Basic Principles of the Hakomi Method
by Donna Martin, Hakomi Canada.

There are five original Hakomi principles described in the book “Body-Centered Psychotherapy : the Hakomi Method”, by Ron Kurtz: Here they are in my words:

1.    Unity nothing is separate… we look at issues from a perspective of intrinsic wholeness; we understand for one thing that this therapeutic process is a collaborative journey, that we are in it together, that we are connected in a state of limbic resonance with the client and that only by working together in a field of intimate connectedness, sympathetic joy and shared pain, can we support the healing process of the client.

2.    Organicitythere is a natural healing process that unfolds from within; we understand that the client’s inner wisdom guides the process, and that as therapists we are simply following the unfolding of this healing wisdom; we respect that most of what happens comes from the client’s own courage, sensitivity, and freedom to choose.

3.    Mindfulness – this is both a basic principle of Hakomi and the foundation of the method… it is a method of assisted self-study using mindfulness; mindfulness shows up in our approach as a preference for quiet spaciousness and acceptance rather than power and force, and it underlies the use of the principle of an experimental attitude…
We recognize that this, after all, may be the most lasting benefit the clients receive – their ability to be more mindfully aware of themselves in life.

4.    Non-violencewhich goes beyond the obvious intention we all have to be helpful and compassionate, (ie. gentle, loving, and supportive of the healing process) to the more Buddhist understanding of “do no harm”… which means paying close attention to any signs of resistance or even lack of interest to guide and direct the process toward a nourishing experience for the client … and…

5.    Mind-body holism – which is the basic understanding that most of a person’s experience is conveyed in nonverbal ways which we need to be able to perceive… the bodily experience being both the expression of the client’s unconscious beliefs and memories and the expression of their “adaptive unconscious” and how they are organizing experience… it is also basic to the Hakomi method of working at the “interface” of body and mind and weaving back and forth from verbal and nonverbal aspects of experience to move toward an integrated and congruent consciousness.

We would now also add the following as basic principles of Hakomi:

6.    Loving presence – which involves attending to the state of mind of the therapist as our first task… directing attention first and foremost to finding inspiration in the client… searching for what is beautiful or moving or inspiring about clients so the experience of being with them becomes nourishing for us as therapists. Since we cannot see others or respond to them without our state of mind influencing how we perceive and what we say, it becomes essential that we are coming from a place which the research shows is essential to successful outcome… to quote the Heart and Soul of Change (APA book): we need to learn to “prize others” and to see clients’ strengths and resources above all.

7.    There is another basic principle in Hakomi which is having an experimental attitude. The method is sometimes described as little experiments in mindfulness to help clients make discoveries about how they are organizing their experience in ways that are causing them unnecessary suffering or simply limiting their ability to be nourished by life. But beyond doing actual experiments, we want to maintain an experimental attitude and pay attention to how our responses and demeanour, for example, are causing reactions, and how the person’s experience is being affected by internal and external stimuli… we are looking at everything from this experimental attitude and adjusting according to what we see happening.

Another principle implied in both “loving presence” and “mindfulness” is this:

8.    Being present … staying with present experience… that is, our focus of attention as therapists is continually on present experience… what is happening now for us, for the client, and in the relationship, and how is it being revealed in both verbal and nonverbal ways… we practice tracking signs of present experience for clues about how experience is being organized… we also respond in ways that help the client pay attention to present moment experience, both to make discoveries for change, and also to develop a capacity for staying present, which is one of the keys to greater self-awareness, stress management, and emotional intelligence.

We have a basic idea about working with emotions which is probably an underlying principle too since it is quite different than what is found in some other methods… that is:

9.    Touching emotions as doorways to discovery: we are not interested in deep emotions or catharsis… we just want to touch significant emotions in order to discover the congruent thoughts, memories, ideas, beliefs, and organizing material… when deep emotions happen, we simply offer comfort and support the person to stay present, and to come gently back to a state from which we can make the discoveries we need in order to find out the root of the suffering and exactly what kind of nourishment is needed…



And finally, a basic principle informing the way we practice Hakomi is this:

10.    Move as directly as possible toward nourishment; this means identifying the “missing experience” (that is, what kind of nourishing experience is the client unable to have because of how he or she is habitually organizing her experience)… and helping the client to discover, take in, and integrate the possibility of this kind of nourishment – both verbally and nonverbally, that is psychologically, cognitively, emotionally, and physically… perhaps even spiritually. We want to spend more time on this than on any other aspect of the session, certainly more than on the painful experiences clients have had in life and the ongoing emotional suffering they live with. We see the healing happening in the new experience of the possibility of nourishment, and not in the re-hashing of painful stories and emotions. We want the client to go away having identified and experienced some of what they need, and with some new strategies for having more of these kinds of experiences in their everyday life. We expect the session to end with the client feeling better about themselves, inspired, hopeful, more self-aware, physically relaxed, empowered and more confident, and with both the therapist and the client feeling nourished by the whole experience!

Present moment holds the history of our experiences, relationship of self with others,
choices we have/make. Habitual patterns= transformation of.  Recognise change over time.

by Donna Martin, Hakomi Canada
(Used with Donna’s permission)