A Community of Heart Profile: Masaya Ichii



On a sunny, lovely day, at the EMDRIA 2002 Conference in San Diego, I had the chance to visit with Masaya Ichii, in the Rose Garden, and learn about him and his life story. Despite the difficulties of the Japanese-English language barrier, Masaya graciously gave of his time to shed light on himself for the EMDR community.

From the time that Masaya was an only child in Ohtsu, Japan, he was interested in how people became happy. Beginning in his own household, Masaya studied first hand, the differences between his parents' styles and the effects that it had on the relationships in his family. Intrigued, Masaya was going to pursue the study of writing to answer his question until he was exposed to the world of Psychology, and went on in this field.

Education in Japan has its own structure. Masaya was familiar with courses where people listened very carefully, and did not ask questions. In 1985, he received a B.A. in Psychology from Waseda University and in 1988 he received a M.A. in Psychology from there as well. However, the more he studied, the more depressed Masaya became. He said that he had pursued Psychology to learn about how to help people be happy but the focus was different than he expected: it was mainly on stress and anxiety. He also noticed that Clinical Psychology in Japan is biased to Psychodynamic Psychotherapies. The scientist in him was uncomfortable with the lack of research, and the many speculations he heard, without supportive data. He thought," I don't want to be a Clinical Psychologist, I want to help people.” He began to look into Cognitive-Behavioral Psychology.

Imagine his surprise when he attended a workshop by Albert Ellis at a conference in Orlando, Florida. He heard a very active question and answer session during the presentations. Masaya saw that the process was very stimulating for the lecturer and the student, and he decided that he wanted to learn in this type of atmosphere. He was intrigued with Meichenbaum's work and translated "Stress Inoculation Training" into Japanese.

He looked for funds and he found that the Rotary Club in Japan had an exchange program with the United States. In 1992, he applied, obtained funds, and went to study at Temple University, with Dr. Philip Kendall, in the Clinical Psychology Program. He studied Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy with Anxious Children.

Returning from the U.S. in 1993, Masaya became a Ph.D. Candidate at Waseda University, and the following year became a Research Associate. Masaya first learned about EMDR from Mark Russell during Marks visit to Japan with his wife. Later, he wrote a letter to Masaya about "this new method.” Mark had become a Research Associate of Francine Shapiro while she worked at MRI in Palo Alto. Mark returned and they had a small symposium, as they were very impressed with the research. Masaya began to use EMDR after he read the first journal article by Francine Shapiro. He began to use it for patients who had panic and he found that the recent and first-time trauma, that patients had, disappeared!

Masaya went to Kobe to use EMD after the 1995 earthquake, despite the long distance from Tokyo, where he was at Waseda University. He went to the refugee camp where he found many psychotherapists already there. There was disorganization, however, he was able to work with 5 different women while he was there. Three of the women had realistic anxiety for the future. The other two had strong anxiety after the earthquake. He did one session with them and found rapid change occurred in the symptoms. He said to himself, "This is it! I want to do it!"

In July 1995, Francine Shapiro came to Japan to give the keynote address at the Pan Pacific Brief Psychotherapy Conference in Fukuoka. Masaya presented one case from Kobe at the Conference and met Dr. Shapiro. She told him that he was using EMD not EMDR and invited him to come to the United States to receive training in EMDR. In September 1995 he went to San Francisco and was welcomed by Dr. Shapiro as he took the Part I EMDR training by the EMDR Institute. Masaya took Part 2 in November 1996. The Australian team was the first to do EMDR training in Japan in 1996. In 1997 an American team came over, headed by Andrew Leeds. At first, Masaya was not involved with sponsoring the trainings. He thought he might be of some assistance by translating the manual, however, later when the organizers gave up (It is a huge task to organize trainings), Masaya thought, "It is necessary. I can do this!"

During this time, Masaya had become an Associate Professor at the University of Ryukyu. He began to publish articles on EMDR in the Japanese Journals of Psychiatry, Nursing, Psychology and Education, changing the case examples to be appropriate for his different audiences.

In 1997, Masaya entered the trainers' training in Cologne, Germany that was conducted by Francine Shapiro. By 2002, Masaya had sponsored many yearly EMDR trainings. The audience is at full capacity with 90 participants attending the training. Japan has six facilitators: Masamichi Honda, Masaya Ichii, Masako Kitamura, Sigeyuki Ohta, Eiko Sakio, and Kiwamu Tanaka.

Masaya is an EMDRIA Consultant and Instructor and teaches Graduate Courses. His EMDR course has been approved by EMDRIA. In his class, Masaya encourages his students to be very involved in discussion and he encourages them to ask questions. The standard of practice he follows at the University requires him to have many practica. Masaya also works as a School Counselor at an Engineering High School, and has recognized that some students have been traumatized, but have not been able to recognize that they have PTSD. In terms of the patient population in Japan, like in the United States, many potential patients with trauma-related issues do not say, "I have PTSD.” He feels that it is very important to screen for trauma in our patients, as many more have these problems than can verbalize. Also, he is happy to be able to facilitate their healing with EMDR so rapidly.

Masaya has a web page in Japanese (www.emdr.jp). He wants to help the Japanese population understand Psychotherapy and EMDR better. There is a great stigma about going for psychotherapy in Japan and people think that if you go, you are weak. Others do not want to go because they think that the therapist only talks and this is not effective, and/or it takes a long time, and costs too much money. Actually, the Japanese do not sound much different than other people around the world when it comes to investing in Psychotherapy! However, as a result of his web site, he is healing from people who had heard about EMDR for PTSD, and are interested in trying out this therapy. He notes that the interest in EMDR grows, as the number of people interested in EMDR increases on his web site.

Masaya seems very content in his work. He is closer to helping people move through their trauma to find happiness in the world once again. Currently, he lives in Okinawa with his wife and 2 children. He suggests to us "Please do not hesitate to be active and challenge new things.” His life and work is an inspiration to us all.


“A Community of Heart Profile: Masaya Ichii,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 15, 2024, https://francineshapirolibrary.omeka.net/items/show/7663.

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