Brian Ogawa reveals storied history, experience

Emily Unruh

A professor since 2001, professor Brian Ogawa officially retired from his last full time job in December, 2017. However, while he may be retiring from Washburn, Ogawa is clear that “I am not retiring from service or life.”

A truly remarkable history followed Ogawa to Washburn in 2001, beginning with his work for victims of crime throughout the U.S. Directly prior to becoming a Washburn professor, Ogawa worked as director of the Crime Victims’ Institute, traveling around the state of Texas representing Dan Morales, the Attorney General of the state at the time.

During that time, he was involved in policy recommendations and major research in the criminal justice department. “One of the largest studies at the time, victim mapping, was considered pretty avant-garde,” said Ogawa.

Ogawa has also worked with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Witness Protection Program and in victimology education, 13 years of victims’ assistance and the Witness Protection Program. Before all of that, he ran his own private practice with Morita therapy. Although he is modest about his success and work, Ogawa is the foremost teacher and practitioner of Morita therapy in the U.S. He was awarded the National Crime/Victim Service award in 1995 in the White House, by the President for his work with Morita therapy and cultural competence.

Shoma Morita in Tokyo, a contemporary of Freud, first invented Morita therapy. The therapy was originally started for anxiety based disorders, yet today it is used internationally in many different ways. Ogawa developed the therapy for post trauma and victimization.

Dealing with both human nature and nature as a whole, Morita therapy looks at human health holistically, rather than just as psychotherapy. Ogawa describes Morita therapy as “an internationally practiced, holistic precursor to modern day Eco nature.”

Morita therapy became a certificate program at Washburn in 2006, and was the only program like it in the US. The only other program is in Japan for psychiatrist students, but through Ogawa, several professors have gone through the Morita program, as well as students out of state and from Japan. One of Ogawa’s students, now Washburn Assistant Professor of Human Services, Justin Spiehs said “we did a Morita therapy intensive, where we stayed at a facility for five days. He [Ogawa] had a lasting impression on me, as both a student and a professor. He showed me how to strike a balance between humor and seriousness. He is a funny guy.”

While at Washburn, Ogawa also taught classes on cultural competence, and multiculturalism. “I really cared as a professor. I used to tell every student, I have high expectations of you, because if someone doesn’t, they don’t respect you. You can expect that of me too. That’s what we both deserve.”

Ogawa came to Washburn originally expecting to stay for 3 years. In 2006, he was given tenure and associate, and in 2013 was granted full professorship. “I’m extremely grateful for having the opportunity to be here at Washburn, primarily because of the students I’ve met. I think there are many outstanding students,” said Ogawa.

“I’ve always considered myself adventurous. I like to take risks and expand. I grew up in a concentration camp basically, then I wound up winning an award at the White House.” Ogawa was born in Manzanar, a Japanese internment camp during WW2.

He considers it both his professional and personal calling to continue that adventure of teaching and lecturing, especially about Morita therapy. His father was born in the same hometown as Morita, Meiji-era, Japan, and “it’s something that I’ve been set in. It’s part of who I am.”

Ogawa encourages students to find their own calling. “Flow like water, adapt and adjust, but it never loses it’s own integrity, no matter where it goes,” Ogawa said. “And pay it forward. The experiences you’ve learned in Washburn, perhaps through me, my lessons, and background, how I respect them [the students].”