Focusing is Not New Age

CG asks: “What about focusing?”

Eugene Gendlin

Eugene Gendlin

Focusing is not New Age although it can certainly be used in that way by psychotherapists who espouse a New Age worldview. There are also versions of it that incorporate Buddhist mindfulness meditation techniques into the practice of focusing which is why people should be cautious when approaching this kind of therapy.

For those who have never heard of it, focusing is a psychotherapeutic process developed by a psychotherapist named Eugene Gendlin. Beginning in 1953, he spent more than a dozen years at the University of Chicago analyzing why psychotherapy worked for some people and not for others. The conclusion he reached is that it depended upon how the patient behaves during the therapy and what the patient does inside during the sessions. Patients whose focus was inside themselves, and who were attuned to a subtle internal bodily awareness – what he called the “felt sense” – had more success.

In this article published by the American Psychotherapy Association, Gendlin is said to use the term experience “to denote concrete experience . . . the raw, present, ongoing [flow] of what is usually called ‘experience.’ The term refers to ‘the flow of feeling concretely to which you can every moment attend inwardly, if you wish.'”

As Neil Friedman, Ph.D., DAPA explains: “Human beings can have a felt sense of most anything. This is extremely important to understand. Stop for a moment. Go inward. What is your felt sense of right now? What is your felt sense of yourself? What is your felt sense of your health? What is your felt sense of your career? What is your felt sense of your relationship situation? What is your felt sense of the world situation?”

He continues: “For Gendlin, the felt sense is crucial to psychotherapy. Psychotherapy begins when one makes direct reference to one’s felt sense of the problem, issue, situation, or concern upon which one is working. By staying with the felt sense, and finding a symbol that matches it, the felt sense unfolds its meanings and shifts. This felt shift—another term that Gendlin coined—is the feeling of therapeutic change actually happening. Psychotherapy, from this point of view, is a series of steps of finding felt senses, being friendly to them, accurately symbolizing them, and then feeling felt shifts.”

Gendlin reduced focusing to a process that can be learned by anyone. In his book, Focusing, which is written in layman’s terms, he describes six steps to follow in order to practice focusing.

“I did not invent Focusing,” Gendlin says. “I simply made some steps which help people to find Focusing.”

Click here to read more about focusing.

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