Introducing Focusing - How successful clients used their therapy.
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: John Threadgold
28th May, 2008
What clients want to know, and what every counsellor dreads, is the question, 'what makes therapy effective'. All counsellors are happy to tell about their success stories, but what about clients who do not seem to feel better during or after therapy ? Success in therapy can be simply defined, do you feel better about yourself, and are you making constructive changes to your life during the course of the therapy ? Can those gains be maintained and built upon once therapy has ended ?
The questions was researced back in the 1950's, by two colleagues of Carl Rogers, ( the originator of Person Centred Therapy), and they came to some very controversial conclusions.
They discovered that clients who were likley to feel better about themselves, and succeed in therapy could be spotted in the first two therapy sessions, and that these clients worked through their issues in a very particular way. Therapists who emobied certain qualities, such as accepting clients without condition, and who had empathy for thier clients, were more likley to help clients destined to succeed in therapy, but could not help clients who were destined to fail ! Also some therapists managed to get in the way of otherwise successful cllients !
What were these successful clients doing that others were not doing ? The results, which have been confermed by latter research, will be surprising to many people.
1) Tended to slow down their talking, and become quite hesitant and less artriculate in their speech.
2) They checked out their words, and their thinking, to see whether their words, accuratly symbolised what they were experiencing in their body.
3) When the words did not really fit their experience, they searched around, for words that more closly mirrored what they were experiencing.
4) As they found language that accuratly reflected what they were experiencing, the nature of the problem changed and shifted, and unfolded,
5) As a result of this change, successful clients often experienced a release of tension in their bodies.
Unsuccessful client on the other hand, could be fluent and analytical, or deep in the middle of their emotions, or maybe telling stories about their life, without any emotional depth. Nothing shifted for such clients.
A fictional example of what successful clients were doing, may give a flavour of this process.
Client well I was really angry with her, ( looking very animated), how could she do that to me?
Therapist Ok your aware of these angry feelings ?
Client,well yes ( hesitant) well , I am angry - but - ( cheking in here, does the word angry feel right ?) there is more, I sort of - (hesitiant and cheking out if this feels right) felt quite --betrayed really - yeah that is sort of right
Therapist, so there is angry feeling, and a sense of betrayal that is sort of right ?
Client, yes but - oh I know what it was, I just felt so alone, my wife, and my best mate gone from my life - that's it, just so alone,
Therapist so alone.
Client, its funny, but just realising that, I feel a bit better, like a tesnion feeling has gone,
Therapist - yeah - you look more relaxed
At each point the client checks his language against his experience, anger is 'sort of right', there is then a shift in the problem, its a sense of betrayal, and when this is acknoledged, the process shifts again, 'I felt so alone'. There is then a release of tension in his body.
Our bodies are constantly reacting to what is around us, far more than we are concious of. When be are aware of our body, all that is hapenning in our body, before we articulate or put language to it, in an accurate way that feels right, then we begin to feel better, however distresing the content of that experience actually is.
There are two questions that sping from this piece of research. Can unsuccessful clients learn to do what successful clients were doing naturally? And, can therapists lean to facilate this experiencial process in their clients? The answser to both questions is a YES!
Focusing can be learned outside of therapy, and can be used in therapy, where it has become stuck.
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