Frequently Asked Questions ...
- What is Focusing?
- Where did Focusing come from?
- Who uses Focusing?
- What is the idea behind Focusing?
- How can Focusing help me?
- What is an individual Focusing session like?
- I don't want to tell someone I've never met all
my deepest worries and secrets!
- Do phone sessions really work?
- Is this like seeing a therapist, or working
- Can I learn Focusing?
What is Focusing?
Focusing is a particular way of paying attention to those aspects of our "knowing" which aren't readily accessed by the thinking mind. It is a way of keeping gentle company with oneself. We begin by noticing and welcoming whatever we find in our inner landscape; then we get a "felt sense" of all that's there; and, most importantly, we bring an attitude of curiosity and welcome, even to our darker and most self-critical inner places. Scientists tell us that we hold large reservoirs of information, creativity, problem-solving abilities and emotional wisdom in our unconscious. But how do we access that? We begin with our bodies! When we pay attention to the whole bodily felt sense of a situation, what at first seemed unclear and vague can begin to change and open up. Something new can be revealed by simply staying with what is already there as a feeling, an image, a thought, or a bodily sensation. Focusing is different from having emotions, or getting in touch with feelings. Focusing helps us pay attention to our feelings without judgment, just as they are, without pushing them away, trying to alter or rationalize them, and without being overwhelmed by, or distanced from, them.
Where did Focusing come from?
Focusing was first observed and described by Dr. Eugene Gendlin in the 1960s. Gendlin was then teaching at the University of Chicago, and along with Dr. Carl Rogers, was conducting research into the question, "Why is psychotherapy successful for some people, while others don't seem to change?" He and his colleagues studied hundreds of hours of therapy sessions and made an intriguing discovery. What Gendlin noticed was that the method of therapy, the practitioner, and the content all had very little correlation to a successful outcome. What did make a difference, he noticed, was what the client did. When the client slowed down, paid attention inside, stayed with his inner experience and asked his "gut" for information, change would invariably happen. Dr. Gendlin identified six basic steps which these successful clients seemed to follow intuitively. Dr. Gendlin further reasoned that these naturally occurring steps could be taught and made more conscious to others. He called this process "Focusing", and wrote his first book, Focusing, to describing his discoveries and philosophy in 1978.
Who uses Focusing?
Eugene Gendlin strongly felt that Focusing had significance far beyond the psychotherapeutic environment, and he has encouraged the teaching and use of Focusing in arenas as diverse as the arts, body work, corporate boardrooms, peace work, health care, trauma work, education, work with children, mindfulness and spiritual practice, and more. Gendlin's work has been adopted, expanded and enriched by countless Focusing professionals around the world over the last 30 years and today Focusing is taught, used and practiced, in richly diverse ways, in every corner of the Earth.
What is the idea behind Focusing?
Focusing is based on a radical notion of how people change. Gendlin found that when we attempt to act on (fix, get rid of, understand, analyze, ignore or change) our feelings, they tend to stay the same or go into hiding, becoming less accessible to us. Gendlin saw feelings as process, with each moment, and each emotion, implying, or moving forward into the next. He further observed that when we bring awareness to the process itself, when we simply keep company with our feelings as they are, without effort or judgment, they will transform. The simple act of paying attention to our feelings, without judgment, brings fresh information and a lasting shift.
How can Focusing help me?
Focusing can help if you struggle with:
- self doubt or worry over what is "right"
- blocks to action or creativity
emotional numbness or emotional "overwhelm"
chronic pain, illness or disability
roadblocks to effective communication
finding your own voice
- the need to be perfect and to always do more
- procrastination and hesitation
Focusing can also help if you want to:
be more compassionate with yourself and others
share more of your knowledge, skills and creativity
feel calm and centered in the midst of difficult moments
make wiser, more centered decisions
have clearer boundaries and deeper connections
tame your Inner Critic
live with more integrity and self-awareness
- hear, and trust, your own inner wisdom
- have more confidence in your successes
- deepen your spiritual practice or your journey of self-discovery
What is an individual Guiding session like?
Individual sessions can be done in person, or over the phone, depending on
where you live and what your availability is. You may want to work on a specific issue in your life, or you may want to use this time to get to know yourself in a
new way. You can try one session at a time, or a series of sessions. If you already know Focusing, you may find you can dive more deeply into your process with the support of an experienced and supportive guide. However, if you are new to Focusing, individual sessions are also an excellent introduction to the process.
You don't need to know Focusing in an individual guided session; I take you gently through the process, offering skilled and attentive listening, careful reflection, guidance, and non-judgmental support. I generally allow an hour and a half for individual sessions, including time for questions or brief discussion.
I don't want to tell someone I've never met my deepest
worries and darkest secrets!
Most of us feel that way, and it is absolutely understandable. What
you talk about in a Focusing session is held in absolute confidence. In fact, because of the way Focusing works, you can choose exactly how much or how
little information you share with your guide or your listening companion. In Focusing, we follow the process of paying attention inside; you are always in charge of the issue and the content and you get to say what feels right for you.
Do phone sessions really work?
When I first learned Focusing, I wondered about that, too, but my experience has shown me there is no difference in the benefits people receive, whether the contact is in person or over the phone. Phone sessions often allow for greater flexibility in scheduling, and any initial discomforts can be easily and readily addressed.
Is this like seeing a therapist or working with a life coach?
Many psychotherapists and coaches are learning Focusing and incorporating it into their work, but receiving guided sessions from a Focusing professional is not the same as therapy or coaching. Focusing, psychotherapy and coaching all fit together quite nicely, however, and you may find that learning Focusing enhances your personal growth work and/or your spiritual practice.
There are some important ways in which Focusing differs from psychotherapy or coaching. In a Focusing session you will not be asked to disclose details or history about the issues you want to work on; you will not be diagnosed or given advice; you will not be required to set up a regular schedule of sessions. You will not be asked questions or given homework or expected to set goals, unless that is what you want for yourself. You determine your own pace and your own goals. You decide when, or if, you want more sessions, and when to stop. With Focusing, you are in the driver's seat, for this is about your relationship with yourself.
Can Focusing be incorporated into the Counseling process?
Yes! For people who want to explore their stories more extensively, to deepen their awareness of their own patterns and inner blocks, and who want to create more support for themselves, I also offer Focusing-Oriented Counseling sessions. As with Guided Focusing, I offer attentive listening, reflection of the client's process, and gentle suggestions to point toward what may seem, as yet, vague or unclear for the client. Weaving the Focusing process into a more narrative counseling relationship helps the client access, and stay with, bodily held "information". Other body-oriented modalities are also incorporated, as well. Counseling sessions are generally an hour in length, and more regular and frequent sessions are particularly helpful, so for Focusing-Oriented Counseling work we meet weekly, either in person or over the phone.
Can I learn Focusing?
Yes! Focusing is a relatively simple process. Dr. Gendlin himself identified six basic "steps" and these can be learned. Individual guided sessions are a great way to begin experiencing and learning that process. I sometimes offer group classes, when there is interest, and I also offer individualized instruction in how to Focus. I can also make referrals to other qualified Focusing professionals who offer other methods and opportunities for learning Focusing.
What is true is already so. Owning up to it doesn't make it
any worse. Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.
And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted
with. Anything untrue isn't there to be lived. People can
stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.