. There are many mental health issues such as depression, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, addiction, relationship problems and behavioral problems with children.
There are many requests for counseling about sexual orientation and cross-cultural relationships.
What do you think is the No. 1 cause of stress in Jakarta?
Work, or lack thereof.
Do you spend more time giving advice or simply listening to people’s problems?
The role of the therapist is to listen and assist the client to heal their problem. There may be some practical advice I can give, but unlike a doctor, the therapist does not say, ‘Take this or do this and you will feel better.’
How do you listen to people’s problems day in and day out? It would drive me crazy.
Yes, there is a real art in listening and helping. It can bother you after a while, especially when you hear very horrible stories about the trauma people have endured.
That’s why a therapist needs to have ongoing mentoring, supervision and support in this profession.
For someone who can’t afford a psychiatrist, are there any other alternatives?
There are many therapists who provide pro bono work or have some arrangement with reduced fees. Public health facilities and some NGOs have psychologists with reduced fees. In Jakarta there are also help lines staffed by volunteers.
You split your time between Jakarta and Bogor. What do you like about Jakarta?
I love many things in Jakarta. I enjoy the arts, movies, fine dining, exercising at Plaza Senayan, but mostly I enjoy my home in Bogor where I mountain bike, run in Kebun Raya [Bogor’s city park], hike and socialize with neighbors.
Do you participate in any other organization or association?
I am active in church and in organizations related to my profession. I’m a founder of Yayasan Sejiwa, which tackles the problem of bullying.
Some friends and I run a mountain biking community in Bogor. You can rent a bike and ride around with us. Visit our site at http://www.bogormountainbiking.com.
What is it that you find in Bogor that is not in Jakarta?
I work out of a small apartment in Jakarta. I don’t get to breathe clean air or have green space. This is why I have my sanctuary in Bogor. It is therapy for me.
What do you like the most about Jakarta?
I find the city to be quite vibrant and complete with all the modern amenities. The driving and rules of the road are quite unique. Yes, I’ve driven in Jakarta for nearly 18 years now.
Where can we find you on a Sunday morning? Saturday night?
In Bogor, mountain biking; having a laugh and drink with friends, looking for romance.
Doreen was talking to Iwan Putuhena
Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe
Picture by Iwan Putuhena
for more information on Bogor mountain biking visit www.bogormountainbiking.com