Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Mindful Experiential Therapy Approaches (M.E.T.A.) and the Hakomi Institute of Oregon is at once a comprehensive clinical approach, a leading-edge educational organization providing training and consultation, and an association of skilled practitioners. Developed by Jon Eisman over the past 30 years from an integration of somatic & experiential psychotherapy, applied mindfulness, interpersonal neurobiology, and clinically-based qualitative research, M.E.T.A. is a synthesis of proven therapy modalities. These modalities include the Hakomi Method of Body Centered Psychotherapy, the Re-Creation of the Self Model of Human Systems (R-CS), trauma release methods, and attachment interventions.
M.E.T.A. is a synthesis of therapy modalities that provides a comprehensive system for addressing the diverse situations that clients present. Created in the early 2000’s by internationally acclaimed therapist and educator Jon Eisman, M.E.T.A. integrates Jon’s more than 30 years of study and teaching in the fields of healing and therapy with recent advances in neurobiology. Combining the Hakomi Method of Body-Centered/Experiential Psychology, The Re-Creation of the Self Model of Human Systems (R-CS), Somatic Trauma Release Techniques, and Attachment Theory, M.E.T.A. enables the practitioner to assess the exact nature of the client’s wounding and needs, and to offer effective, situationally specific interventions.
About the M.E.T.A. Approaches
The Hakomi Method of Body-Centered Psychology, originated by Ron Kurtz, is a gentle and profoundly effective approach to therapy and personal growth. Applying mindfulness to present, bodily experience, Hakomi offers clients the opportunity to study the deep-seated beliefs that shape experience, the childhood origins of those beliefs, and new options for living fuller lives.
The Re-Creation of the Self (R-CS), created by Jon Eisman, is a clearly defined map of the anatomy of the Self, and a comprehensive guide for being a person. Holding that we are innately whole, but create a “Committee” of limiting trance states in order to accommodate difficult life situations, R-CS not only describes our many inner resources, but offers an incredibly simple and powerful set of tools for immediately shifting consciousness and emerging from the swamp of our own perceptions of woundedness.
Attachment, Somatic Trauma Release Techniques and the Neurobiology of Self are based on the work of John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth, Peter Levine, Bessel Van der Kolk, Pat Ogden, Candace Pert, Allen Schore, Daniel Siegal, Bruce Perry, Babette Rothschild and others. In these approaches, the physiological components of wholeness, resource and limitation—and their impact on Self andRelationship—are addressed.
All of these approaches and techniques focus on four fundamental therapeutic orientations:
- The defining aspect of our lives is the quality of experiences that we have.
- The ultimate source of wisdom and change is within the client.
M.E.T.A. offers clients a commitment to safety and wholeness, the skills to study carefully the nature of present experience and consciousness, and the opportunity to move beyond habitual and limiting experiences into more fulfilling and self-supportive ones.
An Ideal Self
In particular, clients are guided to notice how they experience their sense of Self, and in what ways this Self may have come to perceive itself as wounded. M.E.T.A. work begins with the R-CS notion of an Ideal Self, comprised of both innate resources and structures (such as our senses, emotions, aliveness, impulses both to connect and to be individual, etc. etc.), and also the learned skills and attitudes we develop over time. The underlying premise is that all of us have an inviolable, intrinsic orientation to our own wholeness (in R-CS terms: an Organic Self), which seeks to expand and to engage with the endless possibilities of self-affirming experiences. When embodied in our Ideal Selves, we feel ourselves as mature, centered, secure, realistic and flexible, and we are motivated to encounter the world and others from an expansive, compassionate, positive and inclusive perspective.
Categories of Woundedness
In various ways, however, the Self comes to experience itself as being somehow wounded: inadequate, or unloved, or unsupported, disrespected, ignored, bound, or so on. M.E.T.A. views all such woundings as an unwilling though necessary deviation of some sort from the Ideal Self, and identifies four main kinds of wounding.
First, the Self, in attempting to manage untenable situations, fragments its consciousness into a collection of focused and limiting trances, or self-states. In this fragmentation of consciousness,
Each self-state holds a distinct perspective on the nature of human reality, and orients towards embracing or avoiding specific experiences. For example, a wounded self-state might feel unworthy of love, and experience life as an ongoing depressive failure, while a second, strategic self efforts to be charming, or productive, or helpful, or etc. in order to prove the person’s worthiness. We alter our state of consciousness to accommodate our perceived need to regain our wholeness, when, in fact our wholeness is innate and always available. M.E.T.A. addresses this fragmentation of conscious by employing R-CS techniques for recognizing and shifting our states, from the immature trances we have immersed ourselves in, back to the sense of Ideal wholeness and Selfhood that is our birthright.
The second kind of wounding revolves around the conceptual and experiential content these self-states generate. As we learn to fragment our consciousness, we develop a system of beliefs, perceptions, templates and behaviors that both reflect and hold these positions, collectively called derivative experiential content. Thus, it is not just a state of consciousness that can be addressed, but the specific ideas, feelings, postures, attitudes, impulses, relational patterns and so on that may be studied to reveal both the historical events that caused our wounding, and also the core sense of what now remains incomplete, wanted and needed. M.E.T.A. addresses such content-based situations through the Hakomi Method. Here, practitioner and client explore mindfully the details of present experience as avenues to access the unconsciously held formative Core Material that shapes such beliefs and behaviors.
The third area of wounding – though most primal, in nature – involves the somatic responses that occur in relation to overwhelming events. These are trauma responses, and require not just psychological exploration, but specific attention to physiological patterns, neural holdings and incomplete expressions of intention, which the body must release to regain its sense of wholeness and resource. Typically such trauma involved intense experiences of overwhelm and threat, though lesser situations may cause less entrenched though still limiting traumatic patterns. For these client situations, M.E.T.A. employs various somatic trauma assessment and release techniques.
Finally, a fourth arena for wounding is the infant’s initial efforts to bond or “attach” with a nurturing other. This attachment provides the child with both the ability to regulate his or her own internal physiological functions and also a basic template of relationship. Attachment wounding creates issues of alienation, trust, isolation, connectedness, dependency and life suppression – all deeply held disturbances of the Ideal Self’s orientation to expansive experience and connection. Here M.E.T.A. describes a simple yet profound process of allowing the client to complete the innate bonding process, and restore equilibrium and bouyancy to his or her nervous system and relational templates.
In essence, then, M.E.T.A. holds as essential three necessary skills for practitioners:
- To be able to recognize the kind of woundedness the client is presenting
- To assess how this woundedness diverges from the client’s sense of Ideal Self
- To have the relevant perspective and skills to address each need on its own terms
While working with a specific client, and from one client to another, the therapist may sometimes choose to assist the client to shift states of consciousness; other times may explore deeply the content of those states; or in other moments may see the need to establish somatic or relational balance in the client before pursuing either consciousness or content. Weaving perspectives and interventions according to the emerging and evolving needs of the client, the four orientations together provide a comprehensive vehicle to effect the client’s return both to the experience of wholeness, and to the internal freedom to embody and apply all resources. While M.E.T.A. specifically employs these four named modes of working, it is equally committed to the general idea of all mindful and experiential approaches. Any other therapeutic model, if it seeks to assist clients through the respectful use of applied mindfulness to life experience, would also be celebrated by M.E.T.A as a related modality.
M.E.T.A. and the Hakomi Institute of Oregon Training
M.E.T.A./Hakomi Comprehensive Training includes discussion and practice of the theory and techniques of Hakomi, Re-Creation of the Self, Attachment and Trauma Release. Teaching is offered through lectures, demonstrations, uniquely designed hands-on experiential exercises, and supervised practice. Great emphasis is placed not only on the acquisition of skills, but also on the development of the practitioner’s Selfhood. Topics presented typically include aspects of the following:
- The nature of Self
- Experience & experiential fields
- The use of Mindfulness in therapy
- The physical body as a source of psychological information and intervention
- The use of physical touch in psychotherapy
- The Therapeutic Relationship: compassion, respect, empowerment & gentleness
- Spiritual considerations: the Self as an incarnation of the Divine
- Working with distinct presented and evoked states of consciousness
- Core Material & developmental learning
- Brain architecture and the neurobiological basis of Self
- Innate resources: the structures of the Ideal Self
- External resources: family, community, nutrition, culture
- Categories of Woundedness and appropriate interventions
- Specific theory and interventions for each category of wounding, including Hakomi accessing, transformation and integration; R-CS state shifting, Identification & Disidentification; Attachment assessment and interventions; and Trauma assessment and interventions.
- The Selfhood, empowerment and resources within the practitioner
In addition to the M.E.T.A./Hakomi Comprehensive Training, M.E.T.A. and the Hakomi Institute of Oregon also offer shorter, theme-based workshops, and advanced trainings in applications of the approaches: couples work, group management, character theory, personal growth, etc.