Below is a letter that I sent to Ron Kurtz asking for help in finding ways to apply the Hakomi Method in a large group setting where it isn't possible to do individual therapeutic work.
(We did it and it worked! See Hakomi Principles Applied. (Previous Page)
May 30, 2008
Thanks for sending the New Hakomi Training Manual. I’m pleased to see the evolution of the method. I assisted at an early Loving Presence workshop so I've had a taste of the beginnings of that work.
I have two goals.
First, I want to get up to speed on the new method. To that end, I have just registered and paid for an Assistant/Observer slot in your August Therapy Intensive...
I’ve been working for St. Vincent de Paul since late 2001. I’ve been seeing a few clients but am rusty compared with previous years. I’m not sure exactly what would be best for me and welcome your guidance.
Second, the reason for all of this is my desire to see if there is a way to effectively apply the Hakomi principles to First Place Family Center (and our preschool, First Place Kids Center). We serve families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness who have children under the age of 18 and also are developing a “therapeutically-oriented” preschool. We have 5.5 staff members in the Center and 3-4 in the Preschool.
I was promoted to Center Director about 3.5 years ago. The place was a dump and very unprofessional. To use the old metaphor, we “gave people a lot of fish,” and also undermined their sense of empowerment and saw the same people returning year after year.
I was able to hire a more suitable staff and mobilize community support for a complete remodel of the facility. We have created a much more functional and professional environment and now “teach a lot of people how to fish”. We seldom have clients coming back to us over again.
I feel like we’re at the place traditional psychotherapy was before Hakomi. We’re professional, do an adequate job, and seldom make people worse. But I strongly believe that we can achieve a whole higher level of functioning based on creative application of the Hakomi principles. (I’ve searched the internet and find no one using that kind of approach.) I want us to create a “transformative environment” that opens the door for people under high stress and with a deep sense of failure to be able to examine their past choices and present options supported by a sense of safety and compassion.
I see this as a special opportunity. How many times does someone hand you a functioning family center and a therapeutically-oriented preschool and say “do with it as you will.”
My goal for the Center is to create a model program that others will want to duplicate because of its effectiveness. This goal is made even more important during this time of funding cuts and tight budgets. I’ve learned that innovation beats competition and the best way for a non-profit agency to become financially stable is to become better at what you do and to let people know what you’re doing. Also, finding a way of working with people struggling for survival that is nonviolent, respectful, and effective is the right thing to do.
I’ve just begun to implement some small changes, starting with my staff. First, I’m having all staff attend our staffing/trainings including the janitor and receptionist. I want everyone to learn to relate to the clients in a consistent manner.
Our first topic has been to help them to see that everyone is doing the best they know how to do, based on their beliefs about themselves and the world (perhaps modified by biochemistry/neurology). My goal here is to shift perception from how difficult someone is toward compassion and understanding. I’ve been using that concept myself, allowing myself to appreciate the person’s suffering, how they are trying to survive in the world of their perceptions, and care for themselves and their family. (Sometimes “the best they are able” isn’t good enough for a particular circumstance, e.g., stay in our shelter, raise their children, or even be free to live outside of lockup, but that doesn’t minimize their struggles and suffering in the moment.)
I’ve noticed some amazing changes in how some people relate to me when I rest in that perception, helps me understand “limbic resonance.”
We’ve also talked some about people developing “survival strategies” based on their early experiences (our name for character styles) and the need to understand that people have learned these behaviors as a way of coping with their families of origin. The concept of Loving Presence is an obvious addition to learning to create effective relationships with our clients.
There are a couple of barriers in applying all this to our clients that I’m aware of. First, the Center must have rules to keep everyone safe and rules have consequences for following or breaking them. (Some of our folks haven’t yet figured out the relationship between behaviors and consequences.) This can easily become a “power-over” situation with us cast in the role of parents. We’ve attempted to present the rules as if they were laws of nature, like gravity. If you jump off the roof, you’ll fall to the ground and perhaps hurt yourself. As staff, we seek to both enforce the rules AND be there to help the person figure out what to do next in dealing with the consequences of their behavior. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Another barrier to people being able to objectively examine their situation is often massive shame and sense of failure. About half of our families are two-parent families. In our society a man who doesn’t provide for this family is a “failure.” Clients often respond with depression and shame or take the stance that their problems are all someone else’s fault.
Well, enough musings for the moment. I’m very much looking forward to exploring all this with you as you have time. I appreciate your interest!