Hakomi: Deepening

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(Picture Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree)

By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

Once a client gets into a state of mindfulness through accessing, the objective is to stabilize and deepen that mindful state and utilize it for accessing core material. Building an alliance, relaxing control, and increasing feelings of safety will assist the client in retrieving material generally outside their awareness. The therapist and client are both involved in a conscious dialogue, as well as an unconscious one (Fisher, 2002; Kurtz, 1990).

To deepen the experience requires asking more precise questions. For example, if an answer to a question in the form of a probe was, ‘My face tingles,’ then a deepening question might be, ‘Which side of your face tingles more?’ Please note that the therapist does not necessarily need to know the answer to this question as it is simply a technique for deepening and stabilizing a state of mindfulness. It’s a useful way to make contact and two or three of these types of questions might be enough for a client to be able to go deeper with their experience (Kurtz, 1990).

A client often tends to go back and forth between mindfulness and ordinary consciousness. To avoid that, ask the client to stay with their present experience and avoid opening their eyes. With deepening, a client might initially only be mindful of trivialities, like about sensations in their body. It’s important to ask deepening questions about those sensations so that the client can get to the feelings underlying those sensations. “The overall shift in the course of deepening is from (1) thoughts and ideas, to (2) images, sensations and tensions, to (3) feelings, and finally to (4) whole memories, experiences and insights” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 122). Overall, the shift is from local tensions, sensations, and feelings to more whole-body experiences (Kurtz, 1990).

As the therapist works with a client, it’s valuable for them to ask what the missing experience is for the client. For example, what emotional needs did they not get met as a child? The missing experience is generally a variation of “being loved, accepted, heard and seen, valued, or acknowledged. By arranging for the missing experience to occur in therapy, the beliefs surrounding it are clarified, explored and challenged” (Fisher, 2002, p. 62). While someone often longs for this experience, they can still be very resistant to it (Fisher, 2002).

Sometimes clients won’t be able to stay in a state of mindfulness because they may be too tense, nervous or anxious. Then it’s important to talk about safety issues and find ways of reducing the tension. If that doesn’t work, then the client may need something else entirely, such as bodywork, a vacation, dietary changes, etc. before they are ready for Hakomi (Kurtz, 1990).

In deepening, there are four basic steps: (1) Contacting experience; (2) Adding mindfulness; (3) Immersion in the experience (for example, if a client feels sad then we want them to feel that sadness fully and attentively); and (4) Studying the subtle aspects of the experience or letting the experience elicit other related experiences. (Gaskin, C. L., Cole, D. & Eisman, J. (2015).

The therapist uses “contact to focus, mindfulness to recognize, and immersion to stabilize.” These Hakomi techniques can help a client study their experiences and, therefore, gain clarity “to access their organizational core” (Gaskin, C. L., Cole, D. & Eisman, J. (2015, p. 177). When one gets to the core, then the accessing and deepening is done and they can move to the next stage of Hakomi: processing (Gaskin, C. L., Cole, D. & Eisman, J. (2015).


Fisher, R. (2002). Experiential Psychotherapy with Couples: A Guide for the Creative Pragmatist. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen.

Gaskin, C. L., Cole, D. & Eisman, J. (2015). Accessing and Deepening. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 295-299). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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

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