First and foremost, Hakomi Experiential Psychotherapy is a mindfulness-based approach to self-understanding. Mindfulness is not simply part of the ‘tool kit’ in Hakomi, but forms the very foundation of the therapeutic encounter.
Much more than a method or set of techniques, Hakomi is a way of looking at the world that is compassionate, mindful, curious, non-invasive, humorous and respectful.
Hakomi is a Hopi Indian word, that has been borrowed to describe the distinctive approach to body-inclusive psychotherapy developed in the USA by therapist and author Ron Kurtz and members of his training staff.
Origins of the work
Hakomi’s inspiration has come from Buddhism and Taoism, body-centred therapies such as Reichian work, the Feldenkrais Method and Bioenergetics as well as Gestalt, Focussing, NLP and Ericksonian Hypnosis.
A major influence has been General Systems Theory, in which individuals are seen as self-organising systems that spontaneously self-correct and contain within themselves their own blueprints for growing and becoming.
Currently, a number of Hakomi teaching staff are particularly interested in emerging neuroscience research on how psychological change happens in the brain.
Hakomi Experiential Psychotherapy is based on five principles: mindfulness, non-violence, unity, organicity and mind-body holism.
The style of the work is inherently flexible and Hakomi continues to grow and evolve as a body of work, readily absorbing new ideas and influences.
To find out more about the principles, download this article (PDF, 64kb)
The Work is inherently flexible
The methods of Hakomi are appropriate and effective in all kinds of therapeutic situations, including couples, families, movement and body work. As a method, it is suitable for crisis work but is finds its fullest potential in the process of personal and transpersonal growth.
Studying the organisation of experience
The Hopi meaning of Hakomi – ‘How do you stand in relation to these many realms?’ (or more colloquially, ‘Who are you?’) reflects the method’s emphasis on self study. The Hakomi client is encouraged to study the organisation of their experience – how they meet the world, what kind of world they perceive, what beliefs they hold about themselves and so on.
A quick summary of the method
- Create the right state of mind;
- Build the relationship;
- Get ideas about the person (about how he or she organises experience and what beliefs influence that);
- Do little experiments in mindfulness to test your ideas;
- Work with the emotions, memories and insights evoked by the experiments you’ve done;
- Create the missing experiences that the limiting beliefs have prevented.
The main techniques Hakomi uses for these simple steps are:
- We follow the flow of the client’s present experiences (tracking);
- We name the experiences, once in a while, to demonstrate to the client (especially the unconscious mind of the client) that we’re “getting it” (contact and acknowledgement);
- We detect and adjust to the person’s unconscious needs;
- We think about what sort of history and beliefs lead the person to organise his or her experience the way we’re noticing it’s being organized;
- We create little experiments, like probes and taking over (which evoke and access character material) to test our hypotheses about the person and to evoke memories and emotions that bring that material into consciousness;
- We work with the emotions that are evoked (by supporting spontaneous management behaviour and by creating secondary experiments to move the process along);
- We seek to discover and to provide, at least for the moment, the experiences that have been missing as a result of the effects of the limiting beliefs and the habits they created.