Hakomi: States of Consciousness and Establishing Mindfulness

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(Picture Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree)

By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

States of Consciousness

In Hakomi psychotherapy, there are four states of consciousness:

  1. Ordinary consciousness, which includes open eyes with direct eye contact, a conversational tone and pace of speech, and low or controlled emotions.
  2. Mindfulness where eyes are generally closed; speech is slower, softer and quieter in general; breath is gentle; the body is still; and which includes all components of a light trance.
  3. The child state with childlike voice; a sense of wonder; simple sentence structure; youthful facial expressions and gestures; younger-looking body; shy in a childlike way.
  4. Riding the rapids wherein there is excitement; a high level of emotional expression; labored breathing; and wavelike body movements (Kurtz, 1990).

“In teaching and inviting clients to turn their awareness inside to notice whatever their present awareness is, we are deliberately encouraging our clients to enter a non-ordinary state of consciousness” (Barstow, 2015, p. 142).

Establishing Mindfulness

“Before attempting to evoke experiences in mindfulness, mindfulness itself must be established” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 85). Mindfulness is an open, vulnerable, non-ordinary state of consciousness where rapport and safety are already established. Before using techniques like probes or taking over, some things need to be in place including the relationship. All signs of cooperation, including cooperation of the unconscious, are there. Also, the clinician needs to conceptualize what would be a meaningful, interesting experience for the client.

Additionally, when the client is talking, it’s important to wait for the client to finish saying whatever they need to say. Even if the therapist has some valid ideas regarding what to do, it is nevertheless important to give the client time to finish. When the client is finished talking, she will then wait for the therapist to respond. When this happens, then the therapist can ask the client if she wants to try something that might be interesting like, for example, a probe (Kurtz, 1990).

The therapist doesn’t know how much the client needs to discuss her “story in ordinary consciousness” to feel safe, so a way of responding to a talkative client might be, “‘Why don’t we hang out with this sense of cautiousness, and maybe it will tell us more about itself?’” (Gaskin & Cole, 2015, p. 133). Another intervention might be to ask the client how she experiences the caution in her body.

Ron Kurtz found that nearly everyone he worked with could get into a state of mindfulness. Even the briefest moments of mindfulness can reveal significant, evoked experiences that can be utilized for accessing emotions, core beliefs or the child state (Kurtz, 1990).

If the therapist has listened to the client and has conceptualized some possible ways of responding then she can use a probe, a little experiment, an acknowledgment, or take something over for the client. These techniques can be combined in elegant ways. “Probes, acknowledging, contact statements, little experiments, and the various forms of taking over are the main interventions in Hakomi Therapy” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 90). These are the “core techniques,” just as mindfulness and nonviolence are the “central principles” (p. 90).

According to Kurtz, the closest precursor to probes would be Carl Jung’s use of “word association techniques” created by Wilhelm Wundt (p. 90).


Barstow, C. (2015). Ethics: right use of power. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 139-148). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Gaskin, C.L. & Cole, D. (2015) Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 129-138). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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

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