Personal Counseling

Why School Counseling?


Professional school counselors are certified professionals with a masters degree or higher in school counseling or the equivalent, and are uniquely qualified to address the individual needs of all students. Professional school counselors work towards delivering a comprehensive school counseling program that promotes maximum student achievement through the academic, personal, and social development of all students. Their work is differentiated by attention to developmental stages of student growth, including the needs, tasks and student interests related to those stages. At Sacred Heart, the Personal Counselor and the University Counselor work in partnership to support Sacred Heart students in their college and career paths.

Systemic and Holistic Approach

At Sacred Heart, Ms. Dega works together with students, parents, faculty, staff and outside community resources to provide a comprehensive counseling approach in the following areas:

  • Individual counseling, check-ins, and lunch bunches:  Students in grades K-12 can meet with Ms. Dega regarding adjustment, worries or feelings of anxiety, friendships or conflicts, identity issues, academic and career planning, personal goals, family crises, or to process any life events or feelings they are having.
  • Personal Education: Ms. Dega teaches the High School Personal Education classes to all students in grades 9-10.  Personal Education classes focus on social-emotional learning and personal growth.  Topics include: 
    • safety and protective behaviors
    • mental health awareness 
    • gossip and rumors
    • social media and cyber civics
    • failure and success
    • mindfulness
    • stress management
    • body image and self-esteem
    • consent and sexual health
    • gender and sexuality
  • Curriculum support: Ms. Dega plans and delivers lessons in the Junior school in various social-emotional topics.  She also supervises the Toolbox initiative that provides structure and opportunity for students to practice skills in emotional regulation, communication, and mindset. The 12 tools are: 
    • Use Our Words Tool
    • Patience Tool
    • Courage Tool
    • Garbage Can Tool (let the little things go)
    • Breathing Tool
    • Quiet Safe Place Tool
    • Please and Thank You Tool
    • Apology and Forgiveness Tool
    • Taking Time Tool 
    • Empathy Tool
    • Listening Tool
    • Personal Space Tool
  • Responsive Services: Responsive services are measures that meet  students' immediate and future needs. These needs can be necessitated by events and conditions in students' lives and may require any of the following:
    • Individual or small group counseling or crisis counseling
    • Consultation with parents, teachers, and other educators
    • Referrals to community resources and/or practitioners 

Communication and Parent Support

Together with parents and families, we strive to create a kind, caring and safe school environment for our students. We consider strong partnerships with parents, guardians, and families to be key to student success and helping students to feel part of a safe and supportive learning community. Parents are encouraged to contact the School Counselor directly with concerns or questions regarding their child's personal/social or academic needs. 

The school does not automatically contact parents of students who see the School Counselor as confidentiality is an important part of the service for many students. However, we do contact parents if students would benefit from longer-term counseling, which is not offered in school, and also of course, if there is any question of the student’s safety.

About Ms. Dega

Hello, and thank you for visiting the School Counselor’s page!  I cannot believe how time has flown, and that this is my third year at Sacred Heart and living in the beautiful country of Japan.  What I find so special about Sacred Heart is the welcoming feeling as soon as you walk in the front door as well as the leadership opportunities that the girls are encouraged to explore.  Most of all, I love being a part of a community in which women support one another each day and are able to pursue their passions freely.

A little background about me is that I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and before arriving at Sacred Heart, I worked in Nashville, Tennessee as an Elementary School Counselor.  There, I developed my skills in partnering with students to help them to reach their full potential, teaching a school-wide social-emotional curriculum, and working with various stakeholders in the community.

I graduated from Wheaton College in Massachusetts with a B.A. in Psychology and Elementary Education.  I then decided to pursue the field of counseling, and I enrolled at Vanderbilt University’s M.Ed. program in Human Development Counseling.  I graduated in 2011, and have been a school counselor ever since. 

At Sacred Heart, I teach 9th and 10th grade Personal Education.  In this weekly class, we explore a wide range of topics such as personal safety, mental health and wellness, relationships, and communication.  It is my hope that our students will work in their classroom communities to build connections with one another and support each other's personal growth.  

As the K-12 personal counselor, I am available to meet with students in groups or individually through the grade levels, and I look forward to helping them reach their personal, social, and academic goals.  I also enjoy every aspect of my job.  It’s been inspiring to meet with students individually or in small groups and get to know them better and hear their stories. 

 In my free time, I spend time with my husband and our two adorable french bulldogs, Leo and Gilligan.  The four of us love to travel to new places in Japan together - It’s true, we brought them all the way to Kyoto last year!

Thank you again for your time and support, and please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.  

Rachel Dega 

About Mrs. Kottegoda-Breden

Hello!  I’m Mrs. Natasha Kottegoda-Breden, I am a MS parent at the school and I am very proud to be a part of the ISSH Counseling department.  I really enjoy our International school community, the friendship, the bonding and emotional support that I witness on a daily basis between our girls is truly inspiring and uplifting.  This comradery and spirit of female friendship really takes me back to my early childhood, growing up in an all-girls Independent School in the UK from the ages of 4 until 18.  I can honestly say, hand on heart, my best friends to this day are my school friends, they even come and visit me in Japan from the UK when they can get away!  Just to let you know a bit about me.  Over the past 15 years, with our young family in tow, my husband and I have lived and worked in many diverse countries such as Sri-Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.  This is our 6 th country and hopefully we are here to stay for a while! After many years in Corporate HR, I trained as a life and executive coach ten years ago and then moved onto Counselling and therapy training thereafter.  I hold a Master’s degree in Counselling and professional accreditations in Life Coaching, Solutions Focused Therapy, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Motivational Interviewing and a Diploma in NLP.

For the past year, I have worked at ISSH as a Personal Counselor, helping our students to discover a true sense of themselves and their values.  I teach them strategies to cope with life’s many challenges whether it be coping with erratic or low moods, high stress or anxiety, teaching new skills to improve difficult friendships/relationships, coping with family conflict or break up or integrating into a new school environment.  Some students simply need help with setting academic and personal goals so they can get the most out of the school year ahead.  Whatever your needs, my door is always open!  You can find me at school on Fridays in the counselling room and please try to email me ahead to book an appointment: