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Hakomi: Transformation

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Picture by Benjavisa Ruangvaree Art

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). 


References

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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Hakomi: The Essential Process

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(Picture Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree)

By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

“The freedom to change, to change who you are, happens rarely, during very special moments. These moments are made possible, in part, by something about the therapist. It is this: the therapist is extremely sensitive to what is happening within the other’s experience, especially those signs that indicate where the process wants to go that it has never gone before. Not all processes are alive like that” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 73-74). Many are automatic, unconscious, habitual actions. Automatic, unconscious or habitual responses don’t contain anything new or lend themselves to insights, learning or growth. “For the client to make real choices, the therapist must be following, not leading” (p. 74).

Additionally, a client needs to be committed to the concept of self-study. They must be willing to let the therapist experiment, which can evoke some painful situations early on. The client may get very emotional without necessarily understanding why, until the moment an early memory resurfaces that goes with the emotion. This process requires courage in the client (Prengel, 2009).

“The combined use of the principles as guidelines, mindfulness as a therapeutic tool, and nonviolence as a basic emotional attitude of the therapist make Hakomi unique” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 67). “Within the frame of the process, we do three big things: we establish mindfulness; we evoke experiences of different kinds; and we process the experiences evoked in one of three different, state-specific ways” (p. 67). These three different states (of consciousness) include “strong emotions, the child state, and going for meaning” (p. 70).

“The essential process always depends on the therapist’s ability to create a special atmosphere for the client. The client must feel that the therapist is following what he or she, the client, is doing, needing or wanting. At whatever stage the process is, what happens next must be in line with what the client’s deepest self agrees to” (p. 74).

The process works through establishing mindfulness in the client. Mindfulness is a “relaxed, open, undefended, quiet” and special state, which involves noticing one’s own present-time experience (p. 68). Mindfulness includes observing one’s inner experience through a detached witness state of consciousness (Barstow & Johanson, 1999). In establishing mindfulness, feeling safe and a cooperative attitude are needed, especially the cooperation of the unconscious of the client (and of the clinician as well). Through mindfulness, one can access information related to core material more easily and faster than any other way (Kurtz, 1990).

Different Hakomi techniques that can evoke experiences in mindfulness include little experiments, all kinds of probes, taking over, and acknowledgments. Evoked experiences include thoughts, feelings (mild to overwhelming), sensations, tensions, impulses, memories, images and the inner child state (Kurtz, 1990).


References

Barstow, C. & Johanson, G. (1999). Front Page and Glossary of Hakomi Therapy Terms. Hakomi Forum, 13.

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

Prengel, S. (2009). Ron Kurtz on the Hakomi Method. Retrieved from https://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/ron-kurtz-hakomi-therapy

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