Why You Should Try Morita Therapy For Your Anxiety

One of the most important parts of living is growing and improving as a person. As the years pass, you mature, enhance your skills, and look at the world in new ways. One way to change your perspective is to participate in either group or individual therapy, but it’s important to find the type of therapy that works best for you. For me, that solution has been Morita therapy.

Morita therapy falls into the response-oriented therapy family, meaning that its focus is on changing the way an individual reacts to the situations they encounter, which eventually changes their way of thinking as well. You could define Morita therapy as, “It is what it is” therapy.

My therapist recently introduced me to this therapeutic style, and it’s dramatically changed my thought processes! As someone who struggles with an anxiety disorder, I’ve found that every little bit of mindful thought can really help. Here’s what I’ve learned about this Japanese form of alternative therapy.

Goals of Morita Therapy

Japanese psychiatrist Masatake Morita coined Morita therapy. His goal was to treat those with neurosis. Dr. Morita determined that people who are neurotic have tunnel vision. He discovered that they can’t see that they need to move forward in order to get better. Instead, they simply focus on how they feel and become highly emotional.

Morita therapy focuses on teaching those highly anxious patients to look at the world in  more proactive ways. His therapeutic approach showed these clients that it’s OK to acknowledge negative feelings.Still, the client needs to focus on what tasks they need to accomplish rather than simply fixating on the emotions they’re feeling.

One of the main goals of Morita therapy is to get the individual to accept their current circumstances. That doesn’t mean the person isn’t working to improve their situation. It simply means that they aren’t completely miserable at the moment and can find joy in small things, a concept the field of psychology often terms mindfulness.

Who Benefits?

Extremely anxious (also known as neurotic) people tend to benefit most from Morita therapy. People with anxiety disorders often feel that their emotions are trapping them. With this form of therapy, however, patients learn that it’s okay to feel anxious. With the Morita method, you learn to recognize and accept their feelings rather than try to change them and “get better” before moving forward.

Since Morita is a response-oriented form of therapy, patients who want to change their perspectives and reactions to situations also greatly benefit from this form of therapy. Morita explained that the effects of this approach can take weeks or even months to show, but people often do learn to stop in their tracks and change their thinking as they apply the concepts they learn.

Four Steps Toward Wellness

Once a person accepts that anxiety is a natural feeling, therapists then use four phases to take purposeful steps toward new behavior. This is what the four phases would look like for someone who struggles with social anxiety and rarely leaves their house.

  • Isolation: The first phase might simply be bed rest in isolation as the person learns to accept that they feel anxious and don’t want to face the world.

  • Light Work: In the second phase, the person chooses an action to take. They still understand that they feel anxious, but they turn their attention outward instead.

  • Heavy Work: This step is similar to the second phase, but the person increases exposure or opposite actions. They learn that internal struggle doesn’t control external circumstances.

  • Daily: Finally, the patient focuses on a list of daily tasks to complete. This list allows them to focus on what they need to accomplish, rather than on their feelings.

Putting Feelings in Perspective

One of the key components of Morita Therapy is the belief that we can’t control our emotions. We all feel strongly sometimes, whether or not we choose to act on those feelings truly defines us. Those who have been successful with Morita have learned that  a person’s internal thoughts and feelings fluctuate, but those feelings shouldn’t change their life’s purpose. Focusing on constructive actions allows us to move forward instead of trapping ourselves in our emotions.

If you have anxiety like I do or just think you could benefit from learning more about Morita Therapy, start researching online, or even look for local resources that may offer you a chance to learn in person! I also highly recommend the book “Playing Ball on Running Water: The Japanese Way to Building a Better Life” by David K. Reynolds. It’s a pretty comprehensive starter guide. Happy learning!

Feature Image by Artem Kovalev on Unsplash


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