Hakomi Therapy for Depression

Body Centered Therapies

Body centered psychotherapy is psychotherapeutic work that uses the body as a resource. The body is intimately connected with the mind, spirit, and emotions of a person and it acts as a vehicle to resolve relevant issues.

Body centered psychotherapists believe that the patient is a whole person and much of what is helpful to them can be accessed in other areas beyond the conscious mind. The body holds emotional information and this information can be accessed and processed through the body.

They believe that trauma and negative events create blocks in our experience of our “full self” by binding energy in our bodies. The therapy helps us release negative emotions, which results in satisfaction, joy, and even character changes in the patient.

What is Hakomi Therapy?

Hakomi Therapy is one of the newly developed mindfulness-based, body-centered forms of psychotherapy, which became popular around the World. The Hakomi Method of Experiential Psychotherapy was first created in the late 1970's by the internationally renowned therapist and author, Ron Kurtz. In 1981, to fully develop the method and promote the teaching of Hakomi, Ron and a core group of therapists and educators founded the Hakomi Institute. Today, Hakomi Trainings and workshops are presented throughout the world, in North America, Europe, Japan, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand.   

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Integrating scientific, psychological, and spiritual sources, Hakomi has evolved into a complex and elegant form of psychotherapy that is highly effective with a wide range of populations. The method draws from general systems theory and modern body-centered therapies including Gestalt, Psychomotor, Feldenkrais, Focusing, Ericksonian Hypnosis, Neurolinguistic Programming, and the work of Wilhelm Reich and Alexander Lowen. Core concepts of gentleness, nonviolence, compassion, and mindfulness evolved from Buddhism and Taoism.

Basic Principles

These are five basic principles Hakomi Therapy is based on:
1. Unity
- We are all interconnected within the universe.
2. Body/mind/spirit holism
- The mind, body, and spirit are interconnected and influence each other.
3. Organicity
- What contributes to our breakdowns in healing is the limiting beliefs that block us from our full authentic selves.
4. Mindfulness
- It is a state of consciousness where the patient’s awareness is directed inward on their experience in the present moment. When we focus mindfully on our experience, we can deepen our understanding of our inner relationships, which gives us an alternative to acting habitually to our limiting beliefs.
5. Nonviolence
- The therapeutic process unfolds without force and with the cooperation of the unconscious.
6. Loving kindness
- This is based on studies that indicate that a therapist’s attitude is more healing than the method they use.

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Hakomi therapists believe that a person’s behavior, thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and relationships are determined by unconscious core beliefs. These beliefs organize the person’s experience of the world and are set early (usually) in life by early relationships and experiences. Hakomi therapists work with limiting, problematic beliefs. They allow the patient to release negative emotions and beliefs and reorganize into a healthier self.

Body centered psychotherapy incorporates the whole self (mental, physical, and spiritual) into a system of healing that traditional psychotherapies often overlook. They more quickly access deeper levels of unconscious material, which can facilitate more significant changes in core beliefs and attitudes.
BCPs are mainly applied to growth and human potential, not treating specific disorders. However, they can be very useful in treating common mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It can also help to deal with trauma.

The Method

Hakomi helps people change “core material.”  Core material is composed of memories, images, beliefs, neural patterns and deeply held emotional dispositions. It shapes the styles, habits, behaviors, perceptions and attitudes that define us as individuals. Typically, it exerts its influence unconsciously, by organizing our responses to the major themes of life: safety, belonging, support, power, freedom, control, responsibility, love, appreciation, sexuality, spirituality, etc. Some of this material supports our being who we wish to be, while some of it, learned in response to acute and chronic stress, continues to limit us. Hakomi allows the client to distinguish between the two, and to willingly change material that restricts his or her wholeness.

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Hakomi is an experiential psychotherapy: Present, felt experience is used as an access route to core material; this unconscious material is elicited and surfaces experientially; and changes are integrated into the client's immediate experience. 

Hakomi is a body-centered, somatic psychotherapy: the body serves as a resource that reflects and stores formative memories and the core beliefs they have generated, and also provides significant access routes to core material.

The Hakomi Method follows a general outline: First, we establish an ever-present, attitude of gentle acceptance and care known as loving presence. This maximizes safety, respect and the cooperation of the unconscious. With a good working relationship established, we then help the client focus on and learn how core material shapes his or her experience. To permit this study, we establish and use a distinct state of consciousness called Mindfulness.  Mindfulness is characterized by relaxed volition, a gentle and sustained inward focus of attention, heightened sensitivity, and the ability to notice and name the contents of consciousness. Its roots derive from Eastern meditation practice. Hakomi has pioneered the use of active, or dynamic mindfulness in psychotherapy: instead of using mindfulness meditation as simply an adjunct to therapy, virtually the entire Hakomi process in conducted in mindfulness. This facilitates Hakomi techniques in accessing unconscious material quite rapidly, but safely.

The heart of the Method works with the client’s present, felt experience, as it is presented spontaneously, or deliberately and gently evoked by having them experiment with habitual tension or movement patterns known as “indicators.” These emotional/cognitive patterns automatically keep deeper experience out of present awareness. The results are processed through different state-specific methods, including:
  • We work with strong emotions and bound energy, safely releasing them, and finding nourishment in that release
  • We work with the inner child and other specific self-states, often in the context of vividly re-experienced memories, frequently providing the “missing experience” for the child.
  • We process core beliefs in mindfulness, not as intellectual problem-solving, but as direct dialogue with the unconscious.

The basic method, then, is this: 
  • To establish a relationship in which it is safe for the client to become self-aware
  • To use the Hakomi methodology to evoke experiences that lead to the discovery of organizing core material
  • To seek healing changes in the core material. 

All is in support of this primary process. Once discovered in this experiential manner, core material can be examined, processed, and transformed. Transformation begins when awareness is turned mindfully toward felt, present experience; unconscious material unfolds into consciousness; barriers are attended to; and new experiences are integrated that allow for the reorganization of core beliefs. These, in turn, allow for a greater range of mental, physical, and emotional coherence and behavior.

Finally, we help the client to integrate these new beliefs, modes and choices into everyday life.  It is here - in the ability to transform new possibilities discovered in the office into on-going actualities of daily living - that real change happens.

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Hakomi is effective and appropriate in many therapeutic situations, with individuals, couples, families, and groups. It integrates well with a variety of psychotherapeutic, counseling and healing modalities, and is successfully used by counselors, psychotherapists, social workers, pastoral counselors, expressive therapists, bodyworkers, group therapists, crisis counselors, and many other practitioners. It is effective for both brief and long-term therapy.

How it Works

In mindfulness, one can notice things that normally go unnoticed. So we can do simple collaborative experiments to find these unconscious reactions. Here is one example: Therapist might say a nourishing statement to you (one he senses you need to hear, like "You are safe.") and have you sense the changes that come over you as you hear it. You may be conditioned to disregard it, i.e.: a voice in your head says: "No, I'm not!" or you may tighten up your shoulders or stomach when you hear this statement. What good information to have! Next, we can explore what may be needed for you to drop these old adaptations that are no longer needed, and begin really taking in the good that the world has to offer you.

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