therapy

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At a core level, a Hakomi practitioner assists with establishing “alternative ways of being for” a client, supplanting outdated, habituated, and limiting beliefs and behaviors created years ago (Method & Process).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). 


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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What is EMDR?

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Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

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.


References

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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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.)


References

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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Hakomi: Working with the Inner Child, Part 2

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

“Sometimes the child emerges at a distance. It comes as an image of a child. A client may report seeing herself as a child or remembering herself as a child,” which may indicate that she’s not “ready to actually experience the child” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 133-134). If so, then you can ask the client’s adult aspect to talk with the child to share what’s happening.

“When the image of the child appears at a distance, it may also be that the person doesn’t want to own that child, or hates the child, hates that part of herself. It’s important, then, to try a dialogue and eventual reunion with the child” (p. 134). One of Ron Kurtz’s clients made it clear that she preferred to keep her child buried, so he did an experiential exercise called “taking over” by having her try reaching out for it while he held her back.

While someone may intensely dislike her inner child, others may overvalue or be overidentified with it. “Even though child states can be problematic and limiting, it is possible to celebrate their positive origins and protective intent” (Morgan, 2015, p. 207). Assisting “the child aspects of the client to grow and become embodied and integrated with the functioning adult self, the therapist needs to” be sure that the client’s observer adult witness part is also there along with the child, so they are not overly identified with the child (p. 208). Grief around one’s losses needs to occur in addition to experiences of acceptance and self-love that are given and received in the present (Stark, 1994).

Mindfulness, as developed in Hakomi training, and with clients in psychotherapy, assists with the awareness of the adult witness and disidentification from wounded, desperate child aspects. “With the witness present, a therapist and client can be with intense longings, evaluate potential nourishment, and notice when the nourishment is accepted at a deep level” (Morgan, 2015, p. 208).

“The core beliefs of the child are held in state-specific consciousness and are usually not available in ordinary awareness. They are available in the state in which they were first learned. For transformation to occur, the client needs to be present with his or her child consciousness, so that these early beliefs can be fully accessed and processed” (p. 210). While “it is possible to do useful work with the child and core beliefs from the place of ordinary consciousness”, it won’t “have the same impact as working directly with the child state” (p. 210).

“The child is often accessible when a memory arises in the client. The therapist can expand the memory a little by asking for the age and setting while tracking emotional and bodily expression and accessing felt sense” (p. 210). He may use a probe or a contact statement like, “Your child is here now, huh(?).”

Ron Kurtz had the gift of being able to be “a magical stranger to the inner child” in an age-appropriate and nourishing way (p. 211). Going into the magical stranger mode and offering a “missing experience” can be quite powerful for a client. A therapist can become an unfamiliar, kind person who travels back in time and who can interact with the “frozen” child, providing novel and more corrective emotional experiences that were missing from earlier in life (Morgan, 2015).

Here are some guidelines for working with the inner child:

  1. Recognize the child as she appears in session by changes in voice, expression, posture, and so forth.
  2. Be interested in that child; hold the experience in present time.
  3. Acknowledge and validate the child’s experience directly.
  4. Talk directly to the child in simple, age-appropriate language. Attune carefully, maintaining tracking and contact.
  5. Ask the adult self for comments on how the child is responding in the moment and to nourishment.
  6. Check out feelings of the adult toward the child. If they are negative, there is a critical, defensive part present who is not able to show understanding and compassion toward the child. This part can be brought to the client’s consciousness.
  7. Encourage the child to name and express feelings and perceptions.
  8. In the case of overwhelming emotions, allow for some distance to the child part (e.g., imagining placing it far away or behind a window).
  9. Find out the meaning the child placed in the early situation.
  10. Let the child articulate her needs.
  11. Ask the compassionate adult self what the child needs to hear or know.
  12. Support emotional expression, as indicated.
  13. Be real, realistic, and genuine toward the child.
  14. Remember child-type thinking processes—magical, egocentric.
  15. Remember that the child is the map maker, forming the core models of self and the world used throughout life.
  16. Be attentive, validating, playful, compassionate, and creative, just as one would with a real child in the room. Draw on experiences with actual children. Adapt language and tone of voice according to what is age-appropriate (p. 213-214). 

Note: This post is Part 2 of Hakomi: Working with the Inner Child.

To learn more about Hakomi, please follow the tag #hakomi


References

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

Morgan, M. (2015). Child States and Therapeutic Regression. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (p. 203-216). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Stark, M. (1994). Working with resistance. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. 

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Agency and Lovability: The Roots of Suffering and Recovery

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By Harvey Hyman, M.S.

As a therapist treating adult clients with depression, anxiety, or addiction, I have concluded that all three conditions stem from developmental trauma known as “adverse childhood events” (popularly called ACEs) (Felitti, 1998). Examples of ACES are a chaotic home environment marked by sudden angry arguments, domestic violence, parental substance abuse, parental incarceration or parental separation/divorce; physical, sexual or emotional abuse; or failure to meet the child’s need for validation, loving emotional connection, emotional holding and affectionate physical touch.

Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs)

ACEs are highly traumatic to children. They impair the structural and functional development of the child’s brain while blunting her ability to sense what happens in her body or to experience and express her emotions (Perry, 2006). They also cause the developing child to create powerful negative self-beliefs as a way of explaining why her parents treat her so terribly. A child is 100% dependent on her parents and is not capable of forming or living with the belief that they are cruel, incompetent, or uncaring, so she blames herself for being abused or ignored. She concludes that there is something wrong or defective about her and that she alone is the cause of the ACES inflicted upon her when such is certainly not true (Miller, 2007).

Negative self-beliefs are a form of self-blame for the pain of not being loved well. They operate over the lifespan like a software program buried invisibly in the unconscious mind. An adult who harbors unconscious negative self-beliefs has a tendency to keep finding evidence to confirm them. While adults without a traumatic childhood can shake off and bounce back from their missteps, mistakes, rejections, and failures, the same is not true for children who were traumatized. The more ACEs in childhood the more suffering in adulthood (Felitti, 1998).

The list of negative self-beliefs a child can develop is a rather long, sad list and includes such beliefs as: “I don’t deserve to exist;” “I don’t make mistakes, I am a mistake;” “I am invisible;” and “nobody will ever love me.” In my experience, the two most common beliefs relate to a lack of agency and lack of lovability. Let’s take a look at each one.

Agency

What does agency refer to, and why is it important? Agency is an essential component of personhood. An agent is capable of acting on her own to protect and care for herself and others, and to bring about changes in herself and her environment. An agent adopts a moral code from her life experiences and comes to know what is good or bad for her. She is able to trust her own judgment.

A child who is over-protected, ignored and unsupported, or invalidated by relentless criticism, grows up without a sense of agency. The over-protected child has no opportunities to test, develop, and see proof of her own abilities. The child who suffers from parental indifference and lack of support, grows up feeling invisible and powerless. This perception is strengthened by the fact that she must rely completely upon her own resources while competing with other children at school and extra-curricular activities. She feels alone and is filled with self-doubt. The child who is criticized over and over by her parents, may see herself as unable to get anything right or achieve anything worthwhile. Adults who lack a sense of agency are prone to fear, anxiety, and shame. When they do succeed on the surface, they suffer from imposter syndrome.

Lovability

What does lovability encompass? To be lovable is to be accepted just as you are without needing to manipulate others or pretend to be more than you are to gain social acceptance. An adult who perceives herself as unlovable due to childhood trauma sees herself as broken, defective, and less than others. She hesitates to approach others for friendship, dating, jobs, or promotions because she views herself through self-degrading adjectives like unattractive, ugly, stupid, dull, boring, uncool, awkward, etc. She perceives herself to be a misfit that does not belong and anticipates social rejection and exclusion. When she is turned down from friendship or a job, she sees this as confirmation of his negative core belief and is triggered to re-experience childhood pain. Lack of lovability goes with shame, sadness, and depression.

Recovery

The good news is that the negative self-beliefs formed in childhood consequent to abuse or neglect can be vanquished. This occurs when the client re-lives the painful experiences that formed the beliefs, understands how they arose, and becomes able to reject them as the logical interpretation of a child’s mind seeking to account for and cope with a miserable childhood. This process requires step-by-step progress in therapy as the client wades deeper and deeper into the waters of what is the emotional truth of her life.

At Healing Pathways, the interns are skilled in a variety of treatment modalities that can help clients process their childhood trauma and reach emotional freedom without constraint by negative self-beliefs that do not match up with reality. These modalities include EMDR, brainspotting, psychodynamic psychotherapy, expressive arts therapy, narrative therapy, hakomi, and compassionate inquiry. Our therapists can also teach clients how to respond effectively to being triggered by another person or event that brings up their most painful self-belief. We teach clients mindfulness, meditation, guided imagery, the flash technique, tapping in, and a variety of skills for self-calming and self-soothing. Potential clients who share the challenges discussed in this blog are encouraged to learn more about these therapies and ask for a therapist intern at Healing Pathways who uses the therapy that seems like the most promising or the best fit.

References

Felitti, V.J. et al. (1998) Relationship of child abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4); 245-258, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0749-3797(98)00017-8

Perry, B.D. and Szalavitz, M. (2006). The boy who was raised as a dog and other stories from a child psychiatrist’s notebook: What traumatized children can teach us about loss, love, and healing. New York: NY. Basic Books. 

Miller, A. (2007). The drama of the gifted child: The search for the true self. New York: NY. Basic Books. 

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The Place Where You Stare

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By Mayumi Elk Eagle, AMFT, APCC

Do you notice you are staring at one spot when you are trying to remember something? Developed by Dr. David Grand, Brainspotting trauma therapy helps you to process your unresolved trauma by finding a spot for your eyes to focus on.

Grand first discovered this phenomenon while performing Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for his client. EMDR uses bilateral, dual stimulation to help you store your traumatic memories into the right perspectives in your brain (Shapiro, 2018). In this case, David was guiding his client to move her eyes from side to side.

He realized that “her eyes wobbled dramatically and then locked in place” (Grand, 2013, p. 13) during the process. Intuitively, he felt she wanted to stop and look at a fixed spot, so he let her. After a while, memories she had forgotten came up like it opened the floodgates.

Brainspotting doesn’t require describing traumatic experiences by using your words. Traumas are “largely the result of primitive responses” (Levine, 1997, p.24). Many traumatized individuals were not able to express their feelings because they cannot describe their body sensations (Van der Kolk, 2014, p. 100). Moreover, “the rational brain” (p. 47) is incapable of talking “the emotional brain out of its own reality” (Van der Kolk, 2014, p. 47).

With your therapist present, you can try to feel your body sensations and bring up emotions attached to your traumatic experiences. Trauma therapy can be overwhelming. It sounds terrifying, but with brainspotting trauma therapy, you get to decide how you want to process your trauma.


References

Grand, D. (2013). Brainspotting. Boulder, CO: Sounds True

Shapiro, F. (2018). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. New York, NY: The Gilford Press

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

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Hakomi: Working with the Inner Child

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

Hakomi puts much importance on the non-ordinary state of consciousness called the “inner child.” Sometimes it is more in alignment with the adult self, other times not (Eisman, 1989).

“The goal of child development is individuation, a sense of the self as a unique and defined being, with mastery of the functional skills necessary to participate in and enjoy life. What the child is developing is his or her own uniqueness. In Hakomi terms, the child is striving to attain its own organicity” (Eisman, 1989, p. 10). As children, to attain individuation, we need unity with our caregivers. “Experiences that support our self-respect and individuation create positive core beliefs. Experiences that violate us create limiting core beliefs” (p. 11).

Experiences evoked in therapy frequently relate to early childhood. Through these experiences, the inner child can express herself. This expression happens spontaneously as a consciousness shift and emerges through an “influence of emotionally charged memories.”

“In remembering the feelings and events of childhood, we remember also the consciousness of childhood,” which is “another non-ordinary state of consciousness” (Ron Kurtz, 1990, p. 131). The child can and often does appear spontaneously in psychotherapy, and the therapist can assist it in emerging (p. 133).

Experiences learned in one state of consciousness might be hard to access from a different state of consciousness. Thus, a child who had early experiences, “was in a much different state of consciousness than the adult” she became. So much so that many adults have “difficulty remembering what they were like” as children. But it was “the child’s experiences that created the core material,” which influences adult present time experiences (p. 132).

Ideally, the individual in a “child state of consciousness” has not lost her connection to the present time situation, and the child she was and the adult she is are both present simultaneously (p. 132). As such, this could provide an opportunity to do some integration by helping a client relive painful experiences, watch them at the same time, understand the history, and combine “the emotional intensity of childhood with the reasoning capabilities of an adult” (p. 132).

The inner child and her experiences built her worldview and self-image, so by making contact and working with that child, you have the option of changing that worldview and self-image. Just by being there with her, by talking to her and explaining things, by being careful, patient, and concerned, just by doing that, you help change the way she feels about herself and the world. And by doing that, you help change the adult as well (Kurtz, 1990).

“Child consciousness may feel like part of an integrated life, or it can appear to limit and sabotage a satisfying adult life” (Morgan, 2015, p. 204). Some people can have child aspects that dominate their “adult self in present time,” and thus, they may seem childish, “too emotional, or overly dependent on others” (p. 205).


References

Eisman, J. (1989). The child state of consciousness and the formation of the self. Hakomi Forum, (7), 10-15.

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

Morgan, M. (2015). Child States and Therapeutic Regression. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 203-216). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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How to Overcome Social Isolation

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

The winter months can be difficult to get through for many people. It’s typically cold, and there are not many hours of daylight. We may not want to go outside and are more likely to isolate ourselves, which can negatively affect our mood.

One of the most common symptoms of anxiety and depression that I have seen is social isolation. There are many reasons we may isolate ourselves. We might feel like it will take too much effort and that we don’t have enough energy to be around others. We might not want to burden other people with our emotions, or maybe we have developed some social anxiety and don’t feel comfortable interacting with others. Whatever the reason, social isolation is not a helpful strategy to combat a depressed mood or anxiety.

Healthy isolation, also known as solitude, is not the same as purposeful social isolation. Sometimes we need time alone to help reset and clear our minds, or we seek solitude as part of a spiritual experience. We may also need time alone to collect our thoughts and gain clarity about our feelings and what is happening in our lives.

Social isolation, on the other hand, is defined as being alone without any social interactions and can come from feelings of shame and depression. Social anxiety or fears of abandonment can also lead someone to isolate themselves from others. If I person has not developed deep, personal relationships with other people, they are more likely to experience social isolation.

Sometimes isolation is out of our hands, but it can also be something we create for ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously. To have more health and happiness, it is important to find a good balance of solitude and time socializing.

If social isolation is affecting your mood and your life negatively, here are some guidelines for climbing out of it.

  1. When you are invited to do something with family or friends, make your best effort to accept the invitation and follow through with your plans. Try not to cancel the plans once you have agreed to go out with them. 
  2. Figure out how many times a week is feasible for you to make plans with a friend or family member, and make it a weekly goal to see them. Once a week is a fairly reasonable goal for most people.
  3. Try joining a weekly activity where you will meet other people with similar interests. This could include a sports league, a class, such as a fitness class or art class, or a Meetup group.
  4. Get out of the house once a day to take a walk or do errands, and try to interact with at least one person while out. Dogs are also great companions and can help you interact with others.
  5. Join a support group and attend meetings once a week. This could include a social skills group or a social anxiety group.
  6. Work with your therapist on what feelings come up for you when you feel like isolating yourself. They can also help you replace your need for isolation with a healthy coping strategy, which could also combat your anxiety and depression.

References

Good Therapy (n.d.). (20 August 2018). Isolation. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/isolation.

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Hakomi: Taking Over

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

Taking over is a Hakomi intervention technique, developed by the creator of Hakomi Ron Kurtz, where the therapist assumes there is inherent wisdom in a client’s defenses and helps out by “taking over” for her what she is already doing (Barstow & Johanson, 2015; Lavie, 2015).

Normally this is done in a state of mindfulness, except for the times when riding the rapids to support spontaneous behavior (Barstow & Johanson, 2015; Kurtz, 1990). Through this technique, the therapist assists the client by “making the work of self-discovery easier, safer and clearer” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 104).

As Kurtz began adapting his approach to therapy from earlier training in bioenergetics and Gestalt, among other modalities, he realized the importance of experimenting with mindfulness and supporting, rather than resisting, a client’s defenses (Lavie, 2015). When an “offer to take over is accepted,” a lot of the effort is taken out, lowering the noise and bringing blocked feelings into awareness (p. 102).

If a client responds to a probe with an inner voice, then the therapist can take over the voice and vocalize it for a client. Taking over can accomplish several things: 1) supporting a need for safety; 2) lowering the noise, thus increasing sensitivity; 3) creating distance as well as control of reactions; 4) supporting the healing relationship; 5) shifting awareness from defensiveness to the underlying “feelings, impulses, images and memories being defended against” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 102).

For example, if the client shares the thought, “I won’t cry,” the therapist can then ask the client to relax and notice what occurs for them when the therapist repeats the phrase out loud for them with a similar volume, intensity, and tone (Kurtz, 1990; Lavie, 2015).

Taking over occurred once with a woman who did a workshop with Kurtz. The woman’s daughter had been assaulted by a stranger in their home, and the daughter would stare at the door in her room and could not sleep at night. The mother tried to reassure her to no avail, so she finally said that she would watch the door and sit there all night without going away. Eventually, the daughter closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep. The mother’s statement, “I’ll watch the door for you” is a good example of “taking over” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 110).


References

Barstow, C. & Johanson, G. (2015). Glossary of Hakomi Therapy Terms. 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.

Lavie, S. (2015). Experiments in Mindfulness. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 178-193). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

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Hakomi: The Principles, Part 2

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parenting

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

Mind-Body Holism

While there are influences that the body has upon the mind, in Hakomi, the focus is more on how the mind influences the body, specifically how core beliefs and early memories affect someone somatically or physically (Kurtz, 1990).

In Hakomi, the focus is on the “mind-body interface” where beliefs, images, and emotions interact with bodily experiences and where these interactions take place in both directions (Kurtz 1990, p. 31; Myullerup-Brookhuis, 2008).

Mind and body are part of one system and interact at different levels. Hakomi looks at some ways that the body reveals one’s beliefs and emotions. Mind-body holism, which borrows from Reichian therapy and Bioenergetics, allows one to view “the body as an expression of mental life” by studying body posture, structure and behavior. The therapist tracks the client’s “bodily signs of inner experiences” (Kurtz, 1985, p. 4).

Unity

Psychotherapists work to get differing aspects of communicating, including family members, body and mind or various aspects of the mind. This requires some skill in order to coax the disowned aspects out of the unconscious and give them a voice with which to speak in a more open and direct way by creating a dialogue. When the dialogue can happen within a safe and nurturing context, then the opportunities for integration are that much better (Kurtz, 1990).

“In therapy, we attempt to establish and enhance communication between conscious and unconscious and between mind and body. In using mindfulness, we create opportunities which allow the unconscious a clear chance to express and be seen, heard and felt. In our focus on the mind-body interface, we work to create channels of communication between them. When we work with the child, we are often hearing from a part that has long been suppressed and silent. When the client comes to insight, meaning and self-acceptance, again it is one part understanding or accepting another” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 33).

In Hakomi, the principles are much more important than techniques. Techniques emerge spontaneously from knowing the principles. It’s better to have the feel of the work than to have the theory (Kurtz, 1990).

“No preferences. No fighting with what simply is. This Zen attitude is basic to both mindfulness and nonviolence.” When there are no preferences, there is no holding on (Kurtz, 1990, p. 37).


References

Kurtz, R. S. (1985). Foundations of Hakomi Therapy. Hakomi Forum, 2, 3-7.

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

Myullerup-Brookhuis, I. (2008). The Principles of Hakomi. Hakomi Forum, 19-21, 69-84.

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