How Can Hakomi, a Mindfulness-Based Somatic Psychotherapy, Contribute to the Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa?

Powers, Rhonda
Grant, Sue
Emmens, Joanne
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Master of Psychotherapy
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Auckland University of Technology

Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy, also called the Hakomi Method of Experiential Psychotherapy, is generally referred to simply as Hakomi. Research shows current standard specialist treatments for anorexia nervosa are only moderately effective, therefore novel treatment approaches are needed. Currently there is little research specifically on the use of Hakomi in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. The aim of this hermeneutic literature review is to stimulate thinking regarding approaches to psychological treatments for adults with anorexia nervosa and to consider how Hakomi, a mindfulness-based somatic (body) psychotherapy, might contribute to the treatment of anorexia nervosa. This review contemplates on literature found on three topics: current approaches to treatments for anorexia are not sufficient—what attitudes and limitations are involved; there may be links between anorexia and trauma; and anorexia nervosa might benefit from a therapeutic approach Hakomi can provide. Finally, this review considers how Hakomi encourages and cultivates approaching life in a holistic way which may enhance understanding of treatment and therapy options.

Hakomi psychotherapy offers an approach that can benefit the therapist and client by incorporating mindfulness and mind-body holism into a way of being and living as well as through a therapeutic treatment approach. Thus, Hakomi can contribute to any psychotherapy. The cooperative nature of studying the client’s experience allows the therapist to come alongside the client, thus not threatening the client’s sense of control, which is important to clients with anorexia nervosa. Such a focus on valuing the client’s experience can be a paradigm shift for clinicians who are used to a more directive approach. Additionally, Hakomi helps the therapist to embody and utilise an accepting, mindfulness-based, mind-body approach that is missing—and needed—in most psychotherapies recommended for treating anorexia; it may also be helpful for treating developmental or relational trauma. Literature revealed that trauma is found to be so prevalent in mental health populations, that trauma treatment is recommended for all mental health clients.

This research argues that Hakomi can potentially contribute valuably to the treatment and understanding of anorexia nervosa by offering a mindfulness-based embodied approach that incorporates parts work, which allows an integrated understanding of the patient’s lived experience of their symptoms, and can speed recovery. Additionally, this research suggests that Hakomi provides a holistic approach that may fit with some indigenous holistic models of health and well-being, such as the New Zealand Maori. Ultimately, this research considers how Hakomi can contribute to the psychotherapeutic treatment of clients with anorexia nervosa and how clients experiencing anorexia nervosa may need to be treated.

Hakomi , Mindfulness , Anorexia , Anorexia treatment , Anorexic , Experiential , Novel , Blind spot , Perspective , Current standard treatment , Novel approach , Attitude , Holistic , Eating disorder , Principles , Principle-based , Nonviolence , Maori , Māori , Mind-body , Current treatment , Attitudes , Trauma , Developmental trauma , Acceptance , Relational trauma , Mental health , Indigenous , Treatment , System , Trauma-informed care , Body psychotherapy , Body , Parts work , Interpersonal , Relationships , Clinical culture , Integrated approach , Therapist support , Support , Therapeutic presence , Therapeutic alliance , Reductionistic , Eastern philosophy , Novel treatment , Psychotherapy , Somatic , Body based
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