March SIG Update: Somatic SIG Hakomi Workshop Recap

Daniel Factor
Somatic SIG Chair, LA-CAMFT

Wow! What a wonderful afternoon of experiential learning for those of us who were able to attend the SOMA SIG: Hakomi Workshop on February 7th. And yes, it was indeed an experience just as our gifted trainer, Shai Lavie, LMFT, had promised.

Shai began the teaching with a brief and concise neurobiology piece, which grounded us in the sciences that support mindfulness-centered somatic work. We were then invited and guided to drop inside to find our own mindfully receptive state, priming us to receive two choice phrases Shai asked us to take in, and to then just notice how each phrase reverberated within our body and mind. After “letting this cook” a bit (I just loved this turn of phrase Shai used), a rich discussion took place, where many shared personal discoveries. The sold out room was alive and present, as Shai gracefully responded to reports from those who stated having found a deeper connection to Self, or surprising revelations, along with expressions of gratitude with tears and smiles and laughter; and Shai respon-ing expertly to technical inquires about the sequence he guided, the phrases he provided, among other methodological questions.

Soon we broke out into dyads for exploring attunement, sharing, and tracking within a relational space, followed by more group discussion with a Q&A, which included a didactic overview of the Hakomi Method’s main principles, and how Hakomi conceptualizes a fluid progression that leads to therapeutic change.

The next part of the workshop tied it altogether with a live demonstration of Hakomi in action. Here is where Shai along with a courageous and willing volunteer, provided the rest of us the opportunity to observe how patterns of constraining organizing material could be attended to in such a way that allowed, step-by-step, for a more authentic Self to emerge, bringing about an embodied integration and actualization. Witnessing their humanity working together, with each as “experts” in a relational process of immersion into the core material of one, stirred empathic tears, confirming and joining laughter, and heart-filled murmurs throughout the group. Kleenex was definitely in short supply! After witnessing such moving and effective work, and with the “client’s” permission, Shai invited those who wished to share from a heartfelt place to do so, adding a completeness to the giving and receiving and giving back again experience. This was Hakomi as a movement from an individual’s piece of work, outwards to the group level, where mirror neurons could do their empathy thing, amplifying the collective experience of hope and change.

As the day came to an end, it was clear that this introductory workshop stimulated much interest for continued learning about this powerful mindfulness-centered somatic approach. Shai was also clear to point out that while Hakomi stands as a complete psychotherapeutic approach, Hakomi integrates well with other approaches, too; and that like all wise approaches it is client-centered, strength based, relationally focused, requiring assessment by the therapist as to the client’s readiness to work mindfully & somatically, and in such a depth-full way. Thank you Shai for your expert introduction to this powerful, integrative, and attentive approach, so artfully and gently given.

I would also like to publicly express my gratitude to Ilona Varo and Randi Gottlieb, members of our SOMA SIG leadership team, for their awesome involvement, and to give a special shout out to Shai’s amazing team – Carissa Karner, MFT, Lisa Lucht, MFT, and Cristina Benitez Allen, IMF – for making the group feel so well supported and attended to!

And here is a follow up message from Shai himself:

“It was completely delightful to share the day with SOMA SIG on Sunday, February 7th. Together we engaged in a deep journey into the heart, mind, and body, as we explored the Hakomi Method of Mindfulness-Centered Somatic Psychotherapy. What was especially wonderful was the way everyone got to witness, through guided meditation, dyadic work, and real-live demonstration, the magical unfolding of the deep, inner psyche. The body-mind has all the ingredients for its own healing.

The Hakomi method allows the therapist to tap this organic wisdom, using mindfulness to engage implicit memories held in the emotional brain from a resource base that only the body can access. By respecting the innate intelligence of the psyche’s protective systems, we support the body to gently unwind restrictive patterns and open up new possibilities for alive-ness, relational connectedness, and creativity. Thank you to Daniel Factor and SOMA SIG for arranging this wonderful workshop!”

And last, but not least, for those who could not attend or for those who area ready to learn more, Shai will be returning to the Los Angeles area in April 2nd & 3rd to conduct a two-day Hakomi workshop through the Hakomi Institute of California. For more information, please visit the website Be well!