Morita Therapy

Morita Therapy and ABPRA Program

Morita therapy is a Japanese psychotherapy developed by the Dr. Shoma Morita.

Shoma Morita, M.D. (1874-1938)

It has been practised across Japan by psychiatrists and other health professionals and paraprofessionals since the 1920’s. It emphasizes: (a) having an accepting stance toward affective conditions as they are without negation, preoccupation, or manipulative attempts to control, (b) redirecting self-focussed attention toward concrete activities and immersing self in practical tasks in the present, (c) revitalizing and mobilizing constructive desires for a productive and meaningful life and an improved lifestyle, (d) encouraging choice over action (vs. emotion) and appreciating the consequences of positive action, and (e) fostering a natural and spontaneous process of emotional healing (Ishiyama, 2003; Ishiyama & Minami, 2009).

This Moritian framework is applied in ABPRA and the Rwandan context in this large-scale project. No attempts will be made to control or modify the participants’ feelings and attitudes toward each other (e.g., anger, guilt, hatred, and ambivalence), nor will such demands be placed upon them throughout their program engagement. Instead, feelings and attitudes toward each other will be left to a natural and spontaneous course of change, while we facilitate participants to shift their focus onto concrete and practical activities leading to tangible and productive outcomes. Purposeful social contact will be thus sustained between survivors and perpetrators over time through shared work activities. The effectiveness and positive outcomes of the above approach in fostering interpersonal reconciliation has been demonstrated by Minami’s (2014a, b) recent research.

This approach stands in contrast to more commonly and traditionally used psychological and affect-regulating approaches (e.g., forgiveness-based intervention) designed to help surviving victims learn to soften their anger and hostility and forgive the offenders. However, such approaches to changing victims’ affect and attitudes and appeasing their strong, genuine and natural emotions (e.g., anger, hostility, and resentment) have limitations which can impede a natural healing process, as reflected in the following comment by an interviewed survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide: “Forgiving or not forgiving him, it’s all the same to me. If I forgive I still have no peace. If I don’t forgive, it’s the same. What’s inside me will never go away. I don’t know if anything can remove what’s inside of me!” (Hinson, 2009).


  • Morita, S. (1928/1998). Morita therapy and the true nature of anxiety-based disorders (Shinkeishitsu) (A. Kondo, Trans). Albany, NY: State University of New York. (Original published in 1922)
  • Morita, S. (1928). Shinkei shitsu no hontai to ryoho [the True Nature of Shinkeishitsu and its Treatment]. Tokyo: Hakuyoshya.
  • Morita, S. (1926). Shinkeisuijyaku to kyohakukannen no konjiho [Method of Treatment for Shinkeisuijyaku and Obsession]. Tokyo: Hakuyoshya.
  • Nakamura et al. (2010). Guidelines for practicing outpatient Morita Therapy: English Edition. Tokyo, Japan: Japanese Society for Morita Therapy.
  • Kitanishi, K., & Nakamura, K. (2005). Morita Ryoho [Morita Therapy]. Kyoto: Minerva Shobo.
  • Ishiyama, F. I. (2003). A bending willow tree: A Japanese (Morita therapy) model of human nature and client change. Canadian Journal of Counselling, 37, 216-231.
  • Ishiyama, F. I. (1986a). Morita therapy: Its basic features and cognitive intervention for anxiety treatment. Psychotherapy, 23, 375-381.
  • Ishiyama, F. I. (1986b). Positive reinterpretation of fear of death: A Japanese (Morita)psychotherapy approach to anxiety treatment. Psychotherapy, 23(4), 556-662.
  • Ishiyama, F. I. (1990). A Japanese perspective on client inaction: Removing attitudinal blocks through Morita therapy. Journal of Counseling & Development, 68, 566-570.
  • Ishiyama, F. I, & Azuma, N. (2004). Active counselling nyumon: Morita ryoho o toriireta atarashii mensetsu giho [Introduction to active counselling: A new interviewing method incorporating Morita therapy]. Tokyo: Seishin Shobo.
  • Ishiyama, F. I., & Minami, M. (2009). Application and features of a Morita therapy approach in clinical counselling: Deepening of authenticity and therapeutic turning points in a Canadian case. Japanese Journal of Morita Therapy, 20(2), 1-9.
  • Minami, M. (2014a). Development and field testing of action-based psychosocial reconciliation approach in post-genocide Rwanda (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from
  • Minami, M. (2014b). Nurturing reconciliation. Therapy Today, 25(7), 10-13.
  • Hinson, L. W. (Director). (2009). As we forgive. [Documentary]. Los Angeles, CA: Mpower Pictures.