Interest Area: Experiential Focusing Therapy


Research On Success In Therapy

Eugene Gendlin, the creator of Focusing, participated in a massive psychotherapy research project back in the early 1960s to test the theories of Client-Centered Therapy as created by Carl Rogers. Expecting to find that certain therapist behaviors increased the likelihood of success in therapy, the researchers were shocked to discover that the best predictor of success was a skill that some clients had.

Successful clients came into therapy with the capacity to sit quietly and sense into their present feelings during therapy. New possibilities came out of making words and images for the fresh, present feel of problematic situations rather than concentrating on intellectual analyses.

Checking Inside

If  I ask you, “Who are you, really?”, you will automatically stop and check with the center of your body, in the interior energy space around the heart/chest/solar plexis. Then you will slowly look for words or images to describe the “felt sense” you find there. This is the essence of the Focusing process. Gendlin uses the words “bodily felt experiencing,” “the felt sense,” “felt meaning” to name this fresh, ongoing sense of your being.

Gendlin went on to describe this capacity for self-reflection and to teach it as the self-help skill called Focusing (Gendlin, Focusing, Bantam, 1981). He also found this back-and-forth between mind and body, between symbols and the fresh bodily feel of a situation, at the center of many different kinds of therapy when deep, lasting change was happening. He called this approach Focusing-Oriented Therapy. I call my version of Focusing-Oriented Therapy Experiential Focusing Therapy .

Finding Your Inner Blueprint

An Experiental Focusing therapist will help you find words for your own unique inner direction. This inner blueprint already guides your actions. You know there is something that is the essence of who you are and what you want. But it can be hard to find that core Self and to stay on your path.  Experiential Focusing Therapy can help in these times of confusion or blockage.

As you come to know yourself more deeply, or re-find yourself, solutions to conflicts and problems will come clear.  As stuck behavior patterns come free, blocked energy will become available. Your life will begin to flow in a direction which fulfills your own dreams and wishes. Relationships, creativity, spirituality, and problem-solving will all become more meaningful. You will feel like you are creating your own life instead of being trapped in old patterns and expectations.

Core Techniques: Intuitive Focusing and Focused Listening

The Experiential Focusing Therapist will use two central and very gentle, respectful core techniques:

  • The therapist will help you learn to set aside your already-known assumptions and opinions and to use the Intuitive Focusing skill to spend time with the wordless, whole- body intuition, the felt sense, about where you need to go. S/he will help you to create new words and images for this unique inner direction. You will learn to notice and set aside the critical voices which undermine your own natural problem-solving process.
  • The therapist  will use Focused Listening responses to reflect back to you exactly what you are trying to say, so that you can check your words against your own felt sense and correct them until you capture you inner knowing exactly.  When you do, you will experience a felt shift or Paradigm Shift, an opening and flowing forward of what was stuck. New emotions, insights, and action steps will arise as old patterns come free. Read more in PRISMS/S Problem Solving Method
  • Around this delicate central listening/focusing process, the therapist can use every other tool in his or her tool box. S/he may offer interpretations of your patterns, ask about your childhood, work with dream images, suggest behavior changes, use body work, encourage artistic expression, facilitate the expression of emotions.  But, always, as s/he uses these other techniques, the process will come back to your own inner sensing, the listening focusing process for creating your own unique direction and solutions.  You will constantly be encouraged to check any therapist input against your own inner truth.

You will find listings of Focusing-Oriented Therapists and Experiential Focusing Therapists in our  Free Resources section.

Focusing A Life-Time Problem Solving Method

At the end of therapy, you will take the Focusing skill with you to continue problem-solving on your own throughout your life.  You can continue learning through Focusing Classes and Workshops worldwide and/or through use of The Self Help Package.

You can find a Focusing Partnershipor existing Focusing Group or Focusing Community (sometimes called a Changes Group) to continue this natural healing process in a supportive context. See the links in our Free Resources section to find certified Focusing teachers and Changes groups.

Purchase our Self-Help Package to start your own self-help Focusing Group or Focusing Community.

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Want to learn more about Focused Listening and Intuitive Focusing?

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These materials are offered purely as self-help skills. In providing them, Dr. McGuire is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.