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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

Eugene Gendlin, the developer of the Focusing technique, was a student and colleague of pioneering psychologist Carl Rogers who developed Client-Centered or Rogerian psychotherapy. Together, at the University of Chicago in the late 1950s and 1960s, they researched what helped clients in successful psychotherapy. Gendlin noticed that if clients turned inward in a specific way, the therapy progressed but clients who didn’t turn inward stayed stuck. Gendlin began looking for a way to teach these clients a way of getting unstuck, which later developed into the Focusing technique. His clients learned to access an initially obscure, bodily-felt meaning or felt sense, allowing them to articulate that experience (Heuman). 

Focusing is a method of “inward bodily attention” that “differs from the usual way we pay attention to feelings because it begins with the body and occurs in the zone between the conscious and the unconscious” (Gendlin, 1996, p.1). Many “people don’t realize that a bodily sense of any topic can be invited to come in that zone and that one can enter into such a sense. At first, it is only a vague discomfort, but soon it becomes a distinct sense with which one can work, and in which one can sort out many strands” (p. 1). 

“How long it takes to learn focusing seems to be unrelated to other variables. Some clients deepen their therapy immediately when they are invited to attend physically. Even therapists who do not know focusing can markedly improve therapy with some proportion of their clients, simply by asking how what is being discussed makes them feel in the middle of the body and then waiting quietly for the client to sense there” (p.1). 

“When therapists discuss cases, they use rough metaphoric terms to refer to a feeling process. They often say that they observe clients ‘emotionally absorbing something,’ or ‘working through,’ or ‘feeling through.’ The therapeutic process is observed to involve not only concepts but also a feeling process, which I would like to call ‘experiencing.’” Experiencing has several aspects including (1) “Experiencing is felt, rather than thought, known, or verbalized. (2) Experiencing occurs in the immediate present.” Experiencing is what someone “feels here and now, in this moment.” (Gendlin, 1961, p.234).

(3) Experiencing can be directly referenced by someone as a felt sense in their body. An example involves a client who “has all along asserted something about himself, for example, ‘I am afraid of being rejected.’ After many hours of therapy, he comes upon the feelings which make this so. He discovers anew that he is afraid of being rejected. Usually, he is then somewhat troubled by the fact that the feelings are new, different, amazing, yet no better words exist for them than the old, trite, ‘I am afraid of being rejected.’ The client then struggles to communicate to the counselor that now he ‘really’ feels it, that the concepts are old but the experiencing is new.” In this way, it becomes more apparent “that the client is referring to something other than conceptualizations. He is referring directly to his present experiencing” (p.236)

“Experiencing is a variable of the process of therapeutic” change; it is a process of feeling, rather than concepts. Experiencing occurs in the present moment and can be directly referred to by someone as a felt sense in their body. Experiencing guides a “client’s conceptualizations, and has implicit meaning”. Change happens in therapy even before a client has accurate concepts to describe the feelings they directly refer to. Experiencing is, more importantly, “felt rather than known conceptually. Experiencing can implicitly have a great many complex meanings, all of which can be in the process of changing even while they are being directly referred to”. When therapy is effective, it’s because it utilizes experiencing (Gendlin, 1961, p. 245).


Gendlin, E.T. (1961). Experiencing: A variable in the process of therapeutic change. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 15(2), 233-245. From http://previous.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2082.html

Gendlin, E. T. (1996). Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy. New York: Guilford Press.

Heuman, L. (2011). Focusing. Tricycle. Retrieved from https://tricycle.org/magazine/focusing-gendlin/

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Hakomi: Transformation

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

There can come a powerful time in the hakomi process when “the work of transformation takes place,” writes Ron Kurtz in his book Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method (Kurtz, 1990, p. 146). You arrive at this point after “emotions have been expressed, after the child has understood and gotten what she needs, after insight and meaning, a particular point is reached where the work of transformation takes place” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 146). 

The seeds are planted, and the “compelling grip of some piece of core material relaxes, and new actions and experiences become possible. The discovery of that possibility is the transformation. What is new is that one can be different; that one’s whole life can be different. The point of transformation in therapy is the point where the client knows this and takes actions based upon this knowledge, and finds that these actions work” (p. 146). 

Transformation often happens spontaneously, coming alive in the experience of the moment. The transformation could begin with a client embracing a new belief like “I am okay as I am.” Or the transformation could begin by expressing something like love or anger, which, in the past, they may have withheld. Then in the safe space of therapy, a client can experiment with new options. They have probably waited for years to say, do, believe, or feel this new option that’s been waiting to happen. 

In an “authoritarian model of healing, the client is a problem to be solved. In Hakomi, the client is a” healing experience waiting to happen (p. 146). In the normal course of development, it could have happened, but it didn’t. A goal in therapy is coaxing that (missing) experience into happening. 

“In Hakomi, we pursue transformation. That is the goal of therapy: to learn and master new options” (p. 147). In this way, a client starts to integrate/incorporate “new beliefs and ways of being” (p. 147). As this happens, a client can experience new insights “and memories or go in and out of the rapids” (p. 147).

In conclusion, the deeper, core explorations Hakomi offers “create a more spacious and invigorated emotional climate” where clients can start experimenting with and choosing “evolved beliefs and behaviors.” At a core level, a Hakomi practitioner assists with establishing “alternative ways of being for” a client, supplanting outdated, habituated, and limiting beliefs and behaviors created years ago (Method & Process).

This happens through offering the client “a new experience, one that was missing or impossible when” an injury occurred. These new experiences can be simple or complex, “but generally reflect unmet childhood learning and relational needs: for example, being held, being listened to, being allowed to explore, feeling” supported or protected, and so on (Method & Process).

Having this new experience offers “a template for living differently. The encounter with the missing experience creates a new, embodied perspective that can shift the perceptual and thus behavioral reference point for” a client. Old stories are forgiven, updated, or transformed. This new experience is crucial for the therapeutic process, offering motivation for additional change (Method & Process).

In particular and on a “level of practical intervention, Hakomi” uses three important “and consistent strategies to bring about lasting change for” clients. These include: “(1) disidentification, (2) integration, and (3) experiential learning” (Weiss, 2015, p. 228). These will be explored in the next blog(s). 


Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press. 

Method & Process. (n.d.). Hakomi Institute of California. Retrieved from https://www.hakomica.org/about-hakomi/method-process.

Weiss, H. (2015). Transformation. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 227-241). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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In Praise of Pets

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

People everywhere cherish their pets for being cute and cuddly. They’re not only adorable, but they can also improve our physical and emotional health. There are several ways that pets are beneficial to people, on both the chemical and emotional levels. Various studies have been conducted testing this assertion, providing plentiful evidence of how animals are good for you.

To begin with, playing with cats or dogs, for example, can increase our serotonin and dopamine levels. These hormones can relax our nervous system and, whenever we laugh or smile with our pets, they are released into our system, promoting happiness.

Results from a 2016 study have found that caring for pets can reduce depression, loneliness, and anxiety (Monroe). Pets tend to live in the moment, not look back on the past or worry about the future, a display of mindfulness. Additionally, pets can counter social isolation and social anxiety, giving people a common topic to discuss.

Furthermore, research from Buffalo University in New York found that pet owners are much less susceptible to stress and its adverse effects in the presence of pets. Time and again, pets have shown to positively impact stress levels, as shown by numerous studies on individuals working in high-stress environments. One can get carried away, forgetting the time and enjoying the company of their furry companion. That sort of unconditional love received from pets is what people seek in managing personal relationships and emotional connections.

The bottom line is that we have a lot to learn from our furry friends. They excel in alleviating our negative emotions and can brighten our day in seconds. There is no similar feeling to coming home to an enthusiastic pet. They have plenty of love to give and receive. Animals are more than capable of assisting you in fulfilling your social and emotional needs.


Monroe, Jamison. “10 Ways Pets and Mental Health Go Together.” Newport Academy, Newport Academy, 4 June 2018, www.newportacademy.com/resources/well-being/pets-and-mental-health/.

“Homepage.” AXA PPP Healthcare, AXA PPP Healthcare, 5 June 2017, www.axappphealthcare.co.uk/health-information/mental-health/resilience/8-physical-and-mental-health-benefits-of-having-a-pet/.

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The Adolescent Brain

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By Mayumi Elk Eagle, AMFT, APCC

You may be puzzled to see why adolescents are taking risks and sometimes indulging in dangerous activities. You may feel like your teenage children have changed. It turns out that human brains undergo a reconstruction process during the teenage years, and “it does not finish developing and maturing until the mid-to-late 20s” (National Institute of Mental health, n.d.). Human brains grow to full size around 11 years old for girls and 14 years old for boys (National Institute of Mental health, n.d.). Still, neural networks have already begun reorganizing to have a sufficient network inside of their brains. During this process, they may act differently from previous years.

Their risk-taking behavior is also important from an evolutionary perspective. Adolescence is a significant time in our lives as we prepare to leave familiar territories, such as their families and communities, and venture into unfamiliar territories. Without these motivations to be adventurous, humans could be stuck in one place and could lose the opportunity to explore a different world out there. Teenagers are trying to form their tribes, so the opinions of their peers may matter more than their families’ opinions during this period.

However, how parents and other adults navigate these changes will impact how teens develop their brains. They will integrate their experiences, including interactions with adults, into their brain networks as integration. This is the time many teenagers start drinking, smoking cigarettes, or using drugs. Understand that teenagers are developing their brains even though you may not see it from the outside, so embrace “a thoughtful belief and value” (Siegel, 2012, p. 81).

Just saying ‘don’t do it’ is not enough. (Siegel, 2012, p. 81). For example, mentioning how cigarette companies are making money from manipulating their images to sell their products may work better than mentioning the adverse health effects (Siegel, 2012). Take time to have serious conversations. You may feel that they are not listening, but they are listening and watching you.


Cozolino, L. (2006). The neuroscience of Human Relationships. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). The Teen Brain: 7 Things to Know. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-teen-brain-7-things-to-know/index.shtml

Siegel, D. J. (2012). Brainstorm. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Penguin.

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Hakomi: Character Strategies

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

Character strategy is defined in Hakomi terms as approaches, patterns, and habits in the world someone created for “pleasure and satisfaction, given the nature of their particular core organizing beliefs about the world” (Barstow & Johanson, 2015, p. 2).

Character patterns manifest due to ongoing interactions of a developing child with her emotional/physical environment. These strategies and patterns can be perceived as strengths created by a child. In this perspective, character is seen more as a “function rather than malfunction. But a strength developed to the point of imbalance is also a weakness and every function overly developed in one direction leaves another direction undeveloped. For example, the strength some people develop to bear up under difficult conditions may leave those same people little sense of joy and lightness. In one of the patterns we study—the burdened-enduring pattern–the over developed strength of bearing up under blame leads to difficulties in taking responsibility and action” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 40).

The Hakomi character theory map evolved from prior “theories of Wilhelm Reich (1949), Alexander Lowen (1958, 1975), David Shapiro (1965), and John Pierrakos (1990)” (Eisman, 2015, p. 76). These theories wherein Hakomi gets its character theory model were “authoritarian and classically medical” in orientation, which means they perceived “strategic adaptions to developmental wounding” as an indicator of pathology, as unhealthy and neurotic (Eisman, 2015, p. 77). In Hakomi, character isn’t viewed “as a pathological digression, but as a creative attempt to assert one’s organicity—to find personal empowerment in an untenable situation” (p. 77).

In Hakomi, there are eight main character patterns (Kurtz, 1990, Eisman, 2015). Some individuals appear to exist primarily “in one or another, whereas others are more fluid” and can shift from one to another depending upon different situations, with “sometimes more than one pattern within” someone occurring in one situation (p. 79).

Eight Character Strategies 

  1. Sensitive/Withdrawn: One minimizes their self-expression or contact with others and takes shelter in thought or fantasies. 
  2. Dependent/Endearing: One seeks support through acting childlike.
  3. Self-Reliant/Independent: One activates self-support and relies on themselves; they seek challenges.
  4. Deceptive 1: Tough/Generous: One hides their weaknesses, insecurity and fear, they look tough and act important.
  5. Deceptive 2: Charming/Manipulative: One hides their true intentions, charms others and uses them to get what they want.
  6. Burdened/Enduring: One carries a heavy load, remains firm and patient. 
  7. Expressive/Clinging: One dramatizes feelings and events to gain attention and avoid abandonment.
  8. Industrious/Over-Focused: One works hard, keeps going and going, being overactive.

One can view “character patterns as interruptions of, or impairments in” the development of natural, social, and psychological functions (Kurtz, 1990, p. 46). “Impairment leaves the function truncated, distorted or incompletely learned” (p. 47). Here are “the missing core experiences” or experiences that want to happen for each character strategy (p. 47):

Missing Core Experiences

  1. Sensitive/Withdrawn: A sense of safety, being welcome, pleasurable interactions, and freedom from fear.
  2. Dependent/Endearing: Gratitude, abundance, nourishment, being cared for. 
  3. Self-Reliant/Independent: Receiving support willingly from others.
  4. Deceptive 1: Tough/Generous: Being authentic, showing vulnerability, freedom from being manipulated.
  5. Deceptive 2: Charming/Manipulative: Being authentic, accepting oneself as they really are, freedom from being harassed.
  6. Burdened/Enduring: An absence of pressure, responsibility or guilt.
  7. Expressive/Clinging: Love and attention given freely without a struggle.
  8. Industrious/Over-Focused: Love and appreciation, freedom to play and relax (Kurtz, 1990). 


Barstow, C. & Johanson, G. (1999). Glossary of Hakomi Therapy Terms. Hakomi Forum, 13, 2-5. 

Eisman, J. (2015). Hakomi Character Theory. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 76-90). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

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What is EMDR?

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Coming to terms with adverse times in life is not an easy feat when taking it on alone. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic technique that helps relieve post-traumatic stress (PTSD), depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, and addiction. While pain from the past is a vital part of personal development, painful thoughts and memories do not have to remain as a cause of stress forever. It is okay to retain strong negative emotions about something from the past, but allowing it to remain a hindrance to wellness can quickly become a problem. This is where EMDR comes in.

In essence, EMDR entails utilizing REM-based eye-movements when thinking about traumatic memories to aid in processing trauma. One’s recollection of an event does not change; however, one’s perception does. Instead of feeling fearful or weak due to an event, one can feel confident or strong for surviving it (EMDR Institute). The process of EMDR starts with a review of one’s history and healing process. From there, specific memories are chosen and recollected in detail, going all the way to the physical sensations experienced in these memories. Periodically the therapist will ask the subject to identify emotions felt regarding these memories; over time, the sense of distress should fade away (Gotter).

Progress will constantly be evaluated throughout this process. EMDR has been found to significantly reduce PTSD symptoms in the long term with the added benefit of lacking the side effects that come with prescribed medicine. EMDR has a relatively low dropout rate and has not been found to worsen PTSD symptoms during treatment (Gotter).

EMDR is a powerful tool to further one’s wellness by prompting one to process their traumas and gain a more positive outlook on life. While difficult times cannot always be avoided, it is one’s mindset and attitude that allow for growth. There is no need to forget negative experiences, but rather remember them for what they are: the past. The past does not have to hinder anyone indefinitely. It is just as possible to use the past as a source of strength instead of a weakness.


Gotter, Ana. “What You Need to Know About EMDR Therapy.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 15 July 2019, www.healthline.com/health/emdr-therapy.

“What Is EMDR?: EMDR Institute – EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY.” EMDR Institute, Inc., EMDR Institute, Inc., www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/.

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Has the Pandemic Caused More Drinking Problems?

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By Mayumi Elk Eagle, AMFT, APCC

During this quarantine time, it can be challenging for you to maintain your mental health. Researchers have found that drinking may be increasing since this COVID-19 pandemic started as a way to mask anxiety and fear from feeling uncertainty and avoiding facing reality.

If you are heavily relying on alcohol to forget the reality, obsessed about drinking, cannot stop drinking even though it is harming your health, you should talk to your primary care physician about your situation. If you are seeing a therapist, you can discuss your drinking habit. When you can be honest with yourself, you can best decide what to do next.

One significant sign that you may have a problem with alcohol is blackouts. There are two types of blackouts: “fragmentary blackouts,” where you only remember fragments of what happened while drinking, and “islands” where you don’t remember anything that happened (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2019). Blackouts are caused by high blood alcohol levels, which impairs your memory system in your brain. Blackouts are different from passing out. “During a blackout, a person is still awake, but their brain is not creating new memories” (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2019). If your family members or close friends mention things you said and did while drinking and you don’t remember it, you may have had a blackout.

You may feel resistant to thinking of yourself as an alcoholic even though you have noticed that you have a problem. You may have the misconception that alcoholics are people who have lost everything and are not able to sustain themselves, which is not entirely true. Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, the two founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, both had well-paying jobs, but they could not stop drinking despite their declining health, financial problems, and family issues.

Alcoholics Anonymous facilitates a twelve-step program to help alcoholics acquire sobriety and stay sober. Much scientific research has been done about the effectiveness of the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve-Step program’s approach. As neuroscience is advancing, researchers are finding how this approach works from a neuroscience perspective.

Before the pandemic, you could go to an Alcoholics Anonymous in-person meeting to find a solution to your suffering through the support of others who have also struggled with alcoholism.

Fortunately, you can still join the program and get support through the many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings held on Zoom. When you feel alone, I recommend you try to find a meeting and just be there. You don’t need to leave your home. You have no obligation, and no one will convince you that you are an alcoholic. You are the only one who can decide whether you are an alcoholic or not.


Alcoholics Anonymous. (n.d.). https://www.aa.org
Blum, K., Thompson, B., Demotrovics, Z., Femino, J., Giordano, J., Oscar-Berman, M., …Gold, M.S. (2015).

The Molecular Neurobiology of Twelve Steps Program & Fellowship: Connecting the Dots for Recovery. Journal of Reward Deficiency Syndrome, 1,46-64. http://dx.doi.org/10.17756/jrds.2015-008

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2019). Interrupted Memories: Alcohol-Induced Blackouts. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/interrupted-memories-alcohol-induced-blackouts

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2020). Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder

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Healing from Intergenerational Trauma

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intergenerational trauma
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By Mayumi Elk Eagle, AMFT, APCC

Can you imagine how your ancestors lived throughout different times in history?

The United States consists of many races and ethnicities, each with unique experiences, perspectives, and reasons for being in America.
We are all intrinsically tied to our families and our society. Imagine the days when we didn’t have social media or even phones. Back then, leaving your home, traveling across oceans to a new land, either by choice or by force, often meant being cut off entirely from your original support system.

“Social support is the most powerful protection against becoming overwhelmed by stress and trauma” (Van del Kolk, 2014, p. 82). But, when people migrate to a different place, they lose the social support needed to overcome stressful times. When stressors are not handled and processed properly, they can become traumas.

Stories of Holocaust survivors revealed a phenomenon called “intergenerational traumatic transfer,” in which unresolved traumas from parents are passed onto their children who did not experience actual traumas (Cozolino, 2006, p.231). There is a reason for that. More research shows that “psychological trauma disrupts homeostasis and can cause both acute and chronic effect on many organs and biological systems” (Solomon and Heide; as cited in Carey, 2009, p.21).

When people are traumatized, it causes biological changes inside of their bodies, which often causes behavioral changes. Traumatized people pass down their trauma “along through their actions and reactions” (Cozolino, 2006, p.231) to people close to them. When caregivers act based on their reactions to trauma, even if it’s subtle, these actions affect a child’s brain development resulting in learning unhealthy ways of interacting with the outside world. Unhealthy reactions become normal reactions.

Suppose you want to understand your own inherited family trauma. In that case, you could try to trace back your ancestry to find out who went through a traumatic separation from their original society and support system.

Psychotherapy can help individuals and families heal from trauma through a variety of modalities. Finding and nurturing a trusted social system can also help support you through your healing journey.

“Our brains are built to help us function as members of a tribe” (Van del Kolk, 2014, p. 81). You can step out from your familiar reaction patterns and start learning how to heal and live a healthier life in your new support group or your new tribe.


Carey, L. (Ed.) (2009). Expressive and Creative Arts Methods for Trauma Survivors. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingley Publishers.

Cozolino, L. (2006). The neuroscience of Human Relationships. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

Duran, E. & Duran, B. (1995). Native American Postcolonial Psychology. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

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Hakomi: The Organization of Experience, Part 2

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

“In Hakomi, we help our clients study how they create meaning and feeling out of events, that is, how they organize their experiences. Whole classes of experiences are organized around key issues like safety or being loved. To study these, we first focus on a particular present experience, like” muscle tension, a feeling, thought or an image. This experience reveals how experience is being organized and how to access the core material hidden underneath it (Kurtz, 1990, p. 11).

Two entirely different processes affect what someone experiences, including what is occurring externally around them and the tendencies and other elements that first convert these external events into primary sensory information, then into the nervous system, and eventually into conscious experiences (Kurtz, 1985).

To a large degree, “especially at the lower levels of conversion, these habits” are adaptive and not a problem. Still, it’s at the level of feeling and meaning that the conversion of events into experience can sometimes become unnecessarily inhibiting and painful (Kurtz, 1985, p. 3).

The organization of experience developed through one’s emotional-psychological history and is based upon mundane information and misinformation, beliefs, “and, at the deepest levels, memories of emotionally intense events, relationships, and interactions. These key beliefs and memories have the emotional power to create the basic habits with which we organize experience” (p.3).

In Hakomi, central organizing habits and memories are called core material. This core material strongly influences one’s personality with a significant impact on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The ways core material is organized can be noticed in even ordinary details of behavior if one observes carefully (Kurtz, 1985).

“The explicit study of the organization of experience is the very essence of Hakomi Therapy” (Kurtz, 1985, p.3).

In Hakomi, the therapist carefully protects “the emotional experience of the client, providing safety and support wherever possible” then within that delicate, supportive space, we initiate and assist the processes by which a client first becomes aware of and then begins to “change the habits which make some experiences automatically and unnecessarily painful, limiting and destructive” (p. 3-4).

All “therapies work with experience and its organization. But only a few work with it explicitly and consciously; call it that; make it primary; and have principles, methods, and techniques specifically designed to do so. Hakomi does” (p.4).

(This post is Part 2 of a two-part post titled Hakomi: The Organization of Experience. Read Part 1 here.)


Kurtz, R. S. (1985). The Organization of Experience in Hakomi Therapy. Hakomi Forum, 3, 3-9. 

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

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Taking Steps Toward Wellness in 2021

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

Needless to say, 2020 spared no one of their fair share of challenges. With the New Year finally upon us, we’re all given the opportunity to look back on last year and reflect on the positives and negatives. News Year’s resolutions are a classic way to make an effort toward personal growth; however, they aren’t the only approach to achieving a more positive outlook for the year to come.

In fact, one could argue that putting yourself in the mindset for change is just as —if not more—effective than allowing positive change to affect your mindset for the better. A central theme of the New Year is evolution and fresh starts, so what better place to start than from within?

Step back and reflect

At times, resolutions can have an uncanny way of inspiring unproductive self-criticism and aren’t always the best solution. It’s essential to take a step back and look at the past year before making any serious changes. What did you struggle with? How can you use that knowledge to understand yourself better and translate it into a more successful year?

Be mindful of mental health

Many problems were exacerbated last year. Surveys have found that roughly 40% of adults struggled with mental health in the pandemic, if not as a result of it. Be mindful of the bad and the good because, more often than not, learning to adapt the way you look at it can be one of the best things you can do for your mental health and, thus, the changes you wish to make in the new year.

Check in on the reasons

Motivation is extremely sensitive to our perception of our problems inside and out. As muddled as it can get when we’re in a bad place, a healthy attitude can be extraordinarily helpful. You’re never obligated to view things positively all the time, but at the bare minimum, ensure you’re continually checking if your desire for change comes from the right place.

Be kind to yourself

At the risk of sounding trite, the past year hasn’t treated anyone kindly. It’s a great thing to want to engage in positivity and do better in 2021, but it’s also important to reflect on if you’re doing it for the right reasons. It goes without saying that self-care takes precedence over all else, even if many other things seem to pile up over it. While accepting yourself and the circumstances around you, there’s nothing like doing what you love to take the edge off. First and foremost, be kind to yourself.


“How to Prioritize Your Mental Health in 2021: Lifeworks Counseling Center.” Lifeworks, Lifeworkscc, 14 Dec. 2020, www.lifeworkscc.com/how-to-prioritize-your-mental-health-in-2021/.

“New Year Theme for Yourself 2021.” Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Foundation, 14 Dec. 2020, www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/

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