Hakomi is a mindfulness-centred, body-oriented method of psychotherapy that has been around since the 1970’s and is practiced and taught all over the world. The founder of Hakomi, Ron Kurtz, brought together a variety of therapeutic approaches and created a model that is both gentle and yet also powerful. In Hakomi, we use mindfulness a great deal, as that helps us go beyond what words alone can tell us. We also reference the body a lot, as there is additional information in the body that the mind is generally not aware of. So when we talk about something in therapy, we can also notice what is going on in the body at the same time, and get a lot more really interesting information to work with, which can often lead us to profound discoveries and changes.
The underlying philosophy of Hakomi, which we call “the principles”, helps to create a safe therapeutic environment, in which the client generally feels respected, seen, and understood. The five principles of Hakomi are mindfulness, organicity, non-violence, unity and mind-body-spirit wholism. We see mindfulness as a key ingredient in the healing process. Wherever possible, I will invite a client into mindfulness to notice what is going on internally – this might be thoughts, feelings, sensations, impulses, memories or images. This gives us a great deal more information than just talking can provide. Organicity means that we trust that there is an organic, natural impulse towards healing in the client, and our job is to support that growth and healing to happen, rather than come in as an “expert” to “fix” a problem. Non-violence means that we believe that is important to go at a pace that feels right for the client, that creates a sense of safety – not too fast and not too slow. It also means that I won’t assume that I know best about you, I will invite your input and collaboration, and not push you to something you don’t feel comfortable with. Unity means that everything is interconnected and interdependent, so that means I will facilitate communication between the various parts of yourself, as well as between yourself and myself. Mind-body-spirit wholism means that we can trust that there is a connection between your thoughts, your emotions, and the signals in your body, so that we can directly access important emotional material through the body.
In Hakomi, we study how the client organises themselves around their current experience, which is shaped by deeply held core beliefs which come about through repeated early life experiences. Core beliefs are usually organised around some basic themes, such as safety, dependency, freedom, vulnerability, and worth. We use mindfulness and ‘little experiments’ to study experience and move towards these core themes, which are often pervasive in a client’s life.
In a Hakomi session, I would start with something that you are interested in exploring. This could be a big life issue that has plagued you for a long time, or it could be a seemingly little thing that just happened to you in the past week, or day or even hour. As you start to talk about this, I might invite you into mindfulness to notice what is happening in your body as you tell me about it. Or if there is nothing pressing, we can just start with mindfulness and go with whatever is present for you then. I will guide you in this, and ask you questions to help you along in your discovery, such as “notice what happens in your body as you say that” or “what tells you that?” as you describe something you are noticing. Then as we start to get curious about something that you are aware of, we might try a ‘little experiment in mindfulness’ based on my hypothesis of what I think might be going on for you. This is one of the primary techniques we use in Hakomi to elicit the deeper information we are looking for. This means I would ask if you’d like to try something, and tell you what I’m thinking, and then you can decide if you’d like to do that. A Hakomi experiment might include me saying a short gentle sentence to you and you noticing what happens inside for you. Or perhaps it might include repeating an automatic and unconscious gesture you made, but slowly and mindfully. Once we try a little experiment, we study in mindfulness what comes up next, and generally the process flows from there towards core beliefs. We then work together towards providing a ‘missing experience’ which is something that you didn’t get to have in your early life experience but that would have been good to have. This might include me saying something quite specific that you never got to hear, or being available and supportive to you in a way that you didn’t have. And usually, this helps to bring about quite a powerful and meaningful experience of something quite different, that can be very healing.
Hakomi Mindfulness-Centred Somatic Psychotherapy: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice by Greg Johanson, Halko Weiss and Lorena Monda
Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method by Ron Kurtz
Grace Unfolding: Psychotherapy in the Spirit of Tao-te ching by Greg Johanson and Ron Kurtz
8 Keys to Practicing Mindfulness : Practical Strategies for Emotional Health and Well-Being by Manuela Mischke-Reeds