Principles guide the therapy
The diagram above illustrates the four principles used in the Hakomi Method: Unity, Non-violence, Organicity, and Body-Mind Wholism.
The principle of unity reminds us that we are all in this together; that we constantly affect each other. We do not exist alone in this universe, we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves. It can be easy to forget this principle as we become involved in our own problems and concerns. Remembering it can make the support of others available to us and provides us with the opportunity to support others. Parts are inseparable from wholes and when we pretend otherwise we are living an illusion. Unity is about belonging, being part of, about hearing and being heard Ron Kurtz p.32.
Living systems have the capacity to self-organize and self-heal. In our modern world this is frequently forgotten in the quest for advances in medical technology. This principle places the locus of healing and control within the client and the client-therapist relationship. The therapist does not try to fix the client but waits, allowing natural processes to emerge. Embracing this principle involves trusting a persons capacity to find his or her own path, supporting the process as it emerges.
Body and mind are not separate; they are constantly interacting or participating in the whole which they create. Interaction between beliefs, images, memories, emotions, behaviour, perceptions, and bodily experience happens in every moment. They are part of the whole which is that person and the person is part of a family, community, culture, country, world, and universe (organicity principle). The Hakomi practitioner holds this perspective in his/her awareness during therapy. For example gestures can trigger images which can trigger memories and a core belief can be revealed.
The principle of non-violence can be captured in the phrase going with the grain. Acknowledgement and acceptance of the other persons experience is fundamental. Rather than advising or interpreting, the Hakomi therapist will support defenses, make safety the first concern, and respect the person. It does not mean that the Hakomi therapist always follows their client, taking the lead and acting can be non-violent when non-action may be violent.
The four principles are embedded in the square labeled mindfulness because mindfulness is the state of consciousness used to do the work. In mindfulness a person can notice their experience; they become a witness to what is happening as it happens. Mindfulness allows a person to access information not normally available. Clients often express surprise as their process unfolds. They had no idea that these experiences were inside them waiting to happen. A client is invited to turn their attention inward to observe their thoughts, feelings, sensations, impulses, images, and memories. They become available because the client is in mindfulness.
The Hakomi Therapist
The Hakomi therapist brings Loving Presence to the therapy; non-judgement, compassion, gentleness, and non-violence are of paramount importance. Establishing what is called the bubble is the first concern. Safety and Loving Presence help create the bubble as well as a sense that the therapist and client are in the process together (the principle of unity). The therapist demonstrates and works from the principles to help teach them to the client. If the therapist notices defenses in the client these will be supported rather than challenged thus gaining the co-operation of the unconscious mind and an opportunity to explore the defenses.
The Therapy Process
Psychotherapy bring unconscious patterns into consciousness, where they can become more clear, and less automatic, and where they can be negotiated, reconsidered, and offered other options
In Hakomi we talk about studying the organization of experience. The method for doing this is described below but the therapy process is aimed at gathering information about how you are organized. During early childhood years our experiences lead to development of core beliefs which continue to guide us later in life. These beliefs can help us survive as a child but may become limiting later in life. The information we are gathering is about these core beliefs that organize our experience. The core organizers in the diagram above generate thoughts, expectations, limits gestures, impulses, postures, rules, goals, feelings, and habits. These are often outside our awareness and therapy enables us to bring them into consciousness where we can reconsider them and look for new options. Thus therapy can help liberate us from core beliefs which have been limiting our lives.
The Hakomi Method
During a Hakomi session the client will move from a normal state of consciousness into mindfulness and then return to a normal state of consciousness to complete the session. In the first part of the session when the bubble is being created the therapist may identify an area to work with in the session or the session may emerge from what the client is experiencing without an issue being identified. At an appropriate time the therapist will invite the client into mindfulness and suggest a way of accessing the material that has been identified. Ron talks about experiments because of his scientific background but words like explore, work with, and find out more about that, are equally appropriate. Sometimes the therapist might say a few words which act as a sort of probe to the unconscious mind and can trigger thoughts and memories, feelings and bodily sensations. Probes may also be non-verbal involving touch but only if the client has agreed to this way of working. An attitude of curiosity is fundamental to the work. It can make the work very creative and exciting. The therapist will track closely to make sure that the client is feeling safe and the client is encouraged to keep reporting his/her experience.
One way of supporting defenses is using the technique called taking over. Sometimes taking over is physical like supporting a shoulder to take over the tension of holding it up. When a voice within the client is taken over by the therapist, the client may discover what lies behind the voice. For example, underneath an angry or critical voice may be sadness.
A client may move into a child state of consciousness quite spontaneously and the therapist works with this, sometimes talking directly to the child. Strong emotions can also arise spontaneously and the therapist supports the client through the experience allowing the process to unfold naturally. However, many sessions remain calm and apparently uneventful but the work is subtle and what seems to be a slow session, can be profound. Transformation can happen in quite a dramatic way with a sudden shift in awareness or perception, or it may take place gradually over many sessions.
Written by Rosemary McIndoe ,October 1998
- Caldwell, C. (ed.) (1997). Getting in Touch: The Guide to New Body-Centred Therapies. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books.
- Kurtz, R. (1990). Body-Centred Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, LA: LifeRhythm.
- Johanson, G. & Kurtz, R. (1991). Grace Unfolding: Psychotherapy in the Spirit of Tao-te ching. New York: Bell Tower.