The Four A’s Approach to Morita Therapy

Aside from the classic Morita therapy, there's an outpatient approach that is much more suited for Western culture. Carly Taylor calls it the four A's: awareness, acceptance, attention, and action.

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It is essential for people to practice the four A's

Nick: So let's dive into Morita therapy. And this is something I discussed with Dr. Holly Sugg on podcast 27. So that would be an episode worth listening to. But how would you describe Morita therapy?

Carly: So Morita therapy, my experience in my training of Morita therapy is not the classic Morita therapy that Holly would have been talking about in her research. It's more I guess let's say, as an outpatient approach, and very much using these concepts and theories for us in the Western world. 

So when I talk about Morita therapy, I talk about the four A's. Gregg sets the three A's but I have added another A there: the first thing is awareness, so if we don't have self-awareness, if we don't reflect on ourselves and our behaviour, then there's little room for change there.

So self-awareness is just incredibly important, something I'm constantly working on. And then the second is acceptance, accepting that there are things in life that are within our control, and there are things in life that are not within our control, including our automatic thoughts and emotions.

Recognizing that if we focus on the things that are not in our control, that's when we can really spiral down, that's when we can really struggle. And then the third is attention. So it's awareness, acceptance, attention, which I'll probably talk about a lot, because I'm really passionate about where our attention is at any moment, and how that can affect our lives.

And then purposeful action, that's the fourth A, action. And when I say purposeful action, I don't mean this grandiose purpose that we need to discover -- it's the purpose in the moment. You know, even when we're washing our dishes, even when we're doing our taxes, or the boring kind of mundane stuff that we do every day, there is purpose in it. 

And I think to recognize that, we can get more into the present moment, and be more kind of accepting of where we're at. And using that attention can help us get out of our head and kind of into the life of what we're doing in that moment.

Nick: Awesome. So let's go through those four again, it was awareness, acceptance...

Carly: Yes, attention and action.

Nick: And you added the action?

Carly: Oh, no, I added awareness. So Gregg would talk about acceptance, attention, and action. And I'll give you an example, because I've just started uni. During my Master's in Counseling, I had my first assignment due the other week, and it was an academic assignment. And I just completely freaked out.

I don't think I've been so stressed for a long time about getting this assignment done. And my immediate thought was that I wanted to quit, like, that's how stressed I was about it. 

So I had to use my own tools and strategies just to bring myself into, okay, what is the purpose of me doing this? And using that arugamama, which I know you talk about a lot in your podcast, with things as they are what needs to be done. So accepting that, yes, I'm stressed, this is a normal response that I'm having.

And then really putting my attention on what I needed to do with taking my stress along with me. And I got the assignment done, and I handed it in and haven't got the result back yet.

Nick: Well done. This really does resonate with me, we all go through stress and fear and worry. And it can be so debilitating when you only focus on the fear and worry. And you have these imagined scenarios like, I won't be able to pay the rent or pay the bills, or people will think I'm a fraud, and you have these bizarre scenarios.

So then you're right, if you can get that awareness, and then kind of snap out of it and stop, like, what can I do? And if you start to act, one action leads to another, you get this momentum, and then you start to feel a bit better. And then you think I'll just focus on this now.

And then before you know it, you're feeling a bit more optimistic, the stress has gone to some degree, and then things seem to change because you've taken this proactiveness. But it never stops does it? 

A few months later, you'll be going through another struggle, and you will have to have that awareness to snap out of it, to eventually draw your attention to take action and accept what you can't change. But focus on what you can do.