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    Bridging mind and body

    The Hakomi method 
    By: Sabina Suehnel, M.A. 
    
    Since the 1960s, many psychotherapists have 
    begun to include the body in their healing work
    (Gestalt, Bioenergetics) and have pointed to 
    the physical component of psychological patterns.  
    In alignment with some of these earlier body-
    centered methods, Hakomi is based on the 
    assumption that mind and body are interdependent 
    and influence one another.  
    
    In developing Hakomi, the psychotherapist Ron Kurtz 
    (1990) expresses particular interest in the 
    impact of important - often unconscious - 
    memories, feelings, and images upon all the 
    different levels of physiology ranging from blood 
    flow and muscle tone to body posture and breathing 
    rhythm.  The principles applied in Hakomi are 
    taken from various body-centered psychotherapies 
    such as Bioenergetics, Gestalt, Reichian work, 
    Feldenkrais, Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), 
    Ericksonian hypnotherapy as well as meditative 
    practices.  This type of psychotherapy stresses 
    nonverbal interaction, direct experiences, and 
    trust in the intrinsic healing potential of the 
    human organism.   
    
    Hakomi therapists aim to facilitate healing 
    and personal growth by using somatic awareness.  
    Automatic response patterns can be made more 
    tangible by pointing out a posture or tension in 
    the body that accompanies a particular thought.  
    
    Postures, gestures, movement, breathing, and 
    sensations are viewed as signs of a person’s 
    inner experiencing.  A person might, without 
    any conscious experience of fear or anger, 
    talk calmly about an unpleasant encounter, while 
    tensing the body, clenching the jaw, and making 
    a fist. Following not only the content of a story, 
    but also tracking any kind of physical changes 
    (sweating, breathing, or teary eyes), is viewed 
    as a pathway for the therapist into the client’s 
    unique internal world of meanings.  Similarly, 
    the focus on thoughts and images often leads to 
    strong emotionally charged somatic sensations.  
    In this sense, the Hakomi therapist shifts back 
    and forth between bodily experiences and mental 
    processes.  The integration of mind and body can 
    offer not only heightened self-awareness, but also 
    insight into the underlying motivations of one's 
    actions along with ways to influence them.  
    
    Therapists trained in Hakomi avoid analyzing 
    and interpreting a client’s reality.  Instead, 
    the emphasis is on self-discovery grounded in 
    experiences in the present moment.  Processes 
    shift from “talking-about” difficulties 
    to an embodied inquiry of one’s inner life. 
    For the client, the ability to be self-observing 
    is indispensable.  Most of the techniques are 
    used to focus awareness and to deepen into present 
    perception.  The therapeutic process can be 
    compared to a guided self-discovery, which 
    leaves the choice of issues and the level of 
    depth primarily with the client.  
    
    Hakomi acknowledges the positive aspects of 
    defensive behaviors. Knowledge of these 
    “character strategies” (Kurtz, 1990) provides 
    a point of reference for the particular style 
    unconsciously applied by the individual to cover 
    uncertainties about him or herself and others.  
    Hakomi therapists believe that every individual 
    has the wisdom and resources to find answers to 
    his or her most urgent questions.  Thus, 
    interventions do not aim to solve problems or 
    “fix” the client’s life.  Undergoing difficulties 
    does not mean that there is something wrong with 
    this individual as a human being.  Instead, 
    the therapist meets the client with the attitude 
    that the momentary crisis offers an opportunity 
    to develop a deeper understanding of one’s inner 
    nature.  Therapists need to keep a frame of
    mind open to encounter concrete individuals with 
    pains and struggles as well as creative potentials 
    instead of becoming fixated on defensive behavioral 
    patterns and strategies to approach them. While 
    interacting with clients, it is important to shift 
    the focus beneath the problems and make contact with 
    the hopeful and alive parts inside.  
    
    Once a person has had a glimpse of an internal 
    reality beyond the pain or numbness, the 
    cycle of distorted perception and automatic 
    response patterns becomes disrupted, which 
    enhances flexibility and choice of actions 
    in the world. 
    Part 2

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