Morita Therapy and Addiction

By Michelle Clearwater, BA, LAC


Generally, those who abuse substances do so to accomplish a numbness.  They have become so sensitive and focused on their own feelings, it is like scraping raw nerves with every emotion they are made to endure.  Pain becomes the reigning feeling. When an addict is unable to numb their feelings their lives become anxious, scary and irritating to them.  These feelings bombard the person and they begin to focus on them directly which in turn magnifies them causing the person to focus even more on those feelings leading to a very destructive cycle.  The addict becomes emotionally oversensitive and unreasonably self-absorbed. The good news is there are ways that one can learn to accept those feelings and break that destructive cycle.

morita therapyWhile obtaining my degree in Psychology from Washburn University, I was introduced and became certified in Morita Therapy.  Morita Therapy was founded in Japan by Dr. Shoma Morita over 100 years ago. Dr. Morita found many of the principals to his therapy while he himself was working towards his doctorate and dealing with his own issues of anxiety and obsession.  He found that when these principals were applied to individuals who were suffering from anxiety and other obsessive disorders, they could achieve a much better quality of life for themselves. Dr. Morita called his therapy “Residential Therapy,” not until his death was it renamed “Morita Therapy.”  Dr. Morita’s residential therapy lasted several months and was done at Dr. Morita’s own home. However, there are “12 Life Principals” of Morita Therapy that can be applied to alcohol and drug symptoms of addicts, for this article I would like to focus on just a couple.

Principle Three: Energy

“Life flows from being natural” (A River to Live By, pg 39).  

Everything has energy and energy matters.  There is positive and negative energy in our world and each affects us differently.  Energy comes from everywhere; things, people, words, feelings, nature, places. Dr. Morita taught that we, as individuals, have the choice to live in positive or negative energy.  Once we make that choice and take action on it, the universe will radiate back to us the same energy that we are sending out. So if we see the glass as half empty, we are looking at the negative side of the situation.  When you view the glass as half empty, there is a focus on what you are lacking rather than what you have to be grateful for. When you are grateful for what you have, you are looking at the positive of the situation and the universe will fill your life with the things you are grateful for.  Your energy is your strength and “the more we tap into our own strength and plug it into surrounding energy currents, the more we experience life’s harmonizing power” (A River to Live By, pg 47). When you see your own energy as a commodity, you begin to become more vigilant with where your energy is spent.  To waste your energy on negative situations or people simply lowers the amount of life force energy you have to apply to your own positive growth.

Principle Eight: Feelings

“Life flows from being emotion-all” (A River to Live By, pg 91).  

Dr. Morita put an emphasis on the necessity of our feelings.  They exist as guides to our environment and by ignoring or holding on to them we disrupt their natural flow, or energy.  This disruption in energy displays as a tendency to experience emotions as negative causing us to attempt to control our emotions.  This attempt at controlling these feelings/emotions is denying the inevitable changes of human nature. Seeing our feelings as our ally rather than our enemy can help us to accept each feeling for its face value; fear is just fear, joy is just joy.  Dr. Morita taught that each feeling needs to be seen as a guest which is to be treated with respect and honor. When we acknowledge each feeling as it comes, accept why that feeling is there and then allow that feeling to run its natural course without denial or obsession we are living in a natural state and are then able to direct our life energy to the task in the present.  When we learn how to neither hold on to a feeling too long nor let a feeling go too early, we can find balanced emotional health.


The 12 Principles

  1. Attention
  2. Intention
  3. Energy
  4. Moments
  5. Acceptance
  6. Experience
  7. Mercy
  8. Feelings
  9. Success
  10. Balance
  11. Oneness
  12. Peace


For more on the 12 Principles of Morita Therapy, you can obtain the book “A River to Live By: The 12 Principals of Morita Therapy” by Dr. Brian Ogawa.  Now let’s go out there, be positive and feel those feelings!


Valeo Behavioral Health Care   



Crisis Services

400 SW Oakley

Topeka, KS  66606

24 Hour Crisis Line           



National Suicide Prevention Life Line



Shawnee County Suicide Prevention Coalition


Family Service and Guidance Center  (18 and under)

325 SW Frazier            

Topeka, KS  66606

24 Hour Crisis Number



Healing after Loss to Suicide Group  (HeALS)

Sandy Reams – Group Facilitator


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