- To change focus, so that instead of using the mind, the body becomes the source of wisdom.
- To help the client enter into a special kind of awareness that is open, turned inward, centered on the present and on the body’s inner sensations.
- To learn how to apply open attention to something that is experienced, but not in words.
- To become aware and learn the ability to stay with the felt sense as it develops, and to look at it without judgment.
- When cognitive-verbal therapeutic strategies don’t work
- For clients who are stuck in their head/intellectual processing
- When client Is aware of a felt sense – and is willing to explore it, openly
- For accessing the wisdom of the body dimension
- Integrating body, mind, emotion and spirit
- Finding relief from tension and chronic pain
- Independent exploration from external belief systems
- Exploring hard to understand aspects of dreams
- Eg: The figure that came in my dream …what’s with that?
- Clients who do not believe that the body contains wisdom – the process may be fruitless
- Clients with serious, delusional psychiatric illness.
Summary of the process
- Define in a single statement what client wants to work on
- Turn the statement into a question
- Facilitate relaxation
- Client asks question into body
- Client to describe felt sense (where and what)
- Practitioner repeats those exact words…
- Ask: What is behind this felt sense?
- If felt sense changes-good sign
- If no change – go back to the question….
The practitioner’s role is to facilitate the process for the client – don’t direct.
NB: Creative additions can be included to aid in processing and grasping the felt sense. For example, is there any colour, shape, image, symbol that comes with this felt sense?
Taken from Transpersonal Counselling Diploma Course Notes, Module 3
We now come to one of the simplest yet most useful tools in our work. It is Focusing which was originally developed by Eugene Gendlin. Essentially, Gendlin was interested in situations where cognitive-verbal therapeutic strategies did not work, or where they may have worked for a while and now were ineffective. Given that one may have put many hours into working with a client, the question is: What to do next?In the spirit of lateral thinking [Edward De Bono], Gendlin suggested that there was an alternative strategy which involves:
- Stopping the techniques which have been in use up to that point;
- Changing focus so that instead of using the mind as the seat of knowing in therapy, the body becomes the source of knowledge and direction.
- Acknowledging that a great deal of our daily life is oriented and directed by body sense insofar as we make assessments of persons, situations, tasks etc, many times over and without cognitive reflection. Our actions tend to be guided by a 'felt sense' which we refer to as intuition or a hunch or some feeling or other. It is a good idea to refer to your Module 1 material on intuition.
So, focusing is a way of dealing with issues by having the body direct us and it depends upon our being in a relaxed state. So, it is an addition to our state-based transpersonal work.While Gendlin developed focusing to extend therapy beyond the point where other techniques failed, it can be used as a stand-alone method for uncovering and understanding the background or roots of problems. In this way, it provides the basis for further counselling or other healing work.
Let us go to the description of focusing:
- Let us assume that you have been working with your client and have developed a sense of what are their main concerns,
- To work with focusing, there should be a very clear definition of what the client is going to work with. It cannot be something broad and diffuse like, 'My life is not working' or a series of things like, 'I am unhappy, depressed, and my relationship is failing and my career has just crashed.' Focusing works if you take one thing at a time, clearly define it, and then work with it. We may undertake focusing with a client on a series of related, but separately defined problems.
- Define clearly what the client wants to work on and make this into a simple, single statement such as, 'I can't seem to shake my need for alcohol';
- Then, turn that statement into a question, 'Why can't I shake my need for alcohol?' The statements, each time, must be simple, have a single focus [need for alcohol as opposed to, say, 'Why can't I feel less depressed and on top of my job and have a more satisfying relationship?"]
- Then, facilitate your client's entering a relaxed state. It is best for them to be lying down or in a reclining, comfortable chair.
- Once your client is relaxed, remind them that they are going to work with the problem which is stated as, 'Why can't I shake by need for alcohol?' and then ask them to ask the question to themselves, directing the question into the spaces of their body, especially the chest and stomach areas. Say to them, 'As you ask the question within the spaces of your body, a response will come from your body.... a felt sense [FS] which is a feeling or sensation which was not there before you asked the question. When that FS comes, just let me know. Take your time.'
- When the FS appears to the client, get them to describe it as well as they can ... what it is like and where it is located. For example, it is a sense of pressure on my stomach, or there is a tingling in the front of my neck, and so on. As your client describes the FS, you should listen carefully and play back their words exactly in the following manner, 'So, it is a sense of pressure on my stomach.' This allows the client to decide whether this is all the FS or whether there is more or different. For example, after listening to you, they may say, 'No, it is more than that. It is like the pressure from someone pressing down with their hand on my stomach.' And, then you play that back to them, asking, 'Is that an exact description?' Keep doing this until an exact description of the FS is achieved.
- When an exact description of the FS is obtained, then ask the question, 'What is behind this FS?' or 'What is the rest of it?' and wait ...
- After some time, the client may respond by offering something which has emerged ... for example, 'I am in a cage, or perhaps it is a bed and someone's hand is reaching through the bars and pushing on me.' Now, if the FS changes [diminishes, expands, disappears, is replaced by something else], then this is on the right track and the investigation can be extended; if there is no change, go back and ask the question again, since it is the wrong track.
- Once you have a response which is on the right track [i.e., leading toward greater understanding and change], then it is usually the case that we would facilitate the client's response - Do not direct; facilitate! Offer possible meanings, associations, perceptual alternatives [is there a sound or voice associated with it, a smell, a sense of presence, etc].
- Sometimes, this process yields insight and a solution; mostly, it provides a clearer understanding of the problem and associated factors so that a better set of strategies for healing can then be constructed.
- Since this is transpersonal work, in step h you may introduce access to transpersonal guidance [spiritual intelligence]. This might take the form of having them stop the process for a while, remaining relaxed, and then asking them to go to the familiar place or state in which they access the transpersonal [Module 1 mapping] and ask for insight, guidance.
- You can also prime the whole process before beginning on focusing by accessing the transpersonal in a familiar way so that it becomes easier at the end of focusing.
So, let us map out the steps:
The latter part of focusing [8, 9] is an opportunity to use your creative abilities in helping the client to expand the images which have emerged in response to the question in f. Your intuition is essential and you may also want to do the following:
In addition, focusing can be used to deal with hard to understand parts of dreams, or the whole of a dream. This takes the form of, 'What is the meaning of the hand with the eye in the palm which appears on the wall in my dream?' or 'What is the essential message in the dream about the house and the hand with the eye?'
Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing
Focusing is a technique developed by Eugene Gendlin. It relies on the individual focusing internally on the ‘felt sense’ of an issue and approaching it in such a way as to observe it changing. The instructions from Eugene Gendlin’s book ‘Focusing’ are as follows:
Clearing a space
What I will ask you to do will be silent, just to yourself. Take a moment just to relax….all right – now, inside you, I would like you to pay attention inwardly, in your body, perhaps in your stomach or chest. Now see what comes there when you ask, “How is my life going? What is the main thing for me right now? Sense within your body. Let the answers come slowly from this sensing. When some concern comes, DO NOT GO INSIDE IT. Stand back and say “Yes, that’s there. I can feel that, there.” Let there be a little space between you and that. Then ask what else you feel. Wait again, and sense. Usually there are several things.
From among what came, select one personal problem to focus on. DO NOT GO INSIDE IT. Stand back from it.
Of course, there are any parts to that one thing you are thinking about – too many to think of each one alone. But you can feel these things together. Pay attention there, where you usually feel things, and in there you can get a sense of what all the problem feels like. Let yourself feel the unclear sense of all of that.
What is the quality of this unclear felt sense? Let a word, a phrase, or an image come up from the felt sense itself. It might be a quality – word. Like tight, sticky, scary, stuck, heavy, jumpy, or a phrase, or an image. Stay with the quality, of the felt sense, until something fits it just right.
Go back and forth between the felt sense and the word (phrase, or image). Check how they resonate with each other. See if there is a little bodily signal that lets you know there is a fit. To do it, you should have the felt sense there again, as well as the word. Let the felt sense change, if it does, and the word or picture, until they feel just right in capturing the quality of the felt sense.
Now ask: What is it, about this whole problem that makes this quality (which you have just named or pictured)? Make sure the quality is sensed again, freshly, vividly (not just remembered from before). When it is here again, tap it, touch it, be with it, asking, “”What makes the whole problem so____?” Or you ask, “What is in this sense?”
If you get a quick answer without a shift in the felt sense, just let that kind of answer go by. Return your attention to your body and freshly find the felt sense again. Then ask it again. Be with the felt sense until something comes along with a shift, a slight “give” or release.
Receive whatever comes with a shift in a friendly way. Stay with it a while, even if it is only a slight release. Whatever comes, this is only one shift; there will be others. You will probably continue after a little while, but stay here for a few moments.
IF DURING THESE INSTRUCTIONS SOMEWHERE YOU HAVE SPENT A LITTLE WHILE SENSING AND TOUCHING AN UNCLEAR HOLISTIC BODY SENSE OF THIS PROBLEM, THEN YOU HAVE FOCUSED.
It doesn’t matter whether the body shift came or not. It comes on its own. We don’t control it.