Message from Richard C. Schwartz founder of Internal Family Systems

Ron Kurtz died recently of a sudden heart attack at the age of 77. Ron was a close friend to me and as the Developer of Hakomi, an important influence in the development of IFS. He generously took me under his wing in a way that is rare for leaders who have their own stuff to promote, at a time when he was already established and didn’t need to support a different approach. Through his and the rest of the wonderful Hakomi community’s influence, IFS is more body-centered and mindfulness based. In addition, we learned many things from him and Hakomi in general about running good, safe trainings. There is a special connection between the IFS and Hakomi communities with lots of cross fertilization, and Ron set that in motion.

Ron also had a great sense of humor and charisma that invited lots of love and transference. His contribution to IFS and psychotherapy in general is immense. I hadn’t had a lot of contact with him the last several years as he tried to travel less. Consequently our paths didn’t cross much, but I always held him in my heart and I have grief in his spot in there now.

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New Dates for Progoff Workshops

Please note that the dates for the Progoff Intensive Journal workshops
have been changed due to Ron’s Memorial. They are as follows:

Life Context: April 23-24
Depth Contact: May 21-22
Life Integration: August 25-26

For details see “Other Workshops” on the drop down menu.

Thank You,


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15 Minute Ted Video by Brene Brown on Vulnerability

I am posting a talk by Brene Brown that you might enjoy. It is about 15 minutes long and addresses the issue of blame and shame and how that relates to vulnerability, and connection. Posting a Ted Video is a new event on the blog and I have made a few false starts and apologize if I have sent some frustrating posts out on the feed in learning this new trick. I think the clip is good and I have a reservation that not everyone will understand that one does not simply change ones mind and decide to be more vulnerable. The year of work she mentions is easily passed over. Also, I think it is useful to track the transitions between “it” and “thou” with regard to how she speaks about the content of her experience. With that being said:

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Ron Kurtz a great being and teacher has passed

Beloved Teacher

From the Ron Kurtz Center in Ashland. Dearest Friends,

It is with a deep heart that we send this email to let you know that our dear friend and teacher Ron Kurtz passed away from a massive heart attack yesterday, January 4th, 2011.

We want to stay connected with you and let you know how best to be in touch with us during this heart-full time of reverberating change.

A service will be held for Ron and it will be planned at least a month in the future to allow his many friends and students from across the globe to make their arrangements to be here for it. Over the next days we’ll let you know when the “viewing” of Ron’s precious body will take place in Ashland, for those who would like to pay tribute to him in this way.

If you would like to send your thoughts and wishes to Terry and Lily, they would prefer email:

Here at the Ron Kurtz Center, we are taking some time away from our normal business operations so that we can walk gently through this time. We will resume our normal office activity next week beginning Monday, Jan. 10th. Please know that the Ron Kurtz Center will continue and our scheduled Level 1 and 2 courses including Quieting the Mind on Jan. 21-23 will take place as scheduled.

For those already registered for Intensives and courses with Ron, we will be in touch with you in a few days to let you know some options for the continuation of these teachings.

We remain dedicated to the fulfillment of Ron’s wish that the legacy of his Refined Hakomi Method continue to live well and thrive beyond him. We invite you to stay connected with us over the next weeks and beyond through our website where we will be sharing new updates and special Ron moments in quotes, poems, video’s and pictures.

Our invitation to you is to receive love fully and to give love generously.

In Love,
Marina McDonald and Isha…
..and the Staff and Volunteers of the Ron Kurtz Center

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Following Clients and Indirect Mode

Some remarks about control and a context for Ron’s message

I posted a small essay by Ron Kurtz last week and I am aware that it needs a context. Ron’s remarks on “following” and “controlling” were prompted by the slide presentations on indirect work. I sent the presentations to him last week.  In his reply he said that he had given them a quick once over and that his initial reaction was a concern that, like Internal Family Systems, the indirect work seemed to place therapists in a more directive or controlling position. He pointed out that in the refined method  he has been perfecting over the past few years he has been moving in another direction, one that places a high value on following, letting the process unfold naturally and in its own direction. The remarks which I posted are, therefore, an elaboration of that response in his own words.

 In my reply to him I stated that I shared his concern.  I do, in fact, consider that taking control of the session is the single greatest liability of using the indirect approach.  When I work I am aware of that liability and attempt to avoid directing the work as much as possible.

For this reason, while there are many moves available to the therapist who uses the indirect method (see Presentation 3,slides 8,9, and 10), I teach —first, foremost and almost exclusively— the least directive speech act in the Hakomi repertoire: that is, acknowledgment  of present moment experience . Here is why:

  1. A good acknowledgment is a pure act of recognition.
  2. It signifies that the giver of the acknowledgment recognizes the receiver’s “beingness” and  experience.
  3.  As such it is either accurate or not; it is either recognized or it isn’t .

An acknowledgment also allows its receiver an opportunity to recognize the giver’s “beingness” and experience. It creates a two-way street, an exchange of recognition signals. This is the very essence of relationship.

  1.  If the receiver recognizes that she or he is being recognized, a relationship arises and something more happens.
  2. Usually the recognized experience deepens, becomes richer, or an underlying feeling, one that was previously not noticed, emerges and becomes obvious.
  3. We may then acknowledge this new experiences and the experience of mutual recognition is reinforced as the relationship is strengthened.
  4. Often nothing more is necessary. All of the other speech acts are not necessary unless the process is derailed or bogs down. As long as the process is moving there is no need to say more or to coach the client to say more to the part.

 Then why do I catalogue all the other options. Only to let you know that they exist. It is good to have them in hand along with all of the other skills we use to keep the process moving in the direct mode, including taking over, offering nourishment, calling attention to things the client might be missing. With all of these skills there is the danger that we may resort to them when they are not necessary and use them in a way that thwarts the client’s authentic process.

So much for the liability; what about the benefits of using the indirect mode? I will end this post by recognizing two:

1.)    In using the indirect mode the client learns to be the source of his or her own comfort and compassionate awareness. I think that ultimately one’s Self, is a much more dependable source than a therapist or even a primary relationship or a dog or cat for that matter.

 2)    In most therapeutic encounters, there are no helpers around to assist the therapist.  The indirect mode is largely an adaptation of Hakomi to the one-on-one situation which is the way counseling sessions usually happen.  While I often take over a voice or a physical gesture, or both, or even two voices, there are limits to what one person can do physically and with credibility with the clients adaptive unconscious. I find that the indirect mode is extremely helpful when these limits are in play.

I hope that these remarks will not only place Ron’s comments in perspective but will also place the slide presentations in perspective.  As I explained to Ron, in the slide presentation’s my aim is to make the indirect mode accessible. Once one has learned it so that it is second nature, one must still learn how and when to use it. To that end I trust this post and Ron’s will be useful.

by Dave Cole

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Faith and Following: a comment by Ron Kurtz

Image of Ron Kurtz Basic Text

Available in paperback

           A message about control by Ron Kurtz: very important with regard to indirect work                 

As a physician I was trained to take over, to become a leader, and to take responsibility. As a therapist I also had to learn the language of silence, to learn how to become invisible, to learn how not to intrude and at the same time, to be central. Achieving a centrality that can get people’s attention without being so intrusive that you take too much responsibility, is essential in the process of therapy.
 —Salvador Minuchin 
Milton Ericson talks about “control” between client and therapist. He said that some clients preferred to be in control, some to be controlled, some to share control.  Following has to do with control. Within the changes that make up the Refined Method, following is one of the big ones. By following, I mean leaving space and time for the client to “move on her own”. And paying attention to what I call the client’s emerging, spontaneous present experience. (I know. It’s a big phrase. But it’s simple to observe.) Clients will say things like, “Oh! I just remembered…. ” Or, “I just felt.” Or, “thought”. Or, the therapist might notice something that tells her that a change has just occurred in what the client is experiencing. Following is noticing those things and responding to them in some way. It’s like have a conversation with the the client’s “experiencing self.” It is the opposite of directing, in a way. The opposite of “leading”. 
I presented at CIIS a few weeks ago. During feedback at the end, one of the students there said about what he saw in me was “faith”. He saw it in the patience I showed. In the long silences when I waited for the client to “work within” without my intruding. I share control in a way that very often surprises those who watch me work. I believe this sharing is one of the most important aspects of the refined method, responsible for the speed and effectiveness of it. 
Someone said, “Every new technology seems at first like magic.” Following, as it is part of hakomi, is new technology. You only have to witness it to feel like you’re seeing magic.

                                                                                                              –Ron Kurtz 2010

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Felt sense: the body as our future

This post was inspired by Roxanne Peterson’s recent comment. I quote Roxanne:

“I love “the body”. My Beingness only happens in relationship with my Body. Lately, I wonder about the closeness of the words “Bodhi” and “Body”. Both, if stayed with ~ bring forth “insight” ~ ahhhhassss ~ Knowing. An Old Teacher, said to me, “Pay attention, right before the awareness of intuition – there is a movement (slight – perhaps) in the Body and then it registers in the thinking mind as a Knowing. It is possible that this  movement –prior to Knowing is our birth-right. Simply becoming “aware” of our somatic experience might be the key to our inner wisdom. That part of ourselves ~ we all know is there.”

Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning

Reading this comment poignantly reminded me of of Eugene Gendlin’s philosophy of the implicit. It is the foundation for a process he calls “Thinking at the Edge or TAE”. It evolved from Focusing. In writing Mindfulness Centered Therapies I wanted to explain that focusing is especially related to the unfolding that we call “the future”. My take on felt-sense experiences is that it is how our body holds what is to become. We had to leave that out of the book because to make it completely clear would have taken another chapter —a digression we could not afford. Here are some statements I copied from the website of the Focusing Institute. It seems to build on what Roxanne’s teacher was talking about:

“Current science, social policy and human relations tend to exclude the intricacy of the individual’s experience. TAE is a way to think and speak about our world and ourselves by generating terms from a “felt sense.” Such terms formulate experiential intricacy, rather than turning everything into externally viewed objects. Language and concepts that emerge directly from experience can point to aspects of experience that cannot otherwise be formulated.

In my philosophy I have developed a new use of bodily-sourced language with which we can speak directly from the body about many things — especially about the body and language. Language is deeply rooted in the human body in a way that is not commonly understood. Language does not consist just of the words. The situations in which we find ourselves, the body, and the language form a single system together. Language is implicit in the human process of living. The words we need to say arrive directly from the body. I have a bodily sense of what I am about to say. If I lose hold of that, I can’t say it. If I have the sense of what I want to say, then all I do is open my mouth and rely on the words that will come. Language is deeply rooted in the way we physically exist in our interactive situations.

The common situations in a culture each have their appropriate phrases, a cluster of possible sayings that one might need. The words mean the effect they have when they are used in a situation. Our language and the common situations constitute a single system together. However, this bodily link between words and situations applies no less when the situation is uncommon and what needs to be said has no established words and phrases.

All living bodies create and imply their own next steps. That is what living is, the creating of next steps. The body knows to exhale after inhaling, and to search for food when hungry. And, in a new situation new next steps come from the body. Even an ant on a fuzzy rug crawls in an odd way in which it has never crawled before. When we sense something that doesn’t fit the common repertory and nevertheless wants to be said, the body is implying new actions and new phrases.” (Eugene Gendlin, Focusing Institute Website)

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A comment on body-centered therapy by Peter Levine

How the body releases traumaand Restores Goodness

"Unspoken Voice" by Peter A. Levine Ph.D.

 I am enjoying Peter Levine’s new book and thought readers and contributors might like this quotation:

“The therapist who is familiar with bodily feelings has a privileged window onto the primal life of the psyche and soul. No amount of talk alone can match this vantage point. Long before the advent of psychiatry, the French philosopher Pascal noted that “the body has its reasons that reason can not reason.” The Austrian Wittgenstein, in this same tradition, wrote that “the body is the best picture of the mind.” And the Australian F.M. Alexander, around the turn of the nineteenth century, made an extensive study of people’s postures and concluded, “When psychologists speak of the unconscious, it is the body that they are talking about.”

The current lack of the appreciation of the body in psychotherapy caused the analyst Musad Kahn to lament, “I have not come across any paper that discusses the contribution made to our knowledge and experience of a patient from our looking at him or her in their person as a body as against looking at merely the verbal material and affective responses in the analytic situation.”

Somatically oriented therapists provide their clients with carefully paced feedback in the form of invitations to explore their emerging bodily sensations. This feedback is based on the therapists ability to observe and track the postural, gestural, facial (emotional) and psychological shifts throughout a session in order to bring them into a client’s conscious awareness. This allows both client and therapist to uncover unconscious conflicts and traumas that are well beyond the reach of reason.

This from his Peter Levine’s recent book, “In an Unspoken Voice”,(2010). New Atlantic Books. Berkley, CA. pp. 157-158. The quote from Kahn is dated 1994. Four years after Ron Kurtz book, “Body-centered Psychotherapy: the Hakomi Method” was published.

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Third and final slide presentation is now up.

I just wanted to announce that the third slide presentation has been added to the slide show page. It covers the entire transition and includes suggestions about things that can be done while working indirectly. There are eighteen slides in the presentation. It will take about ten minutes to absorb. If you are interested in learning this method I recommend that you print out the summaries and paste them on note cards.

Please feel free to comment. I love the feedback.


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Book Review: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz
Book Review by Carol Ladas-Gaskin

We were directed to reading this book by a cryptic email from Ron Kurtz, founder of the Hakomi method. The email was addressed to a long list of students and graduates of Hakomi trainings, people who understand and appreciate Ron’s sense of humor and his unerring recommendations for good reading. It read: “If you don’t read this book, I’m going to kill myself.”

Image of the book cover

Recommended by Ron Kurtz

Shortly after we read the book, another recommendation arrived from our colleague Rob Bageant, Hakomi therapist, teacher and trainer now working Taiwan. He wrote, “(They) write with a novelist’s sense of structure. My heart aches to hear what these children have experienced; I can hardly read the case studies. And yet, I believe that anyone interested in more deeply understanding what it means to be human should read this book. The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog has a lot of answers. Through hard won experience, Perry and Szalavitz have ferreted out the neurological effects of trauma as well as the practical therapeutic approaches which help heal the wounds.” A client and workshop participant, who has experienced encounters with psychiatrists of a less compassionate persuasion, read the book recently and left a touching phone message conveying how this book has changed her attitude about psychiatrists and psychiatry.

The Boy who was Raised by a Dog is a memoir of a Bruce Perry’s growth and development as a psychiatrist working with children suffering from severe trauma. Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D. is a senior fellow of the Child Trauma Academy. He has served as a consultant to the FBI (concerning the Waco disaster) and is the former chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s hospital as well as former Vice Chairman for Research in the Dept. of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. His co-author Maia Szalavitz is author of Help at any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids and Recovery Options: The Complete Guide written with Jospeh Volpicelli, M.D., Ph.D. Although the book is written by both Perry and Slalavitz, the stories themselves are written as experiences had by Perry, so the review will speak of him rather than them.

It is rare to find a book so informative and practical and yet inspiring to read. As practitioners of a method, Mindfulness Centered Therapies, based in part on the teachings of Ron Kurtz’ and as clinicians who long ago discovered the healing power of mindfulness, compassionate presence and following the client, we find this book to be an affirmation of all of the principles of our work and the methods we teach. Perry’s life-affirming approach with his respectful, kind, profoundly attentive and innovative, mindful presence embodies the work of our teachers, to mention a few, Carl Rogers, Ron Kurtz, Eugene Gendlin, and Richard Schwartz.

One of Perry’s most important conclusions after years of his clinical work is that “the infant/child is highly susceptible to trauma and stress in the first three years of life. …. The earlier view that children are inherently resilient is false.” Add to this his observation that many times, early childhood trauma is misdiagnosed as ADHD and since many of the diagnostic symptoms are identical, this is of crucial significance. Perry is very innovative and creative in his approach to working with these severely traumatized children and their families and peers. He says: “A sincere, kind act, it seemed to me, could have more therapeutic impact than any artificial, emotionally regulated stance that so often characterizes “therapy.” Fire can warm or consume, water can quench or drown; wind can caress or cut. And so it is with human relationships: we can create and destroy, nurture and terrorize, traumatize and heal each other. Like other teachers, clinicians, and researchers who had inspired me, my teacher encouraged exploration, curiosity and reflection, but most importantly gave me courage to challenge existing beliefs.”

The book is available in paperback and consists of a series of eleven amazing vignettes each describing Perry’s experience and interactions with a severely traumatized child or a group of children. Their back stories range from severe sexual and physical abuse of individual children to survivors of the Waco disaster to the title story about a boy who was literally raised as a dog.

Woven throughout these stories we see the qualities of gentle curiosity, attunement and an attentiveness born of a remarkable sensitivity to non verbal communication and a commitment to non-violence in even the most subtle form. These healing practices provide room for the client, in this case a traumatized child, to be an active agent in the process of healing, free to titrate his or her experience and the pace of the healing. It is clear that Perry has learned to trust his own creativity and the power of relatedness. He seems to have an unerring ability to discover the action, words and atmosphere that are inherently nourishing and healing to the child in the moment. His transparent expression of this process provides a deep teaching for all of us in the healing profession.

He says, regarding choice and self direction,“One of the defining elements of traumatic experience – particularly one that is so traumatic that one dissociates because there is no escape from it – is a complete loss of control and a sense of utter powerlessness. As a result, gaining control is an important aspect of coping with traumatic stress. To develop a self, one must exercise choice and learn from consequences. The process needs to be self directed and the child (client) needs to be in control of the timing.

Perry’s own inner work is evident in these words, “As a therapist, caregiver, parent, friend we need to be clear that in order to calm a child (client), you must first calm yourself.” Although, he cautions, that immediate debriefing after a traumatic event “is often intrusive, unwanted and may actually be counter-productive. What is needed is presence, appropriate timing (pace), structure not rigidity and nurturance but not forced affection.”

Throughout the book in addition to the stories and the process of working with the children, Perry and Slalavitz share neurological details regarding the brain, memory and association that are the foundation of his therapeutic practice. He has discovered that children become resilient and able to access effective memory as a result of repetitive, moderate, predictable patterns of stress and nurturing and that these patterns make a system stronger and more functionally capable creating “a resilient, flexible stress response capacity.” Systems in the brain that are repeatedly activated will change and the systems that don’t get activated won’t change. Through association, which underlies both language and memory, we weave all of our incoming sensory signals together – sound, sight, touch, scent – to create the whole person. His actual stories of working with these children illustrate the practice of his understanding in real life.

Millions of tiny decisions are made in the life of each person, seemingly irrelevant but often profound choices that determine the entire life direction of a child. Honoring, respecting and acknowledging distressing experiences and strong emotions with a sense of appropriate timing and space creates a profound context for healing. Although these stories are all focused on therapeutic work with children, it is clear in reading the book that the work would be welcomed, by adults, as well, who long to be met with such sensitivity and presence.

Though each of these stories is heartbreaking, Perry and Slavitz write with such compassion they inspire us to bring creativity and courage to our work with all our clients. Not only is this a heart opening and affirming book about the power of relationship, and what is possible in our work as therapists, but it is an inspiration to bring our personhood, creativity and imagination and especially our compassion to clinical work. These stories are almost impossible to put down, and the teaching found within them is priceless.

To close, in Perry’s words, “most therapeutic experiences take place in naturally occurring healthy relationships. Anything that increases the quality and number of healthy relationships in the child’s life is helpful. The experience of safe touch is invaluable if it is freely chosen.”

Quotes from The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. and Maia Szalavitz compiled by Carol Ladas-Gaskin and J. David Cole

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