Approaches and Therapies

Hakomi: Somatic, experiential psychotherapy based in Motueka & Nelson

The Hakomi method is a mindfulness, somatic and experience-based approach to change.

Hakomi is a Hopi Indian word which means “Who am I in relation to these many realms?”
In more modern words this would mean “Who am I?”

In Hakomi mindfulness-based somatic counselling, we work to discover deeply held and often limiting unconscious beliefs.  Hakomi is a gentle yet powerful method of assisted self-study, discovery and emotional healing.  We include the signals of our body as a reflection of our unconscious and past.   Many of the issues revealing themselves throughout the therapy may be related to our growing up.

The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused, and our body tricked with medication. But some day the body will present its bill. - Alice Miller

Based on a trust that everyone has the inner wisdom and power for self-healing, the Hakomi method of psychotherapy is based upon the five principles of mindfulness, nonviolence, organicity, unity, body-mind-spirit-holism and loving presence.

How does Hakomi work

Hakomi explores how our mind and body express and reflect unconscious and deeply held beliefs about ourselves and the outside world.  A Hakomi session usually begins by taking a moment to breathe and settle into a more mindful, aware state.  The therapeutic process includes talking while interweaving mindfulness and body awareness.

Your therapist encourages you to explore body reactions to topics and things that have come up in conversation.  There may be tension in the neck or shoulders, contraction in the stomach, a pain in the heart or maybe nothing at all.  Whatever comes up is precious information that leads one closer to their truth.  Because the method is based on mindfulness as a direct route to the unconscious, it is faster than other methods.  It works directly with nonverbal expressions and does not rely on conversation, analysis or explanation.  Mindfulness applied in present experience allows you to gently search to find the basic images, memories, and beliefs which shape your experience.  This provides a pathway, invites and allows fuller self-understanding and ultimately paves the way for meaningful change and greater freedom and effectiveness for life.  Usually every session brings about a significant new truth.

If you would like to learn more about the Hakomi method you can go to the Hakomi Institute website.  You may also want to have a look at Hakomi in New Zealand.  Ron Kurtz, the originator of the Hakomi method has written a nice article. (click on text below – What to Expect from Hakomi Therapy).

Hakomi is a therapeutic method but it is also more than just a therapy. As self-study, it is a natural part of the universal human endeavor to understand ourselves, to free ourselves from the inevitable suffering caused by the ignorance of who we are and how the world hangs together - Ron Kurtz

What to expect from Hakomi somatic, experiential counselling

If you’re thinking about becoming a client of a Hakomi therapist, this short description will acquaint you with the method and what you may experience.

Here’s What You Need to Know about the Method:

Hakomi is based on the idea that much of our everyday suffering is in fact unnecessary and is produced by unconscious beliefs that are no longer relevant, true or necessary. The method is designed to bring such beliefs into consciousness. Hakomi is a method of assisted self-study and discovery. It can bring normally inaccessible mental processes into consciousness gently and efficiently. Once these mental processes (such as beliefs, memories, habits and emotions) are made conscious, they can be examined and modified to provide a more realistic and satisfying way of being. This work of assisted self-discovery requires that clients can enter into short periods (a minute or less) of mindfulness. Because of this, clients must be able to become calm and centred enough to observe their own reactions, as if they were observing the automatic behaviour of another person.

The therapist pays very close attention to your nonverbal behaviours, such as your tone of voice, movements, gestures, posture, facial expressions and micro-expressions. By observing these, the therapist gets ideas about what unconscious material is controlling your automatic, unconscious behaviours. On the basis of those ideas, the therapist creates little experiments, often just a statement, that are done while you are in a mindful state. These little experiments often elicit clear reactions, often emotional ones. These reactions are the links to the unconscious mental processes that create them. When a reaction is evoked, moments later, memories, beliefs and associations emerge which will help you make sense of the reaction. Once beliefs and memories are in consciousness, they are examined and modified.

What to Expect: 

This method is not about talking out your problems. It won’t be a long, speculative conversation about your troubles or your emotional history. It is our belief that your emotional history, the part of it that has created the unconscious beliefs and habits with which you meet the world, is operating right now. Your history is written in the way you do things every minute. It is expressed by your style and your defining characteristics. So, you can expect that the therapist will be looking and listening for these and will bring them to your attention as part of setting up the little experiments in mindfulness that are the core of the work.

The therapist will also be very warm, kind and patient. The vulnerability that mindfulness entails, the openness to unconscious material that’s needed, all require a very safe environment, which needs a particularly caring, non-judgmental person. You can expect your therapist to be exactly that.

You can also expect the work to bring up intense emotions at times. At those moments, your therapist will work to contain the process, provide comfort and help you understand what’s happening.

Because the method is based on this very direct route to unconscious material (potentially nourishing experiments in mindfulness), it is faster than most other methods. It works very directly with nonverbal expressions and does not spend a lot of time in conversation, analysing and explaining. Something significant usually happens every session.

What You Need to be Ready:

It helps if:

1) You can stay focused on and report on your present experiences

2) You can study your reactions to experiments in mindfulness

3) You’re willing to explore getting into a calm, inward-focused state and be relaxed enough to allow reactions

4) You’re willing to experience some painful feelings and speak about them. It also helps if you don’t need to ask a lot of questions or feel like you must solve problems, explain yourself, justify your actions, or have a conversation. And you’ll need the courage to be open and honest. That will be your greatest ally.

The Rewards:

There are many. Relief from persistent, painful emotions and behaviours is probably the greatest reward. You will gain a much deeper understanding of yourself and with that, more freedom to choose what you’ll be able to feel, greater pleasure in everyday living, and the ability to engage in fuller, richer, more rewarding relationships. Assisted self-study can help us to achieve all that.

Information Offered to New Clients
Ron Kurtz 2009

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Henriette Politano

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