Frequently Asked Questions and Answers About Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy:
WHAT IS HAKOMI?
Hakomi is a body-centered, somatic psychotherapy: the body serves as a resource that reflects and stores formative memories and the core beliefs they have generated, and also provides significant access routes to core material. Much of what makes someone who they are can be described in terms of character structures or habits, in the sense that these patterns in our nervous systems are stable, automatic and largely or completely unconscious.
Hakomi calls these patterns ‘core material’. Composed of memories, images, beliefs, neural patterns and deeply held emotional dispositions, this material creates and maintains our images of self and of our culturally acquired world. It shapes the styles, habits, behaviours, perceptions, physical postures and attitudes that define us as individuals.
Some of this core material supports us in being who we wish to be, while some of it continues to limit us. Hakomi allows the client to distinguish between the two and modify willingly any material which restricts his or her wholeness. Integrating scientific, psychological, and spiritual sources, Hakomi has evolved into a complex and elegant form of psychotherapy that is highly effective with a wide range of people.
At its most basic level, Hakomi is the therapeutic expression of a specific set of principles: Mindfulness, Nonviolence, Unity, Organicity and Mind-Body Integration; these tenets inform every aspect of the work.
WHY GO TO AN HAKOMI THERAPIST?
An Hakomi therapist will provide you a loving environment of acceptance, in which they will guide, follow and support you to unravel your issues, identify their causes and heal yourself. Hakomi is paradoxically powerful: it is gentle and nonviolent, yet yields dramatic results rapidly. In many ways, its subtle power flows from the congruence of its methods and techniques with the underlying principles and assumptions that guide it.
The Hakomi client is encouraged to study the organisation of their experience - how they meet the world, what kind of world they perceive, what beliefs they hold about themselves and so on. Hakomi therapists are compassionate people who are walking a path of service to others. They have trained, developed skills and grown themselves so they can help people to free themselves from limiting feelings and beliefs.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT HAKOMI?
As a method of psychotherapy, Hakomi is founded on the quality of relationship between therapist and client. Hakomi is first and foremost a container, full of compassion, patience and encouragement. In contrast to therapy based on the medical model, which often leads to analysis, interpretation, explanation and sometimes arguments, Hakomi presupposes that the client’s main task is self-study and that the therapist’s task is to assist in that, by creating ways in which the client may discover herself or himself.
With the client taking responsibility (which often means that the therapist waits for the client to take the lead), the healing process goes where it has to go, not where the therapist thinks it should. This engages the cooperation of the client’s unconscious mind, producing support for the process, rather than resistance. Hakomi helps people change ‘core material’. Core material is composed of memories, images, beliefs, neural patterns and deeply held emotional dispositions. It shapes the styles, habits, behaviors, perceptions and attitudes that define us as individuals. Typically, core material exerts its influence unconsciously, by organizing our responses to the major themes of life: safety, belonging, support, power, freedom, control, responsibility, love, appreciation, sexuality, spirituality, etc. Some of this material supports our being who we wish to be, while some of it, learned in response to acute and chronic stress, continues to limit us. Hakomi allows the client to distinguish between the two, and to willingly change material that restricts his or her wholeness.
‘Therapy is first about discovering. It’s about who you are and about what your deepest emotional attitudes are. It’s not just about who you think you are. It’s not opinion. It’s not something you can know with the intellect. It’s about who you are in the very heart of yourself. That’s the flavor of psychotherapy, discovering yourself, discovering your real attitudes toward the most important pieces of your life.’ — Ron Kurtz, Hakomi Founder.
WHAT HAPPENS IN HAKOMI?
Hakomi is an experiential psychotherapy where present, felt experience is used as an access route to core material; this unconscious material is elicited and surfaces in the client’s experience; and changes are integrated into the client’s immediate experience.
Hakomi follows a general outline:
The therapist establishes an ever-present, attitude of gentle acceptance and care known as loving presence. This maximizes safety, respect and the cooperation of the unconscious.
With a good working relationship established, the therapist then helps the client focus on and learn how core material shapes his or her experience.
To allow this study, we establish and use a distinct state of consciousness called Mindfulness. Mindfulness is characterized by relaxed volition, a gentle and sustained inward focus of attention, heightened sensitivity, and the ability to notice and name the contents of consciousness.
The heart of Hakomi works with the client’s present, felt experience - as it is presented spontaneously, or deliberately and gently evoked by having them experiment with habitual tension or movement patterns known as ‘indicators’.
These emotional/cognitive patterns automatically keep deeper experience out of present awareness. The results are processed through different state-specific methods, including:
- working with strong emotions and bound energy, safely releasing them, and finding nourishment in that release - working with the inner child and other specific self-states, often in the context of vividly re-experienced memories, frequently providing the ‘missing experience’ for the child - processing core beliefs in mindfulness, not as intellectual problem-solving, but as direct dialogue with the unconscious All is in support of this primary process. Once discovered in this experiential manner, core material can be examined, processed and transformed.
Transformation begins when awareness is turned mindfully toward felt, present experience; unconscious material unfolds into consciousness; barriers are attended to; and new experiences are integrated that allow for the reorganization of core beliefs. These, in turn, allow for a greater range of mental, physical, and emotional coherence and behavior.
Finally, we help the client to integrate these new beliefs, modes and choices into everyday life. It is here – in the ability to transform new possibilities discovered in therapy sessions into on-going actualities of daily living – that real change happens.
Hakomi is effective and appropriate in many therapeutic situations, with individuals, couples, families, and groups. It integrates well with a variety of psychotherapeutic, counseling and healing modalities, and is successfully used by counselors, psychotherapists, social workers, pastoral counselors, expressive therapists, bodyworkers, group therapists, crisis counselors, and many other practitioners. It is effective for both brief and long-term therapy.
WHO DEVELOPED HAKOMI?
Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy was first created in the late 1970’s by the internationally renowned therapist and author, Ron Kurtz.
The Hopi meaning of 'Hakomi' - 'how do you stand in relation to all these many realms?' (or more colloquially 'How are you?' ) reflects the method's emphasis on self study.
The method draws from general systems theory and modern body-centered therapies including Gestalt, Psychomotor, Feldenkrais, Focusing, Ericksonian Hypnosis, Neurolinguistic Programming, and the work of Wilhelm Reich and Alexander Lowen. Core concepts of gentleness, nonviolence, compassion, and mindfulness evolved from Buddhism and Taoism.
In 1981, to fully develop the method and promote the teaching of Hakomi, Ron and a core group of therapists and educators founded the Hakomi Institute. Today, Hakomi Trainings and workshops are presented throughout the world, in North America, Europe, Japan, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand.
HOW DOES ‘MINDFULNESS’ FEATURE IN HAKOMI?
The Hakomi therapist helps the client to establish a self-reflective state of consciousness called ‘mindfulness’.
This distinct state is characterised by a surrender to, and acceptance of, what is happening in each moment; a gentle, sustained focus of inward attention; a heightened sensitivity and the ability to observe and name the contents of consciousness. Many meditators are familiar with this kind of awareness, but it take on a whole new level of utility when it is evoked in relationship with the therapist.
Hakomi has pioneered the use of active, or dynamic mindfulness in psychotherapy: instead of using mindfulness meditation as simply an adjunct to therapy, virtually the entire Hakomi process in conducted in mindfulness. This facilitates Hakomi techniques in accessing unconscious material quite rapidly, but safely.
'In psychotherapy, nothing is as useful as mindfulness’. Hakomi founder: Ron Kurtz
WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES OF HAKOMI?
Hakomi is informed by five principles:
Mindfulness, Organicity, Unity, Non-violence and Body/Mind/Spirit Holism. For a more information about the Hakomi Principles, please click HERE
HOW DOES THE THERAPIST FEATURE IN HAKOMI?
The state of mind of the therapist is at the core of the therapeutic relationship.
From the Hakomi perspective, to be in contact with our clients, we must earn the cooperation of their unconscious. We must demonstrate that we know what’s going on, that we understand their experience. Equally importantly, we must exhibit compassion.
By going slowly, and gently protecting the spirit, the Hakomi therapist creates an atmosphere of safety with the client where defences can be willingly examined and yielded, rather than confronted or overpowered. With such cooperation, powerful learning and change become possible.
A client explores their experience within a relationship filled with good will and kindness. The atmosphere is open, creative and full of hope. This atmosphere is the most significant aspect of the whole endeavour. It sustains both client and therapist through the difficult work of feeling what at times can be deeply painful.
‘We must be without judgement. That’s what really does it. You can’t just look like you’re compassionate. That won’t fool anyone’s unconscious very long. You’ve really got to have it. Then the work will be relatively easy and much faster. The unconscious can unfold healing in most remarkable ways.’ - Ron Kurtz
‘The most powerful thing the therapist does for us is provide a setting, a nourishing womb, in which our lives can unfold. Through the physical setting and, most important, the setting of his own being, he creates a place of safety; a trustworthy place where all life is befriended through an affirmation of faith in our wisdom and creativity.’ - Gregory Johanson, Ph.D., Hakomi Institute Co-Founder and Senior Trainer
HOW CAN I LEARN HAKOMI?
You can attend an introductory workshop, which are conducted regularly throughout Australia and New Zealand by the Hakomi Institute’s Pacifica Team of certified teachers and trainers.
These experiential workshops cover various aspects of Hakomi and are held for people wanting self growth or to become Hakomi Therapists. Current workshops [LINK].
Professional training courses are offered regularly too, covering the whole Hakomi method. They are a prerequisite to certification as an Hakomi Therapist.
The first concern of Hakomi training is that students embody the Hakomi principles as a deep and consistent part of who they are and how they work. This means a heartfelt, long-term commitment to their own growth, both personal and professional.
The goal is to foster high quality, caring therapists who are as dedicated to their own self-awareness as they are to the understanding of others. The training further supports students to discover their own style, creativity and unique application of the Hakomi Method.
You can find out about work shops and Trainings on our events page HERE:
WHY JOIN THE HAKOMI Australia association?
Members of the HAA enjoy:
Additional professional clinical articles and videos on Hakomi and related subjects
Listing of Certified Hakomi Therapists and Hakomi Graduates in the ‘Find a Therapist’ section on the website for those practising Hakomi in Australia and New Zealand
An online forum for members with Hakomi qualifications, for networking on topics of interest relating to Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy
Quarterly newsletter that will contain interesting information and updates