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At a core level, a Hakomi practitioner assists with establishing “alternative ways of being for” a client, supplanting outdated, habituated, and limiting beliefs and behaviors created years ago (Method & Process).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


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

Method & Process. (n.d.). Hakomi Institute of California. Retrieved from

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 Organization of Experience

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(Photo Credit: rdonar)

By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

In Hakomi psychotherapy, the organization of experience relates to how people organize their life experiences. This includes how they interpret what happens to them and what unconscious core beliefs and unnecessary suffering originate from these experiences. The job of the therapist is to help clients study how they organize their experiences. Transformational psychotherapy deals with the modification of core beliefs (Johanson, 2012; Kurtz, 1990). “Since these beliefs are at the basis of what story we live in the world, they can be termed core narrative beliefs” (Johanson, 2012, p. 52).

Organizing one’s life experiences to create meaning out of life is normal and not necessarily maladaptive. However, if for example, one organizes themselves to be overly self-reliant, due to a lack of support earlier in life, but they do not update the accompanying core beliefs, then they may be unable to receive much support later in life. They could perceive a lack of support even when it was more readily available. They could become so accustomed to not receiving support from others that if it were offered they might immediately block it (Johanson, 2012).

“When you know how you are organizing your experience, you become free to organize it in new ways” (Kurtz, 1990, p.11). In this experience of becoming consciously aware of how we organize our experiences, we begin to transcend the old habits and beliefs we had been stuck in and run by. We now have new, previously unavailable, choices. (Kurtz, 1990).

To effectively study how one organizes their experiences, it is essential to stay out of ordinary conversation. Psychotherapy is not the same as ordinary conversation and it is necessary to make a distinction between them so the therapist and client don’t get caught up in the rituals and rules of polite conversation. For example, in a polite conversation, one doesn’t interrupt the other person or take charge of the discussion. But in order to take the therapy to a deeper level, the therapist needs to be more directive and to assist in narrowing the range of pertinent topics that are discussed in therapy by focusing on present time experiences (Kurtz, 1990).

Studying a client’s present time experience is a good way to assist them in discerning how they organize their experiences. This involves asking a client to get into a state of mindful relaxation and to simply notice what they are feeling emotionally and what physical sensations they are experiencing in their body. Noticing this can become for them an access portal to the core beliefs behind it. This is an experiment in consciousness. There are numerous creative ways to do these experiments and Hakomi therapists will ideally know at least two dozen different ways. One way to do this is to offer a previously unavailable or inaccessible nourishing experience, in the form of a statement (Kurtz, 1990; Martin, 2016).

(This post is Part 1 of a two-part post titled Hakomi: The Organization of Experience. Read Part 2 here.)


Johanson, G. (2012). Mindfulness, emotions and the organization of experience. Hakomi Forum, 25, 49-70.

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

Martin, D. (2016, October 27). What is Hakomi? Retrieved November 26, 2017, from

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