Hakomi therapy creates a mindfulness experience to your clients, providing a safe environment that allows them to engage in the present moment, even as they are relating events that have taken place long ago.
Therapists are aware that the great majority of communication is non-verbal. And yet, many have little understanding of how to connect with their client(s) in such a way as to bring this non-verbal, present-moment experience into their work. Traditional methodology involves allowing the client to share their story, and the therapist asks pertinent questions along the way. It is our intent to encourage therapists to consider implementing Ronald Kurtz’s work on Hakomi therapy for a more robust experience with clients.
Hakomi is directly translated as “Who are you?” Kurtz developed the Hakomi therapy method in 1977, and practiced it until his death in 2011. It is designed to help the clients orient themselves in a different way, enhancing the intensity and effectiveness of their therapy.
During a therapy session, it’s important to notice the non-verbal cues that the client is displaying as they are telling their stories. From gestures to posture, pace, tension or relaxation – all of these are telltale signs of what is happening beyond the words and below the surface of a client’s story.
Hakomi therapy encourages therapists to repeatedly ask themselves, “What is the client doing right now?” The client may be adding emotion or volume (or the lack thereof) to their presentation. They may be displaying body language that indicates comfort, or fear. Their movements may be jerky or smooth; either of which offers non-verbal clues to the therapist of what the client is actually feeling right there in the moment.
Therapists can then engage the client – in that moment – by bringing effective contact statements into the session. It’s important to keep the questions simple, with an inquisitive tone. Upon viewing a client displaying tears, the therapist can offer, “Sad, huh?”… which is more effective than saying, “How are you feeling?”
When such contact statements are brought into the session, clients tend to feel more compassion and curiosity from their therapist, helping them feel more attended to.
Therapists are encouraged to keep their focus on how the client is behaving as well as on what they are saying. They should be supportive of whatever experience presents itself, and should convey both curiosity and acceptance of the client’s experience.
Once you’ve noticed and drawn attention to the physical aspects of your client’s experience, you are encouraged to allow that experience to unfold. The client is able to bypass typical defenses and explore in more detail the attitudes and emotions that are referenced by the behaviors that they are displaying. According to Kurtz, the client’s beliefs – the true heart of the matter that they are experiencing – may not even be conscious. It may never have been verbalized, and yet, when brought to the surface by Hakomi therapy techniques, many clients express shock that the beliefs are there – but they recognize them.
Kurtz refers to Hakomi therapy as “assisted self-discovery”. Hakomi therapy uses an approach called state-specific processing. The three core states of mindfulness, string emotions and childlike consciousness. The conclusion of Hakomi therapy is referred to by practitioners as transformation. In a transformative state, clients become aware that new ways of experiencing things exist, and that they can change their behaviors. Clients then develop behaviors that encourage positive experiences.
We encourage the therapeutic community to learn the basic elements of Hakomi therapy, and implement them into your current methodologies during client sessions. And of course, should you have any questions about how we implement this therapy into our own sessions, we encourage you to contact us directly. A New Outlook Counseling Services provides four offices across the front range of Colorado.
- Highlands Ranch-Main Office–Robert J. Johnson, SAP, MAC, LAC
- Aurora Office– Alissa Zucker, MA, LAC
- Lakewood Office– Rick Shriner, CACIII
- Cherry Creek Office– Matthew Jarvis, MA, LPC, LAC, NCC, EMDR
Keywords: Hakomi Therapy