Ron Kurtz (1934-2011)

Ron Kurtz

Ron Kurtz was a 20th century psychologist who combined eastern and western treatment modalities to create Hakomi Therapy

Professional Life    

Ronald Kurtz was born in 1934 in Brooklyn, New York. During his undergraduate years, he studied both physics and English, and he worked in computer electronics before returning to graduate school. He received his PhD in experimental psychology from Indiana University. Throughout his career, Kurtz taught at Indiana University, San Francisco State College, the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute, and the Esalen Institute at Big Sur, California.

Kurtz developed Hakomi Therapy, a blend of western and eastern psychology, integrating mindfulness and somatic techniques. Hakomi Therapy is founded on the field of complex living systems, and the word Hakomi is the Hopi word for “how do you stand in relation to these many realms?” Kurtz created the Hakomi Institute and later founded the Hakomi Educational Network with several of his colleagues. His book Body-Centered Psychotherapy: The Hakomi Method was published in 1990.

Kurtz was one of the original founders of the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from that organization in 2008 and was recognized for his accomplishments by the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute with an honorary doctorate. He is also the founder of the Ron Kurtz Center. He died from a heart attack in 2011.  

Contribution to Psychology 

Kurtz developed Hakomi and dedicated most of his career to advancing the method and training others in its application. Hakomi combines traditional western psychotherapy with eastern philosophies such as mindfulness and the mind-body connection. The method embraces seven core principles: mutability, truth, body-mind connection, unity, nonviolence, and mindfulness.

Hakomi views people as systems whose behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are organized around memories and images. A person's behavior is affected by these subjective experiences, and Hakomi practitioners argue that problematic behavior and feelings are often the product of incorrect or damaging core beliefs. Core beliefs are typically those that people act on unconsciously. For example, a person who avoids intimacy in relationships might unconsciously feel that people can't be trusted, and this core belief could be built upon an early childhood memory.

Clients often confront these core beliefs in therapy sessions, and in Hakomi, the therapist is encouraged to foster feelings of safety and support in the therapeutic environment. They then work to develop mindfulness with regards to those core beliefs.

Hakomi uses an approach called state-specific processing, to address three core states: mindfulness, strong emotions, and childlike consciousness. The goal of therapy is to help clients move toward mindfulness and away from the other two states. Through this process, clients become aware that new ways of being are possible and that they can alter their behaviors. This leads to the conclusion of therapy, which Hakomi practitioners call transformation. In a transformative state, a client realizes that he or she can have new, positive experiences that bring about healing. The client then cultivates behaviors that encourage these positive experiences.

References:

  1. Schreiber, Liz. (2011, January 7). Ron Kurtz, who combined Buddhism and psychotherapy into a remarkable method, has died. The Saybrook Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.saybrook.edu/forum/univ/ron-kurtz-who-combined-buddhism-and-psychotherapy-remarkable-method-has-died
  2. Soussan, Tania. (2007, Nov 04). East meets west meets hopi ; hakomi therapy teaches mindfulness and body awareness. Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/324394594?accountid=1229

Last Update: 07-07-2015

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