In the Hopi tradition, Hakomi translates to: “Where do I stand in relation to the many realms?”
Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychology offers an elegant, comprehensive, and uniquely effective approach to psychotherapy, growth and change. Originated by Ron Kurtz in the early 1980s, Hakomi integrates Eastern principles of nonviolence and mindfulness with a comprehensive and experiential body-centered methodology. The Hakomi Institute has further developed these innovative techniques in response to ongoing discoveries in neuroscience and other fields related to our work.
“Therapy is first about discovering. It’s about who you are and about what your deepest emotional attitudes are. It’s not just about who you think you are. It’s not opinion. It’s not something you can know with the intellect. It’s about who you are in the very heart of yourself. That’s the flavor of psychotherapy, discovering yourself, discovering your real attitudes toward the most important pieces of your life.”
—Ron Kurtz, Hakomi Founder.
Hakomi practitioners use the body as a map of the psyche – a door that can be gently opened to surface clients’ implicit memories and reveal their entire unconscious belief system. The body’s structures and habitual patterns, such as gestures and posture, become powerful indicators that provide subtle access routes to evocative unconscious core material.
Hakomi’s integration of mindfulness and somatics creates an experiential route to the precise psychological core material at the root of clients’ unwanted psychological patterns and behavior. This, deepens therapy beyond insight and words, allowing us to access the unconscious “blueprints” and early experiences that invisibly guide our clients’ lives, relationships, and self-perceptions.
Attachment issues and the experiences that created them are often strong components of core material, and Hakomi is particularly effective in working with these. When unconscious, this hidden core material creates projections, conflict and disharmony in our relationships and inner lives. Once conscious and directly experienced, these patterns are available for transformation and re-integration.
Hakomi is paradoxically powerful: it is gentle and nonviolent, yet yields dramatic and rapid results. Its highly experiential approach evokes a deep “felt sense” that allows clients to take genuine ownership of their core material, its transformation, and resulting changes. Hakomi embraces Frieda Fromm Reichman’s belief that “the patient needs an experience, not an explanation.”
Current neuroscience research has confirmed the basis for many foundational aspects of Hakomi, including the effectiveness of mindfulness, loving presence, empathic attunement, limbic resonance, and memory reconsolidation, As we work with core developmental trauma, Hakomi provides what Ron Kurtz called the “missing experience”, a deep and transformational process for the client. This profoundly moving experience heals developmental trauma by rewiring neural pathways and reconsolidating implicit memories in ways that can support the individual to open to new and more satisfying experiences.
THE HAKOMI PRINCIPLES
Ron Kurtz considered the Hakomi principles “the true theoretical underpinnings” informing every aspect of the method. Each Hakomi principle translates into specific practices and ways of being that evoke clients’ innate impulse toward healing.
Although no one can embody these principles in every moment, the intention to do so is the core of Hakomi’s work. A key aspect of Hakomi training is learning to embody the principles below as a deep and consistent part of who you are and how you work. Our goal is to foster high quality, caring therapists as dedicated to their own self-awareness as they are to understanding others. This requires a heartfelt, long-term commitment to your own personal and professional growth.
In the words of Ron Kurtz, “The principle of mindfulness refers to the understanding that real change comes about through awareness, not efforting.” Instead of guessing or interpretation, Hakomi uses mindfulness—a state of relaxed, nonjudgmental awareness–to study, activate, and directly experience the root causes underlying our habitual feelings, thoughts and behavior. As both practitioner and client embody this deep state of nonjudgmental attention, unconscious material gently surfaces that’s not typically accessible through conversation alone.
Most people see therapists as “experts” with superior knowledge whose directives they need to accept. Many therapists also hold this view. Hakomi practitioners practice nonviolence by gently guiding the therapeutic process, but never superimposing their perceptions over what feels right to the client. Another use of nonviolence in Hakomi is befriending and supporting “resistance” and psychological defenses instead of trying to confront or overpower them. This allows the defenses to naturally soften, revealing their inherent wisdom and supporting deeper inner exploration.
This principle affirms that mind and body jointly manifest and reflect the beliefs we hold about ourselves and the world, which in turn influence how we experience and express ourselves in life. Hakomi offers many practices for working with somatic material (e.g., habitual movements, gestures, posture and the body’s structure) to reveal the core experiences beliefs that they unconsciously express.
The unity principle views people as living, organic systems–integral wholes composed of parts. Hakomi sees healing as a process that supports disconnected parts of the system to communicate so they can function as a harmonious whole. Hakomi practitioners recognize and work with the interdependency of all levels of the human system, including the physical/metabolic, intrapsychic, interpersonal, family, cultural and spiritual.
Assumes that when all the parts are communicating within the whole, we are naturally self-directing, self-correcting, and self-actualizing, with our own innate inner wisdom. In Hakomi, rather than imposing our own agenda, we support our clients’ organic unfolding toward wholeness, and trust that this is the direction that their system will naturally seek.
Over a decade after Ron Kurtz established Hakomi’s core principles, he began to focus on loving presence as a core element of the therapeutic process. Although Ron never officially added it to his five original principles, we include it here to honor the centrality of loving presence in Hakomi.
Loving presence is the core practice that holds Hakomi’s five principles. One inspiration for including loving presence as a central element of Hakomi was research indicating that the personhood or inner state of the therapist is at least 8 times more predictive of therapeutic success than the methods used (Mahoney, 1991). Loving presence invites us to enter into a state of appreciation for the beauty, humanity and inspiring qualities within each human being. This practice supports people to move towards greater self-acceptance and self-love and brings nourishment and ease to both client and practitioner.