The Hakomi Method of Experiential Psychotherapy, a body-centered approach developed by Ron Kurtz, combines somatic awareness with experiential techniques to promote psychological growth and transformation.

Hakomi integrates principles of Eastern philosophy, primarily Buddhism and Taoism, emphasizing concepts such as mindfulness, loving presence, and empathy.

According to the Hakomi Method, gestures, posture, facial expressions, and other bodily experiences provide information about a person’s core material. This core material can be described as a combination of the images, memories, emotions, and beliefs, even those hidden from awareness, determining a person’s individual nature and may also serve to place limits on one’s individuality and goals. Through this therapy approach, individuals can eventually develop a clearer understanding of this core material and, with compassionate, gentle assistance from professionals trained in Hakomi, examine, challenge, and ultimately transform any self-defeating beliefs.

About Hakomi sessions

Hakomi sessions typically follow a sequence: contact, accessing, processing and integration.

Contact begins in the initial stage of therapy and involves the development and maintenance of a safe and accepting environment in which the individual feels comfortable undertaking the process of self-exploration. Without a sense of safety and trust, individuals may be disinclined to relax their defences and open themselves up to the vulnerable state of mindfulness.

Accessing refers to the process by which mindfulness is used to study current experiences and uncover unconscious core material in order to process it and assimilate it into the existing concept of self. According to Hakomi theory, those who become aware of the limitations core material creates in their lives are more likely to experience a conscious desire for change. Hakomi therapists can then help them experientially explore new options.

The therapist might initiate this process by asking a person in therapy to close their eyes, turn attention inward and focus on what is happening in the body from moment to moment. Throughout the process, the therapist mindfully observes and supports the unfolding of the individual’s therapeutic process, encouraging the individual to focus on any thoughts, sensations, images, feelings or memories emerging into awareness.

Hakomi for the individual

If individuals are willing, their somatic experiences are explored by means of “little experiments,” which aim to discover the beliefs they hold about themselves and the world. These experiments often make use of probes, or positive statements conveying an idea exactly opposite to what the person appears to believe. When working with a person who lacks a strong sense of self-worth, a therapist might say, “Just notice what happens when I say ‘You are a valuable person.’” These experiments often trigger memories, sensations, and emotions as direct expressions of core beliefs. These evoked reactions can then be studied in a safe environment.

Processing involves studying the individual’s experiences and responses to the experiments as well as the exploration of any beliefs and ideas potentially impacting well-being. The therapist typically works with the individual to create new experiences to counteract these beliefs, encouraging the person to discover what feels personally right and true rather than analysing these beliefs and ideas. Processing often leads to significant insight, transformation, and change. The internal wisdom of the person in therapy is emphasized.

Integration occurs toward the end of a session as the therapist helps the individual to make sense of what was experienced during the session. The therapist also helps the individual make connections between experiences during the session and life outside of therapy.