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What if being with clients could be more like taking a vacation?

May 30, 2018

By Julia Corley, Certified Hakomi Teacher, NC LMBT #2123

Working Hard

Being in a helping or healing profession is a great honor.  Clients come to us seeking help with issues they are struggling with in life, with their health, or both.  We want to do our best to give them the maximum benefit for the precious time, money, and energy they are spending with us.  We may rack our brains, flipping through all the knowledge that we might be able to help someone with, pulling up the file for a particular theory, protocol, or exercise. With a genuine desire to help, we work hard to do our best, to give the most we can, to deliver the goods.

There is a major drawback to this approach.  In working so hard to be professional, to do it right, to be a good therapist (coach, MD, bodyworker, etc…) we may somehow “miss” the person sitting in front of us– their subtleties and complexities.  We shift into more of a “doing to” rather than a “being with” the other person.  When we are so much in our own heads it can be hard to really listen to what another is saying, much less pick up on their facial expressions, body language, and the tone, mood, and energy they bring to the exchange.  Too much intellectualization can dampen our other ways of knowing, compromising our capacity to understand and be present through other, equally valuable, channels, like our bodily felt sense and intuition.

Taking a Vacation

At a Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychology training in Mallorca, Spain a few years ago, my colleague, founding Hakomi Trainer Halko Weiss, analogized being in session with a client as being like going on vacation.  Imagine a spacious day at the beach, when nothing has to happen in a particular way or at a particular time.  At some point, it would feel right to lay on the beach, have a swim, maybe read a book, or take a nap.  Snacks and meals can happen whenever hunger arises.  The only thing time-sensitive might be catching the sunrise or sunset.  There is plenty of time to notice how we feel, perhaps sensing just what a relief it is to take a break from work, the sensation of the water licking our toes as we walk on the beach and the sounds of the seagulls and surf.  We might relate to our fellow vacationers in a different way, just sitting together, quietly enjoying the sparkle of the light on the water instead of hammering out household logistics or other practical details.  In slowing down and doing less, we access a different way of relating to ourselves, our lives, and our loved one that is more nourishing, more satisfying, more connected and real.

Where are we going?

In a Hakomi session, we give clients plenty of space and time, with the attitude that there is nothing we need make happen, no particular destination.  We don’t have to know all the answers, in fact, it’s perfectly okay to not know at all.  We help clients draw and hold their attention on what they are most curious about inside themselves, to what’s happening inside in this moment.  They can notice the sparkles on the water in their inner landscape, or the shark fin striking terror in the distance, and choose what they’d like to explore together.  We are deliberately kind and curious, embodying what we call Loving Presence.  We allow ourselves to be delighted or touched by whatever our client’s unique qualities are– their earnestness, eloquence, their heart, their fieriness, their sadness, their struggle, their determination, etc… and something magical happens.  Clients’ habitual facades begin to soften and what lies beneath, that which most needs loving attention, begins to be revealed.  Openings in body, mind, and perspective become possible, openings that can make space for insight and deep transformation to occur.

The goal of Hakomi work is to help alleviate unnecessary suffering, to update old messages that keep clients in a defensive stance against their lives, protecting themselves against threats that may have actually ceased to exist long ago.  Instead of being an expert with a foolproof plan and all the answers, we get immensely curious about this client, on this day, in this moment, with what is unfolding in their awareness right now.  We relax and trust that they have everything they need to change, grow, and heal, that they have an innate wisdom and we can support them in coming into deeper relationship with this wisdom.  Of course, we teach a lot of skills and theory in a two-year Comprehensive Hakomi Training to support this process, but when we are with a client, in the moment, our primary focus is what is here in the room– what arises in them, in us, between the two of us.  We sit back in our chairs, relax our own bodies, take a deep breath, and allow the session to unfold as it will, just like a day at the beach.

Interested in learning more about Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychology?

Join us at Duke Integrative Medicine for Introduction to the Hakomi Method: Mindfulness, Loving Presence, and Embodiment. Enrollment closes on June 15th. Click here to register now!

To learn more about Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychology, please visit the Hakomi Institute website:


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