Hakomi Method

You may be wondering what Hakomi Mindfulness-Based Somatic Method is. This note is to let you know: 1) the ideas behind this therapy method;   2) what attitudes on your part would be helpful for the process; and 3) what happens during and after a therapy session.

What the Hakomi Method is About

Hakomi Therapy is a personal growth process, originally developed by Ron Kurtz, and evolved greatly over the past 30+ years by Ron and various senior practitioners. In an atmosphere of safety and acceptance, the client is able to discover and refine the beliefs and attitudes that shape the quality of his or her life.

Mindfulness

One of the most important aspects of Hakomi is our work with a special kind of consciousness, called, “mindfulness”, the practice of turning inward, usually with your eyes closed, to notice what is going on within you. It’s a practice of learning to develop awareness of your present experience while still fully experiencing it. You might think of it as being in a cloud, while also being able to see the cloud from a far, as well as notice other clouds.

Mindfulness brings vivid awareness to your behavior, your being, your past, and gives you a chance to rework the beliefs, feelings and images that help determine who you are.

As with other forms of personal growth work, being a Hakomi client means you may encounter parts of yourself, both pleasant and unpleasant, which you forgot, which you didn’t attend to before, or which were too painful to look at. There may be memories, wishes and fantasies; strong emotions; or aspects of your behavior that you have trouble accepting or dealing with. And, there will also likely be moments of relief, celebration and triumph.

Over time, our relation to these parts of ourselves has become automatic. These reactions happen so quickly that we rarely notice we have just ignored, evaded or reacted to something. And typically, when such habits get challenged, we use a great many strategies to maintain the old self and to avoid what might be possible. Mindfulness lets us discover how we have learned to do all this, and how we might do things in a more whole and satisfying way.

So, a large part of our work requires observing your inner reactions and finding the beliefs that create them. We may ask you in a focused way just to be there, to hang out, to observe, or to feel what happens to you while you are in the therapy session.

Respect for the Client

Another essential aspect of Hakomi is respect for the client. Though I am an expert in the application of Hakomi method, only you know what is best for you. What you choose to work on, how far or fast or deep you go are all determined by you, the client. I will offer suggestions and clearly direct the flow of the work. This should not feel pushy or invasive. In such an atmosphere of support and cooperation, the inner self feels most safe revealing itself and making personal choices for change.

What You Can Do To Make Your Work More Effective

Commitment

One thing that you can do to make such changes possible is to be clear about your own commitment to the work. You are choosing to be a client because in some way you are confused, uncertain or unhappy about yourself, or about a relationship or how your life is going. It may not even be very clear to you. But you know something needs to change, and there is a part of yourself that strives to make that change happen. If you respect that part, if you commit yourself to your own growth and the process it takes to effect that, then you will aid your growth in happening.

Be true to all of yourself

On the other hand, it is important to stay true to all of yourself. Not all of you may wish to or be ready to change. If all of you were, you wouldn’t need any outside help to make things different; you’d just change naturally, like a tree throughout the different seasons. So while it is important to honor your commitment to growth, it is just as important to do so in a way that no part of yourself feels pushed or violated or left behind.

For example, if it’s important to you to reveal a certain piece of information, then reveal it. If it’s important to not reveal it, then by all means, keep it to yourself. Or if part of you is angry, and feels like shouting, but another part feels embarrassed to make any noise, then you will need to get clear. If at any point, you don’t feel clear, you can let me know. This is a time to slow down, until you feel more certain about your comfort level or need to change direction. You will get to many such choice points in your work, and you help the therapy progress every time you consider all parts of yourself in an honest and inclusive way.

Growth takes time

Be patient with yourself. Nobody changes overnight. Just as it took some time for you to become who you are, it will also take time to discover how that happens, what you can do about it, and how to make incorporate newness. It’s good to know in advance that real change only begins in the office. The successful taking on of new, more productive beliefs and behaviors happens through your trying them out in your everyday life. Therapy just plants a seed; it’s up to you to help make that seed blossom through daily care and attention.

Developing a healing relationship

You will make your process more effective by being open and honest with me. For this reason, one of our goals in therapy will be for us to build a strong, healthy bond to support you feeling safe and comfortable. Sharing difficult memories, including the experiences that may arise in our work together, even confronting me on something I did, may all be part of your process. For many people, just learning to have such trust and communicating in an open way with another person is a new and valuable experience.

What to Expect in a Session

Self-study of your inner world

Have you ever understood a habitual problem but not been able to change it? That can cause a sense of frustration and a disempowered kind of feeling, resulting in low self esteem, anxiety or depression. The understanding of a habit happens in the front, analytical part is the front of your brain. In our culture, we use this part of our brains a lot…but when we have a habitual pattern we are trying to change, sometimes just analyzing it is not enough for longstanding change to occur. I will guide you to move into mindfulness to study your internal experience as you are talking about the issue. This may mean that you close your eyes and notice what your energy feels like, what memories come up or even as you feel into this feeling—what happens in your body. You may notice a tightening in your stomach or tension in your jaw or back. I understand this can sound strange…it is different from how much of our culture approaches dealing with an issue. I totally get that! It can be really amazing though…instead of analyzing, you learn to be with yourself during a harder moment. Here, you get clues on how you can tend to yourself in the moment. These clues become tools for you whenever you need them. They are not to solve a problem as much as they are to learn how to become more aware of your internal process, less judgmental about it, and then more apt to figure out how to care for yourself given what is happening. The result is generally feeling less controlled by anxiety, overwhelm or depression and more in tune with yourself and what you can do to care for yourself in that harder moment.

What might come up

There’s a wide range of events that such pursuit can lead you to. Sometimes strong emotions may come up, or physical sensations and impulses, or stunning insights. Other times you might have powerful memories emerge, possibly even ones you’ve never before remembered. Sometimes you might feel like a little child. Or things may just get very still and quiet. They may even get boring or frustrating. All of these and more are perfectly natural. I will work with you with whatever is coming up and we will prioritize your feeling of safety and grounded-ness.

Changes in awareness

During the therapy session, most experiences will take place in “witnessing consciousness”, that is, focused inner self awareness. Still, your every day consciousness is always available, will be co-present as you work, and will return spontaneously at the end of the session. At that point you may have lost a sense of sequence of what has occurred. It may feel as if the events of the therapy have taken place outside of time. You may not even immediately be able to remember the whole session.

This is simply a function of your consciousness changing, just like when you wake up from a dream and can’t quite recall all of it. If this occurs, it’s a good sign and means that you dropped the usual qualities of ordinary consciousness for a while, and that your deeper mind was busy working things out.

Your Physical Body and the Use of Respectful Touch

Because Hakomi seeks to explore the whole self, the session will likely include, at least in part, focus on the ways your physical body holds and expresses important psychological information. In service to this exploration, the session may involve moments of bodily awareness or activity, or even respectful physical contact. This might mean being touched, or held, or physically supported. Or you might simply be asked to move in ways that your body seems to want. Sometimes a client will curl up on the floor, or struggle to release some anger. The spontaneity of such moments can be very insightful and healing. Of course, anything offered will only be done with your permission and with the utmost integrity and respect. You are always free to try such an experience or not. And it is essential to note that no touch of a sexual nature is ever endorsed in Hakomi Therapy (although issues relating to sexuality may certainly be explored in the session, if the client chooses).

After the session

Typically, even after the session is over, your inner self will continue to work on the material you’ve been looking at. You may find yourself in various moods, pleasant or not; you might have more or less energy; you might have particularly vivid dreams; you might feel peaceful or agitated or numb. All kinds of experiences may present themselves as your inner self makes adjustments. These events are the necessary next steps in your process. By allowing them their space and by studying them for the messages they contain, you may more readily integrate the new options you are discovering. I might suggest specific kinds of “homework” for you to explore between sessions to assist this integration. And, of course, any or all of these follow-up experiences may be important topics for any further sessions.

How long will therapy last?

People often want to know how long the therapy process will last. There is no one simple answer. So many factors are involved, including often unknown or unforeseen ones, that are not possible to predict. Some people feel enormous benefit after only one or two sessions; other folks might work for one or two years to achieve their growth goals. A few months to a year-and-a-half is probably the average range.

Because of its ability to reach deep states of the self rather quickly, Hakomi is a relatively short-term therapy. Still, not only does it take time for people to change, it also takes time to acclimate to the rhythm and process of any therapy method, as well as taking time to develop a working relationship with your therapist. For this reason I generally recommend that you plan on coming for several sessions to get into the flow of things, and then carefully evaluate how things are going, and if the process is serving your needs. Of course, you are always free to continue or not at any time.

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