By Roger Langmaid
Those of us training in Hakomi become familiar with the role of assisting the therapist and client during a session. This practice of using assistants is one of the features that Ron Kurtz brought to the method that remains outside of many traditional private therapist – client practices.
“I now have trained many assistants – it’s a very good way to involve people and teach them the method. I even use assistants in private practice, there are many things you can do with a client when you have assistants that you can’t do when you’re alone with a client.”(1)
One function of assisting is for us, with the therapists consent, to offer our own care and loving presence to the client. Ron talks about this:
Another thing I introduced into the method, a long time ago was the use of assistants. Here’s how they assist when a client experiences a painful emotion as an outcome of an experiment. They offer comfort. If it’s accepted they provide it. Sometimes it’s just a hand on a clients arm or shoulder. Sometimes it’s being held in someone’s arms for a while. That’s the second thing I do when an experiment evokes a painful emotion, give the client the opportunity to be touched or held. Almost always it’s my assistants that do that. When they do, like me they remain silent.” (2)
Assistants may also be asked by the therapist to support the client by taking over – another of the unique Hakomi practices. The therapist may offer the client that either their inner verbal statements or physical experiences such as tensions or movements be taken over or supported. This is often best done using assistants. Ron talks about the value of taking over:
“Taking over is a way to offer a person a chance to relax, to give up some effort. Even when you are taking over a thought the person has in reaction to a probe, by giving someone else the expression of the thought, that’s something the person need not do. More accurately it is the parts that operate from an involuntary place that that give up the effort. When that happens, the person often begins to feel what was hidden from consciousness.”(3)
Having the client work within a group setting with assistants can itself have a significant impact. Discovering and revealing painful material to others can be healing in itself. For many of us, part of the missing experience is the lack of recognition, understanding or companionship in those painful moments of our life. The practice of having other people involved purely as witnesses in loving presence is often therapeutic for the client.
“Assistants can help contain the process when strong emotions are being expressed. With assistants there is a semi public aspect to the therapy. The process is being witnessed. It’s not just therapist and client. It’s happening in a group of some size, from three or four to a whole group of people. That has a powerful effect on the client mind. You have told your story and others have heard it.”(2)
Assisting is one of the best ways we become trained in the practice of Hakomi, by being right there in the process with the client and therapist. Our own sympathetic loving presence is naturally aroused when we get to witness others self exploration and work.
1. The Esalen Hakomi Group Handbook Appendix 1. Evolvi ng vision Ron Kurtz
2. Overview Talk on the Hakomi Method Ireland 2009 Ron Kurtz
3. Talk given in Tokyo Training 2001 Ron Kurtz