Hakomi: Healing Relationships and the Hierarchy of Contexts

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(Picture Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree)

By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

In Hakomi, there is a hierarchy of contextual levels. At the lowest level is the technique. Techniques, like probes or contact statements, are easy to learn. The techniques are powerful and work effectively. Students can have success with them right away and can work more exclusively at this level for months or even years. While a student may look for opportunities to use the techniques, they often don’t yet know how to create such opportunities. Through experience, one learns to notice more of these opportunities, and eventually, they learn to organize the techniques in a more systematic and integrated way which brings them to the next level, that of the method (Kurtz, 1988, 1990).

At the next higher level, the method organizes the techniques. The student uses techniques less often but more precisely. They become aware of the diverse aspects of a client. As an example, they learn to work with the client’s inner child. The basic method involves utilizing the Hakomi methodology to evoke experiences that lead to the discovery of a client’s core organizing material, then to examining, processing and transforming that core material (Hakomi Institute, 2015).

“In studying the method, one begins to think about: what character process is this? What system am I in and how can I jump out? What part of the process is this? How do I create an experiment here?” Mastering this level takes much longer, but the work becomes more alive, rich and satisfying. The method is powerful but still has some limits. This brings one to the next level beyond the method, which is the level of relationship (Hakomi Institute; Kurtz, 1990, p. 54).

At the level of the (therapist-client) relationship, a therapist’s “emotional growth and depth of understanding” help determine which methods will work at any given time (Kurtz, 1990, p. 55). The essence of the therapist-client relationship is about obtaining the cooperation and permission of the unconscious, which includes avoiding triggering a client’s need to resist. Acknowledging and honoring a client’s defenses helps them to relax and helps significant experiences to emerge. This means accepting them nonjudgmentally and letting go of any agendas, even if those are based on positive intentions. “Cooperation of the unconscious happens when the client finds nothing in the therapist to resist” (p. 60). The ideal emotional attitude helps a therapist to be available for assistance and just as available to back off, wait and see “where the process wants to go” (p. 63). In giving the relationship a greater priority, the method and technique become easier. Healing relationships are special. There is an essential warmth and friendliness. “There is no question of healer and healed. Both are parts of something greater taking place. Both feel this. Each is healed” (p. 64). At the highest level are the principles. Hakomi principles include mindfulness, nonviolence, unity, mind-body holism, and organicity (Kurtz, 1990).

With unity, for example, we learn that the locus of control and healing are not in the therapist or anything externally, but that control and healing exist within the client and the therapeutic relationship (Kurtz, 1988). Many interventions involve a relaxation of effort, of allowing the spontaneous to happen. “Effort is an ego function. When one efforts, the act of efforting creates an I and a something the I struggles against. In this drama of struggle and competition, the chief act is the creation of a separate self: an ego. Without the struggle, there is no drama”. In spontaneity, “effort evaporates, and ego relaxes” (p.10).

The principles guide all levels but particularly that of relationship. In Hakomi, the therapist’s emotional attitude is grounded within the principles. There is a focus on how all of us are still learning and growing (Kurtz, 1990).


Hakomi Institute. (2015). The Hakomi Method. Retrieved from http://hakomiinstitute.com/about/the-hakomi-method

Kurtz, R. S. (1988). The Healing Relationship. Hakomi Forum, 6, 8-17.

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

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