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A form of psycho-therapy developed by Dr. Shoma Morita (1874-1938) who was a psychiatrist and department chair at Jikei University's School of Medicine in Tokyo. The therapy is partly infleunced by Zen Buddhism of which Dr. Morita was a practitioner. 
Originally Morita therapy was developed as a treatment for a type of anxiety neurosis called [[Originally Morita therapy was developed as a treatment for a type of anxiety neurosis called shinkeishitsu which is allied to the western concept of hypochondriasis. However the applications of Morita therapy are now considered to be much wider , and it has been applied in cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, life-threatening and/or chronic medical conditions and depression. ]]
Morita Therapy directs one's attention receptively to what reality brings in each moment. Simple acceptance of what is, allows for active responding to what needs doing. Most therapies strive to reduce symptoms. Morita therapy, however, aims at building character to enable one to take action responsively in life regardless of symptoms, natural fears, and wishes. Character is determined by behavior, by what one does. Dogmatic patterns of collapse are replaced with the flexibility to call upon courage and empowerment. Decisions become grounded in purpose rather than influenced by the fluid flow of feelings.
In Morita Therapy, character is developed by cultivating mindfulness, knowing what is controllable and what is not controllable, and seeing what is so without attachment to expectations. Knowing what one is doing, knowing what the situation is requiring, and knowing the relationship between the two are quintessential to self-validation, effective living, and personal fulfillment. Character is developed as one moves from being feeling-centered to being purpose-centered. A feeling-centered person attends to feelings to such an extent that the concern for self-protection reigns over decisions and perceptions. Given the human condition, change, pain, and pleasure are natural experiences. Indeed, emotions are a rich type of experience and a valuable source of information. Feelings are acknowledged even when what is to be done requires not acting on them. Constructive action is no longer put on hold in order to process or cope with symptoms or feelings. The individual can focus on the full scope of the present moment as the guide for determining what needs to be done.
Trying to control the emotional self willfully by manipulative attempts is like trying to choose a number on a thrown die or to push back the water of the Kamo River upstream. Certainly, they end up aggravating their agony and feeling unbearable pain because of their failure in manipulating the emotions.—Shoma Morita, M.D.
Ultimately, the successful student of Morita therapy learns to accept the internal fluctuations of thoughts and feelings and ground his behavior in reality and the purpose of the moment. Cure is not defined by the alleviation of discomfort or the attainment of some ideal feeling state (which the philosophy of this approach opposes), but by taking constructive action in one’s life which helps one to live a full and meaningful existence and not be ruled by one’s emotional state.
An Introduction to Morita Therapy Methods
As noted above, “Morita Therapy” refers to a psychological treatment system that was developed by the Japanese psychiatrist Shoma Morita. His groundbreaking work was first published in Japan in 1928. Like Sigmund Freud’s works which were developed for the Austrian culture in an earlier time, pure Morita Therapy had its greatest applications to a Japanese culture almost one hundred years ago.
People from different times and cultures actually do think differently. Human thought processes are not all universal within our species, but vary significantly depending upon by whom we are raised, and where we grow up and live. Having said that, there are aspects of our humanity that do not change and are as much a part of us as spots on a leopard. Whether living in the savannah of Africa or a New York zoo, leopards all have spots. People in 1920’s Japan had similar emotional response to stress and life’s challenges as do modern-day westerners. The response of individuals from different times and cultures (and hence their treatment) must be adapting and evolving over time and in different places to fit into the context of their daily lives.
Morita Therapy Methods (MTM) brought Morita’s original thinking to the west and adapted it to modern western minds and culture. For example, the original Morita treatment process has the patient spend their first week of treatment isolated in a room without any outside stimulation—no books, no television, no therapy other than being alone with their own thoughts. Modern-day benefits providers are unlikely to see the ancient wisdom of paying for people who are attempting learn to better face the challenges of life, to spend a week alone sitting in a hospital bed. Obviously, modifications to the original process that still remained consistent with the valuable, proven, underlying principles needed to be developed; the MTM approach is the culmination of that work.
The original Morita Therapy was developed for what was referred to back then as “anxiety-based disorders”. Just as civilizations change through time, medical and psychological cultures evolve, and so do our diagnostic definitions. What Dr. Morita defined back then as shinkeishitsu (an anxiety-based disorder), today has a much broader definition that considers not just anxiety, but life situations in which modern westerners find themselves. Most of us at one time or another are living in a world of shinkeishitsu, where we become lost in a quagmire of stress, pain (physical, psychological, or both) and the aftermath of trauma (physical, psychological or both).
The shinkeishitsu phenomenon is a quagmire just like quicksand. Sometimes we can escape its clutches alone and quickly. Other times we sink if someone doesn’t extend a rescuing lifeline. Depending on the situation, the depth of the quicksand, and the strength of the sinking person at that time, not just any life line will serve the purpose of facilitating the rescue.
MTM is structured for the person who needs a guide for self-rescue from the pain that life gives all of us at times. It is not a cure-all for everyone. As self rescue from a physical quagmire takes work, sweat, and a lot of thought; so does emancipation from, and adaptation to, psychological and physical pain. It is not easy. When we find ourselves waist deep and sinking, it does no good to complain about the unfairness of it all. Emancipation requires personal commitment and action—not whining. MTM helps patients find, and use, a well of inner strength deep within themselves that enables them to make powerful changes in their life.
MTM is an amalgamation of Eastern treatment methods applied to the Western mind. The developers have succeeded in making Zen-based treatment methods palatable to, and understandable by, modern people of the western world.
MTM is roughly divided into four basic areas of treatment, each a clinically proven version of Morita’s original treatment methods. In addition to the four basic areas of treatment, adjunct areas of MTM designed to the patient’s well-being are also covered below.
The Four Areas of Treatment
Phase one is the “rest phase”. It is a period of learning to separate ourselves from the minute-by-minute barrage of the constant assault on our senses and thought processes by a loud and intrusive world. We learn to turn off the television, close the door temporarily to demanding work, well-meaning friends, and yes, even family. We use the solitude to meditate with simple, non-religious based meditation. Though this simple meditation we learn to re-familiarize ourselves with the warm and healing peace that has been beaten out of us by work stress, the media, psychological and physical pain. Yes, you can have profound meditation even if experiencing profound pain.
Phase two introduces us to “light and monotonous work that is conducted in silence”. One of the keystones of this stage of self-treatment is journal writing. Our thoughts and feelings come to us in indistinguishable waves and flood our minds. Writing in our personal journals helps us learn to separate our thoughts from our feelings and define their different effects on our lives. In this phase we also go outside… outside of ourselves and out of the house and begin a reconnection with nature. We leave the solitude of Phase one and go out of doors. We breathe the fresh air and feel the sun on our faces. We walk. We walk and breathe. We walk, breathe and reconnect with the world of nature that has been shut out of our lives by pain and stagnation for weeks, months, even years. We move from darkness to light in both figurative and literal ways.
Phase three is one of more strenuous work. Dr. Morita had his patients engage in hard physical work outdoors. This is what we call the “chopping wood” phase. For people with physical injuries, it is the phase where you move from passive treatment given to you by others (i.e. chiropractic, massage and pain medicine) to learning to begin healing yourself though a stretch and strength oriented physical therapy program. MTM incorporates moving from being treated to learning self-treatment in both the physical and psychological realms. It is hard, it hurts, and it will be a challenge to persevere in the beginning, but if you are ever going to move from being the treated victim to being the recovering survivor this step must occur.
Depending upon the depth and nature of injury (of spirit, mind or body), Phase three can be short or long. For some it becomes a part of daily life, forever. Some pain resolves, some pain needs to be managed. The beneficial aspect of this phase of treatment is that it also encourages the engagement of what we now understand is the right side of the brain. The recovering survivor is encouraged to spend time in creating art—writing, painting, wood carving—whatever puts them into contact with the creative aspects of their humanity.
Phase four is when Morita would send patients outside the hospital setting. They would apply what they had learned in the first three phases and use it to help the with the challenge of reintegration into the non-treatment world. This is the phase where the patient learns to integrate a new lifestyle of meditation, physical activity, clearer thinking, more ordered living, and a renewed relationship with the natural world. They are not returning to their pre-injury or pre-illness lifestyle. Instead, they will integrate their “new self” into the imposed set of changes brought about by their trauma, pain and limitations. As re-integration into the world outside of treatment brings with it some unanticipated challenges, the survivor returns to the materials they studied and perhaps even the counsel of their teacher to find coping skills that will allow them to progress further and further on the journey of recovery.
- Masatake Morita, Shoma Morita, Akihisa Kondō, Peg LeVine Morita therapy and the true nature of anxiety-based disorders (shinkeishitsu)
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