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Focusing - what is it and how can it be used in therapy and beyond?

Whilst on the Counselling Diploma at the University of East Anglia, I learnt and practised an approach called Focusing.

Focusing was developed/discovered by Eugene Gendlin in the 1950s. He was a philosopher and psychotherapist who worked alongside Carl Rogers (the chap that created the person centred approach to therapy) in researching what made psychotherapy effective. From the research he concluded that those who benefited most from therapy were those clients who had the ability to be in touch with their bodies; they were able to have a ‘sense’ of uninformed feelings and they were able to connect to it.

This ‘felt sense’ was connected to by using words and images. This often happens with clients when as they are talking, they’ll have an ‘ah ha’ moment where something suddenly pieces together and leads to better understanding. Even if at that point it isn’t fully understood or known, the process of realising something is there, allowing the process to move forward. This acknowledgement causes an opening or release in the body which Gendlin termed ‘felt shift.’

Focusing can involve a few moments of quiet; sometimes clients feel comfortable closing their eyes so they can ‘clear a space’ and get in touch with everything that comes up. If a number of experiences or issues come up we can imagine them as boxes; once they are recognised and labelled the boxes move to the sides and allow any other issues to be recognised. Once it all feels clear and the boxes have been perceived the client is left to decide which issue they would like to explore in further detail, or perhaps all are connected in some way and this then becomes apparent. Often colours may start forming or images that help the client to connect more deeply and personally with the concerns they have.

“The most important rule for a therapist or friend to observe, in helping someone to focus, is to stay out of the focuser’s way.”

Gendlin, Focusing (2007)

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