Interest Area: Experiential Focusing Therapy

Focusing Oriented Therapy: For Therapists

In a Focusing-Oriented Therapy (FOT), there can be therapeutic interventions coming from any theoretical approach: existential-phenomenological, humanistic, client-centered, psychoanalytic, behavioral, cognitive, Gestalt, EMDR, Hakomi, Solution-Oriented, Cognitive-Behavioral, body work. Any approach to therapy can be practiced in a Focusing-Oriented way.

At the core, as the distinguishing factor of a Focusing-Oriented therapy (FOT), there will usually be some form of:

  • Focusing Invitations: requests or suggestions that the client refer to (“be with,” “sense into,” ask open-ended questions of) the present, unclear, vague, preverbal Felt Sense underlying all words or images: “What’s the feel of that anger?”, “Is that feeling here now?”, “Stay with that sadness…”,  “What are your feelings about that?”, “Could you just sit with that sadness for a moment and see what comes…?”, “Would it be okay to ask yourself ‘Why is this so hard for me?’ and wait and see what comes…?”, “Say ‘Hello’ to that aspect of yourself.”
  • Experiential Listening Responses: The therapist reflects back the words, images and other symbolizations which the client presents, with special attention to reflecting symbolizations which seem to point to the underlying Felt Sense.

After any other kind of intervention, the therapist asks the client to refer to the present preverbal Felt Sense of “the whole thing” again and see what is happening there now. The therapist reflects back what the client says. Often, there will be  several rounds of a Listening/ Focusing process here, where the client sits quietly attending to the Felt Sense, attempts to articulate it through words and images, and the therapist reflects those symbolizations back so the client can check them against the Felt Sense, see if they fit, and attempt again at further symbolization.  Through this constant checking with and articulation of the Felt Sense, the therapist and client rely upon the Felt Sense to guide the forward direction of the session.

At moments throughout this process, the Felt Sense opens and changes, being carried-forward into new symbolizations: new insights, emotions, and action steps. With each such Felt Shift, one small step of personality change occurs. Gendlin’s  Philosophy of the Implicit  explains how the Felt Sense holds and implies the exactly right next forward steps for a client in each present moment.


McGuire, The Experiential Dimension In Therapy. 1984.Order in The Store at

(the following three books are all available in The Store at )

Gendlin, E.T. Focusing-Oriented Therapy: A Manual For The Experiential Method,  Guilford, 1996

Friedman, N. Focusing-Oriented Therapy (FOT). iUniverse, 2007

Purton, Campbell. Person-Centered Therapy: The Focusing-Oriented Approach. Palgrave/MacMillan, 2004

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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.