Dr. Ozawa-de Silva's academic vision is to contribute to cross-cultural understandings of health and illness, especially mental illness, and make a contribution to the field of medical anthropology by bringing Western and Asian (particularly Japanese and Tibetan) perspectives on the mind-body, religion, medicine, therapy, and health and illness nto fruitful dialogue. In her work, Dr. Ozawa-de Silva stresses a critical awareness of cultural biases in medical anthropology, and facilitates collaborative research projects on cross-cultural understandings of mental health and well-being.
Her first book is entitled Psychotherapy and Religion in Japan: The Japanese Introspection Practice of Naikan. Naikan arose out of a Japanese Shin Buddhist self-cultivation practice that was secularized for use in prisons, hospitals, and schools, as well as for general psychotherapeutic usage. In Naikan, clients sit for one week in the corner of a room, enclosed by a paper screen. During this time, they recollect their past life year by year from the perspective of a person close to them, with nothing to distract them but occasional meals, sleep, and restroom breaks. During this time they are told to focus on what they received, what they gave back, and how they harmed that person. By the end of the week, this sustained examination of their past life often yields powerful experiences of healing that are both psychological and physical in nature. Naikan is fascinating to the medical anthropologist for two reasons: first its situation on the borderline between religion and therapy, with an embodied aspect to its healing practice; and second, its emphasis on memory as a means towards improving physical and psychological health.
Dr. Ozawa-de Silva also researches suicide and mental health in Japan, and has published two articles on internet group suicide, a troubling phenomenon that has been on the rise in Japan, especially among young Japanese. Most recently, she has begun research on Tibetan medicine, and has published an article on the mind-body connection in Tibetan medical practice. Her interests extend to the role of meditation in cultural understandings of health, the body-mind relationship, emotions and subjectivity, and the treatment of mental illness and depression.