Gendlin, E.T. & G. Lietaer (1983). On client-centered and experiential psychotherapy: an interview with Eugene Gendlin. In W.R. Minsel & W. Herff (Eds.), Research on psychotherapeutic approaches. Proceedings of the 1st European conference on psychotherapy research, Trier, 1981, Vol. 2, pp. 77-104. Frankfurt am Main/Bern: Peter Lang. From http://www.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2102.html
Working with Carl Rogers in Chicago and Madison
L: Thank you for giving me an opportunity to interview you...
G: Oh, that's fine.
L: After these two weeks of hard work, I hope it will not be too burdensome for you.
G: It's not too bad.
 The Psychotherapy Division of the Department of Psychology of the Catholic University of Leuven invited Dr. E. Gendlin as a guest professor for a period of one month. This interview was held on March 24, 1981.
I am grateful to Marc Van Mechelen for his help in making the transcript of the interview. Throughout the text I inserted some references so as to make it possible for the reader to further deepen out some aspects of Gendlin's work.
L: Well, to start with I would like to ask you some questions about your professional career and your relationship to the client-centered orientation. You first studied philosophy...
L: and in 1953 you joined the Rogers group at the University of Chicago. Why did a philosopher turn to psychotherapy and why did you join the client-centered orientation? Were the reasons only geographical in nature, or did you already have a predilection for the client-centered approach?
G: I was then and I still am of course, in philosophy; and my main interest, which has of course now expanded a lot, always was the question of symbolizing experience and the relationship between those two (GENDLIN 1962). Philosophy begins with the understanding that you cannot just observe or experience and then report what you see, because how you conceptualize and symbolize alters experience. On the other hand, it's also clear that you cannot conceptualize and symbolize any way you want to. Experience has what is given there, and what is lived has something to do with that. So a relationship between the two has to be understood. And aside from my direct interest in these things, my work in philosophy led me right there, because psychotherapy I realized, is a place where people do exactly this. They freshly symbolize experience.
And then what I heard about the non-directive—at that time it was called non-directive—approach, led me to go straight there. I don't remember that I ever thought about going anywhere else. I actually went into the Counseling Center while I didn't belong there, and discovered that the papers the staff members were writing, were available in the waiting-room. Clients and anyone else could have them. You had to sign that you borrowed it and then you brought it back the next week. And so, I sneaked in there and pretended that I was a client, so that I could borrow one of those. And then I got more and more interested, since indeed they were doing this; they were letting a person have directly his experience and slowly to work at how to express that, how to symbolize that, how to say that. And I also found that they didn't talk about it that way. So as soon as I was admitted there, and I learned a few things, I was able to apply some of my philosophical concepts to what was happening. So I very early was able to think about it in a somewhat better way, I thought. So I also felt very lucky that they let me in.[Page 79]
L: Hm, I see. Well, If you look back now on the traditional client-centered approach as it was practised in the fifties let's say, what do you see as the strengths of it, and what do you see as its weaknesses? Can you say something about that?
G: Well, from the very beginning they always had this emphasis on a contact between the therapist and the client, in such a way that every moment the therapist checks his understanding of the client. Now, generally when one listens to another person, one thinks that one understands. Sometimes you say that you don't understand, but most of the time in ordinary life we say: "Yes, yes, yes, hm, hm, hm, we understand". But if you try to say to that person what you think you understood, what you have heard, you will be very surprised, because almost always the person says: "No, not exactly", and tells you again. And even the second time, when you say it back: "Oh, I see, you mean this," the person will say: "Yes, that's close, but, still I have to say specifically a little different this and this." And then, when you get it completely right, then there is a strong impact on the person. They say: "Yeah" (breathing out deeply); and then there is a space that opens, a little silence comes there, and something new can come. And that was true from the very beginning when I got there, that they have that, and I must say that after so many years most of the psychotherapy field still has not learned that. I have to say that: the majority of other kinds of therapists, as much as I respect them and learned from them many things, are not good at that. They don't realize that most of the time they do not understand exactly where the patient is, and therefore they leave the patient alone, there is no contact, and that is one of the most important things about client-centered therapy which has still not been taken in by other methods.
L: Hm, I see.
G: The second thing I think is that: when one takes and receives and checks, so that one really has heard what the person is trying to say, in that silence which comes then, something deeper moves in the person and that is really the essential change process. And as much as we have learned as therapists to do all sort of things to people, there has to be left a large amount of time—half the time of an hour or more—for that underground movement process to happen, for something to come in the person. Otherwise we only have the effect of what we do and that is not enough; that makes people all confused sometimes too: like we therapists do something, then there is a big explosive effect, and then we do something else, and there is another big explosive effect; but a change-process continuing over time in a person, where that person develops, that cannot be done by a therapist doing something to a patient. That has to come in the person. And that is the other main [Page 80] thing I think, that client-centered therapy has now and had then.
L: Do you see some weaknesses too, in that traditional client-centered approach?
G: Certainly! It was first of all defined very negatively. When Rogers first found it, he found it by saying: "Don't! Don't ask questions. Don't interpret. Don't say anything about yourself. Just only say back." And in that form he was able to define it, he was able to bring it. You know, the first form that you can give to something, it's good that you can give it any form. But it became important over the years—rather than in terms of "don'ts"—to understand more exactly: what is it? What do we do? What is the essence of client-centered therapy? And we were able gradually to put that in positive terms, as I tried to do just now (GENDLIN 1968, 1970). And when you put it in positive terms, then you can also see that you can do many other things, so long as you don't do other things all the time, so long as you leave a large amount of time in a therapy-hour for these essential points of checking the understanding every minute, and allowing the silence and the space for something to come in the person and then responding to that again. When one understands what that is for, then it is possible to do much more. And certainly, all the "don'ts" one can do them, because if you understand the reason why you should not, then you know that you can do it; because the reason for not asking questions is not to bring the person off his track. So then, if you know that and if you ask a question and the person goes off the track, you bring him back. But you have to understand it; otherwise you ask a question and they go off the track and give you an answer to your question and then you respond to that answer and they go on about it and then half the interview can be lost, just talking about your question. But if you understand that a question will bring the person off the track, you can ask your question and then say: "Well, before I asked it, you were saying... this and this", and bring them right back. And so it is also with the other "don'ts".
L: I see. Well, a next question which maybe you answered already partially: how do you see your personal impact on the evolution of client-centered therapy? Or, to put it in other words: how and in what specific respects, did you have an influence on Carl Rogers?
G: Well, that's not exactly the same thing. I think in many places where client-centered therapy is practised, they went with Carl Rogers and then they went with me another little stretch, so that client-centered therapy became more experiential and somewhat more humanly real, and included more expressiveness of the therapist. And then with focusing (GENDLIN 1969) more emphasis was laid on helping direct the client's attention to the edge, to what is not yet clear that one [Page 81] feels in a bodily way, and so forth.
My main, I think, influence on Carl Rogers was during the period of the Process Scale (ROGERS 1958). That Process Scale he took mostly from the work that I did together with Zimring, in the years just preceding '55, '57 and '59 (GENDLIN & ZIMRING 1955). And he was then of course much more able to put things together and get them out and so on; and so he took much of our work and put it in the form of the Process Scale. And then also, I then also continued to take that again and developed it further and it became the Experiencing Scale (KLEIN et al. 1969), and we used it in a lot of research, and in that whole period much of what Rogers was saying was taking some of my things. The change from self-concept, as he had called it before, to process of responding to one's experiencing, that came from me, or perhaps even through me since there is a philosophical background to that notion.
L: As I see it, you have been the best theoretician of the client-centered approach. You constructed a sound theory of personality change and you operationalized your theory into the Experiencing Scale. Furthermore, as you already said, you reversed the old client-centered don't-rules into do-rules, and described the intervention of the therapist in much more specific ways than usually has been done. Can you agree with that?
G: Well, I certainly agree with it up to being more specific about therapist-responding. Well yes, I did that too. But I think now, that most importantly, it is really the client's responding that I have become so specific about. We found that so many clients first of all did not check inside themselves.
L: But for instance in your articles on working with schizophrenics...
G: Yes, that's true.
L: ... you tried to describe very specifically how you can work and how you can relate to these people, just to make them check (GENDLIN 1967).
G: Yes. To be phenomenologically specific, is I think one of the main things that I do. So for a long time it was the therapist's responding that I wanted to be specific about, yes.
L: On a more fundamental level, I have the impression that you broadened the meaning of the concept "client-centered". To Rogers it means or meant that the therapist stays within the client's frame of reference on a continuous basis. Is It right to say that you use that principle in a more flexible way?
G: Yes, I think so.[Page 82]
L: At times you initiate interactions with the client from your own frame of reference—by using clinical concepts, by expressing what is going on in you, by using certain procedures—but you always come back to the client's frame of reference, checking if what you initiated brings new life in the client's experience.
L: Do you see it that way?
G: Yes, the criterion is always what happens again in the client. And if it is really clear that one must every minute know where the client is inside and what is happening and check that, say that, so that the partner can say: "No, it is not like that, it is like this," and then you say: "Oh, it is like this", until you are completely together again, if you do that, then you can do other things, including from other frames of reference. But as soon as I do something else, then I want quickly again, as you said, to say: "O.K., what happened now?" or "How did that feel to you?" or to respond if I see already what happened. For instance the client's face gets tight and confused, I say: "Oh, I see, that doesn't make sense"; or: "I see, that's not right what I said"; or: "I see, that didn't work"; or: "You didn't like it"; or: "You wish I would stop" or whatever. And there are also relational events that occur there. It's important then to let the client push me back if I have taken up too much space or if I've done something that didn't feel good. So that always has priority over what I am trying to do. But—the way I feel about that—if I give that constant priority, then it becomes enriching and helpful to do many other things, without losing the client-centered basis.
L: But do you really feel that this basis has been broadened, I mean that there has been a shift in the meaning of the concept "client-centered", that it, let us say, became less orthodox?
G: Oh yes, much more.
L: You don't stay continuously within his frame of reference, you...
G: Well, you stay in his frame of reference perhaps for 15 or 20 minutes at one time; otherwise one loses the power of the client-centered approach; but, given that we do that, and so we do allow the process to move underneath, which I still think is extremely important, then: yes, I think it has become very much broadened. We have no longer, mostly—some people certainly still practise very much the old way—but most of the time now, you don't hear these very trivial problems that client-centered therapists used to have: "What do I do if he asks me a question?" Or this embarrassed being forced to repeat, you know; so if the client says: "I would like to know more about you", you'll say:" [Page 83] "Oh, you would like to know more about me." I mean this kind of thing was often talked about and discussed and even joked about, and that is gone now. In that sense client-centered therapy in the fifties, like psychoanalysis, was very formal, when you think about it; it was an avoidance of relating. And now, I find it's quite natural among most client-centered therapists: of course I will say what I feel when it is strong enough, of course I ask when I see something that is going on, and so forth. And it has become, I think, much more human, and without losing the essential client-centered basis.
L: From 1958 to 1963 you were the research director of the Wisconsin study on client-centered therapy with schizophrenics (ROGERS et al 1967). It was a time with stormy conflicts...
G: Many troubles, yes.
L: ... among the members of the research staff, and also the therapeutic work with these severely disturbed clients was a big challenge for these therapists of the Chicago Counseling Center. Yet, the whole enterprise had an important impact, I think, on the evolution of client-centered therapy, and maybe on you as a therapist. Can you tell something about what you learned there and how it changed your way of doing psychotherapy?
G: Oh, we learned many things. Let's see, how would I say those best. First of all, I think one learns very quickly from dealing with a more disturbed, so called, population, to become more real as a person. Some of those patients can sense your reactions so much faster than most people and also they react more totally. You know, there is some slight change in your feelings and this person is just finished with you: "Goodbye, you know, I'm going." So one learns to become looser. I don't know how to explain that very well, it certainly doesn't follow the way I put it. You give up on formalities, because they don't do anything. You give up on how good you look and how well you are doing, because none of these things work. It's like working with children, only more so, because with children also, they sense you more directly, and then all these formal things that people do, they just don't do anything. So... It becomes clear that you depend more on your actual human responses. And perhaps also, some of your shyness gets worn away. You get more used to being present, all sorts of things happening.
So this was I think the largest change. As long as I was working in the Counseling Center in my office, I could afford to remain rather shy and cautious and perhaps a little timid, and, you know, go to the waiting room and get my client and then be a little uncomfortable on the stairway, if the client started to talk to me, until we were [Page 84] in my office. And once I was working in the hospital, that all just disappeared, and you learn to work with someone with six other patients standing around and some nurses laughing because they think you are stupid because you are taking a person seriously who is in the hospital, and all this noise going on and all the upsetness that... you know, these formal artificialities just disappear, working with a patient who says: "I don't want to talk to you", and "Why do you come, go away", and so on. And, so that is one big change. We just really became much more human and I'm quite sure, I wrote that somewhere, that we changed, there is no question about. Now whether the patients changed, we needed to do a lot of research to establish. But we certainly changed.
I think we also learned that there are structural, ethical problems, that we haven't paid much attention to. It was for me a learning that you cannot always deal with every problem in a therapeutic fashion. Or you can put it the other way and say, it is a little different at least, it's a different kind of . . . I mean to say that, if we had been more skilled as therapists, perhaps we could have dealt even with that problem in a therapeutic fashion. But it was—at least to begin with—a problem that was hard to perceive, structurally speaking, administratively speaking. There is a social-structural level, which is really different from the therapeutic level.
L: And which had more impact than what you could do on the therapeutic level?
G: Well, which gave us a lot of trouble, which gave us a lot of difficulty. I'm referring there to our famous difficulties that we had in that period.
L: Oh, you mean the troubles in the research staff! I thought you meant the structure of the clinic, but you mean the conflicts in the staff (KIRSCHENBAUM p. 281-287).
G: I mean the conflicts, so called, you see... the way you're putting it still implies they were interpersonal conflicts. They were not interpersonal conflicts, they were, if you like...
G: Ethical conflicts, or something like that. And there was no understanding of that among us. So it took us a long time to perceive that.
L: Hm, hm. In 1970 you were the winner of the First Distinguished Professional Psychology Award of the Psychotherapy Division of A.P.A. How did you feel about it and what part of your work was most highly valued by the A.P.A.? I mean, why specifically did they give you that Award?
G: Well, it makes me laugh because when I had to give a speech when I received it, I told them that to get an Award worried me a little because usually awards are only given to people who do very established, recognizable and therefore not new work.[Page 85]
L: I see.
G: But then I decided they gave me the award perhaps mostly because I founded the Journal of Psychotherapy (Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice) and helped to found the Division of Psychotherapy, in which case it would be all right, but of course that's a joke. I would prefer to think that they gave me the award for my research.
L: Hm, hm. Mainly the Wisconsin-research?
G: No, no, although the Wisconsin-research in a way was part of it. No, what I think of is that my main research finding has to do with finding a relationship between process and outcome, which in Wisconsin we did in a limited way, but there is a whole series of studies from before and during the using the Process Scale and afterwards with the Experiencing Scale, in which indeed we found that when therapy is successful, people do refer to what is not yet clear in themselves (GENDLIN et al. 1968).
L: I see, hm, hm.
G: From which then focusing developed and so forth.
L: Now I would like to turn to your work of the last 15 years, I mean your work after you left Wisconsin. Since about 1965 you gradually elaborated a concept of psychotherapy which to a large extent became your own idiosyncratic system and which transcends, I think, the client-centered orientation. You call it ""experiential psychotherapy" and describe it as a method of methods, which can be practised within different orientations and with many kinds of techniques (GENDLIN 1973, GENDLIN 1974b). Do you see your approach as being still more connected with the client-centered approach than with other approaches, or do you see the client-centered method as only being one of the many methods which can be used experientially?
G: That's a nice question. If the world would accept and take in the main message of client-centered therapy, then I would be glad to say: "Oh yes, it is only one of the many methods that you can use in an experiential way." But since that has been so little understood, I would want to say that that is still basic for me. Because without a constant, active checking, to say: "I now see that you are feeling, thinking and reacting this way"; and then to allow the client to say back to you: "No, that is not exactly right, I am here"; and then to say: "Oh, I see, you are [Page 86] here"; and then still to allow the client to say: "Well, not exactly, more like that," until you are completely in touch with each other and the client can say: "Yeah!" and have that quiet when something moves... If one does not have that, I don't think anything else is worth talking about. So with that attitude, yes, I have a special relationship to client-centered therapy.
Now, my work currently, really, you might say, has three parts. I have continued as a philosopher, with a very strong interest in the phenomenological side of philosophy and I have found there that we really have to change the basic concepts that we use in thinking about the body and thinking about perception and feelings and thoughts and behavior. We need to change not even just the concepts, but the kind of concepts. As a society we have had great success with reductive concepts, and we don't want to lose them because all of our medicine and all of our physiology is in those concepts. But for a functional understanding of a living system, in order to understand how we live as physical bodies, those concepts don't work. So we need a different conception of the living body as an interactional system; and I am recasting the basic concepts there (GENDLIN 1973, pp. 322-326).
And then I have some, what I call theoretical rather than philosophical work of trying to talk about the process of psychotherapy and personality change (GENDLIN 1964).
And my practical work, is currently the most active at this moment, first of all has to do with focusing, which is simply the little, specific essence of directing the person's attention to what is not yet clear (GENDLIN 1981). And what is not yet clear, can be directly sensed in the body. And there is a special level, a special kind of space, a special kind of attention that most people don't know, to allow the body to form a wholistic sense of some problem. And one can let such a sense form of anything; it can be this situation now, or some problem or something I want to write, or anything. If one can stop and allow the body to respond to that, that problem or anything, there will be a bodily sense that will not be clear at first, no matter how much one knows about the problem; that sense is independent of that. And it includes everything one knows, but it is always a single whole, a single sense. And we developed very specific steps for teaching people how to focus, how to form that kind of attention. First of all how to let the body form this bodily sense (it isn't usually there at first), how to let that come in. And then how to sense the quality of that: is it tight, is it heavy, is it fluttery, nervous, is it tense, what is its quality? And that helps to stay with it. It doesn't matter whether you name it [Page 87] correctly or not, but sensing the quality, helps to stay with it with one's attention. And that it then where something opens. And we found that this bodily sense has his own directions. It has its own need to form a further step. And something comes there, which one can't get any other way. It's an ability being used in creative writing, in hospitals and healing, and it's been used in education with little children.
But of course that whole focusing comes first of all, to say it formally, from the research which showed that successful clients do something like that. And we can hear it on the tape recorder. The client will say something, and maybe, if it is client-centered therapy—it doesn't matter now if it is—the therapist may respond to that. But then, there is a silence, and then you hear the person on the tape saying: "No, that's not right. I take it back, it's wrong. I can't tell you what is right, I can't say what I feel, but it's not what I said." And then there is more silence, and then the person says: "Oh yes, one, one thing I can say is this and this and this." And then: "Is that right?" And then there will be a silence. And then the person says: "Yes, that's right!" Now, that's really where we learned it from, the focusing thing. You can hear on the tape that the person speaking is referring to something, is checking what he says against that, and it can often happen that what the client has said is wrong. The client says, "It's wrong what I said, but I cannot yet say what is right." And then, in the silence, the client spends some time, paying attention directly to what can not be said, what is not yet clear. And when people don't do that, not very much happens in therapy. They can have very intense emotions, and not much happens. It is not true, what most people say now that therapy is all about feelings. You can have lots of feelings and have the same feelings over and over again. It isn't the recognizable feelings that make so much difference. It is sensing the edge, the unclear, what you don't recognize, but it is there, the bodily discomfort that the problem makes, which has meaning; it has its own peculiar quality, implicity, it is complex, it has in it everything that relates to that problem, but not in a way you can say. You might say thousands of things are in it, but it still has one direction, one next step at once. And if one can pay attention to that for a minute (and it seems like a long minute, but it goes very fast)—and even in that minute a person may not be there the whole time, he may lose hold of it and come back, and touch it, and come back, and loose it and come back—it will open. And that is where something comes.
Now, more informally you can say that what we are doing is training clients. When we found in the research that so many clients, half or more, really fail, and that we can predict that from in the second or third interview, then we had to face the fact [Page 88] that we better train the client how to do what the successful clients do. And also in our Informal training, we found the same thing. In Changes (BOUKYDIS 1977), a community group where we were training everyone to listen to everyone, we also found that it wasn't enough to train people how to listen. We also had to say to the person who was being listened to: "Now, don't be polite; don't just say "yes, that's right" to anything that the listener is saying. See, is that really right?" And when the person would say: "Yes, that's what I said", we would have to come in and say: "No, that's not what you said. Now, check that inside yourself". So we used to teach how to be the client too. And more and more, this kind of inward attention to the edge, we were teaching it, both informally and formally. And from this thing focusing came, so that—and I believe that very strongly—it is perfectly foolish to say: "Therapy is indicated for these people who will be successful and those people who are predicted failures we will just not give them therapy." The point is to change therapy, until we know how to work with those people. And, that has been the main practical side of the work.
Of course these are very much related, because in my philosophical work I want to be able to make concepts about this rather new level too. It's a new kind of symbolization really, or, if you like, a new relationship between bodily living, experience and symbols. And to understand it—and now I will come to the synthesis part that you wanted—one has to understand that a human being or even any living thing is an interactional entity. It isn't like a box or a stone or something, it is an interactional system, it takes in and it gives out, and it is not by itself in an inworld. It is an ecological system, an interactional system. And a living body also is not perfectly in the present. It implies future events, and it takes its past along with it. So that if you point in the present, at any moment of living, in that what you point at there is a future implied. It is hungry now, that means: it implies eating, which isn't happening yet. Or it has inhaled now, so exhaling is implied to come next. And every biological event is like that. So then it becomes understandable, even with complicated human systems, that a bodily living can have meaning. And this, incidentally, is also my difference with a lot of the current theories. You cannot arbitrarily give meaning to experience. Experience already has meaning. It already is how you are living a situation with other people. Just as you cannot arbitrarily decide that you're hungry because you would like to be at 6 o'clock or that you are not hungry because you wouldn't like to be. Experience always already has meaning. However, there is always a relationship possible between experience, which has meaning, and further living, further structure, so that [Page 89] there are all sort of possibilities of cognitive restructuring, but not arbitrarily. Any attempt to reframe or restructure has got to be checked then: "Does this carry my experience further or does it block it?" And that, I think, is very little understood. Even among existentialists too there has been this style that you make yourself, so you decide what you are, which is really nonsense. If you look carefully at the philosophers among the existentialists, they don't say that at all. It's quite clear that you already are and have all kinds of meaning, in terms of how you have lived this moment up to now. It is from this moment now that there is a very great openness to how you can carry it further but not any other way. The continuity has to be very strong. Otherwise it is not really a carrying further, it is simply some blocking or some pretence or some inauthentic front that you put. So, for me, the philosophical side of my work and the practical side of my work are almost the same; but they are in very different universes of discourse, so that one has to write two different ways.
L: Well, I think you already answered to a great extent my next question, which was: "Can you describe in a synthetic way the most cherished aspects of your approach, the aspects about which you feel they are new, or at least more elaborated than in other systems, and which you see as very important and basic to the therapeutic process." I think you answered it.
G: I can say two more things under that. One is, that it is little understood that a process of change has small steps, that come of their own accord. We as a field are still very much stronger and more able to make concepts about what's wrong with people than to understand the change process. The change process is mysterious, it comes through the body and it comes on the edge, on the border zone between what is called the conscious and the unconscious. And it has small steps, in which the whole constellation changes. And I find that's little understood. Even Rogers, when he writes about focusing, which I am glad that he does, says about it that it is a bringing up denied experience, as if it didn't change. But the steps that you get, especially in focusing, and in any good therapy, are steps of a small change of the whole constellation. It isn't just something that was under there, being lifted up now, as if you take a rock out from under the blanket, and then it is still the same rock but now it is above the blanket; before it was denied and now it is conscious. That would not change anybody very much. And there are unfortunately a great many patients from many different therapies who have experienced only that: "Now I am aware of some of my places, before I was not." And that makes a difference of course, but not what I see as the essence of a personal change, of a growth process which is these small steps that are quite characteristic, and you get them of course [Page 90] in focusing especially, which is kind of designed for that, and in any therapy when it works: "Ooh!" (exhales), some big changing felt in the body, and then the whole constellation of the problem is a little different. Once in a while it is very different, but characteristically it's a little different, then again it's a little different, and again it's a little different, and again it's a little different...
And the other thing that I would like to mention - which brings us full circle in a way because it was a part of client-centered therapy and still is and yet it is freshly important in a very different, new way - is that in attending inwardly in focusing-way, there is always a difference between the self and whatever is there. Because a small distance - Abstand, breath between, space - is made as the body forms the whole sense of the problem, there is an experience of: "I am here and this- is there; yeah, I sense it." And a new "I"" comes there.
L: Do you mean by that: it is ego-strengthening somehow?
G: Yeah, but it is not the same ego. It's a self that has no content, because every content is there. And even in a simple way, the preparation for focusing, the first movement we call, it isn't really focusing, it's just getting ready to do it, you take a kind of inventory, you say to your body: "Do I feel all comfortable and happy about life?" And then, typically certain things you sense: "Ooh, not quite. I'm carrying this tension from this situation, and I am carrying this tension from that problem I always have," and so forth. And you put those down in a space that most people don't know about as a space. And you say: "Oh yes, that's there; yes, that's right, I can sense that; yeah, that's right, I have that." And there is some little relief, just to put it down: "And that over there, yes I have that too; and that's right, I am carrying that." And even in doing that, there is a relationship between an "I", that puts those things down or senses those things, and the things. And then if you say: "What is this 'I'?" it isn't any of those things. Now, that "I" becomes very much stronger, and becomes very much more able to be in a sense the owner of this whole, it becomes strong in relation to whatever is there. And that seems more important than whatever it is that's there, because what is there does change, it goes through steps. And I find that some of the newest cathartic methods don't have that. They have a lot of powerful emotional experiences and great discharges and tremendous coughing and spitting and screaming and crying and so, all of which I respect, by the way it is good, but they don't yet know how to put that together with the kind of process where the person's self gets stronger. That inner self that has all of these, that must first be found, and that must develop. And that is at least as important as working with the content, with the emotions and with all the old experiences. Otherwise you [Page 91] get people who very easily have strong emotions and very easily yell and scream, and very easily have memories... but they themselves as living humans, haven't really gotten any bigger.
L: As you said it is typical for your approach that it is deeply rooted in existentialism and phenomenology. How important for you is this philosophical basis and do you think other therapists can use your experiential methods without taking the philosophy behind it?
G: Well, yes and no. For me the philosophy is very important, but in terms of practice, what is important is—and we still haven't talked about synthesis, maybe we can now—what is important is to let every different thing that you do, to let it be in relation to the as yet unformed, concretely sensed experience of the person, so that you can sense whether what you do is a step forward for the person or not; and if you don't like "forward," is a step of living that comes naturally, rather than something imposed. And, if one takes account of the fact that a human being is interactional, so that a human being is physical, biological, social, situational, as well as internally, self-aware, that these are all dimensions of a human being, then it becomes understandable why we should have therapies in each of these dimensions. And then it wouldn't be necessary for us to be so puzzled about these different therapies, because these are different dimensions that every human being has. And it becomes possible to use all of these dimensions, provided they are always used in relation to the self sensing the edge, the self sensing the wholistic, not yet clear, ongoing experience. Then you are in the present and then you are dealing with the whole of a problem and then you are dealing with an expanding person. And if you do that, there is no reason not to talk about some steps of action to take during the week, and to learn things from the operant Skinner people. And you don't need their whole philosophy, it's enough to see that yes, it helps to make small steps of action, and it only takes 5 minutes from an hour to say: "Well, what might be a step this week?" And, one can use most of the beautiful things that Jung has about dreams, and yet, with a different criterion than Jung has. Because for Jung, his own decision of what is the interpretation is the criterion, and I would reject that and say: the criterion for an interpretation of a dream or anything else is the direct opening-up, the direct step of something coming in the individual. And if that doesn't come then you have not interpreted correctly, whatever dream or anything else. So again, what I meant there is: if you interpret, that's really a question to, not even to the consciousness of the person, but to the edge of experience in the person.
And if something comes there in response to your interpretation, that then is what is [Page 92] right; it may not even be what you were looking for, but whatever comes there, that's right. If you keep everything into relation to that center point, all the different methods become useful.
L: And do you think people can use your experiential method without taking the philosophy behind it?
G: Yes. But what we mean there is: without studying the philosophy behind it, yes. Without taking the philosophy, I don't know, because really, the philosophy really is what I just said in a simple way; it really is the relation between whatever one does explicitly and this growing point as edge of the experiencing that is sensed directly but is not yet clear. And if you make your criterion for whatever you say or think or do: "Does that provide a step of movement for that experiencing process? In response to what you do explicitly, does something bodily, physically move and come?" If that's your criterion, then we are O.K. in practice and you don't have to have all the conceptual business that goes with it, but that is the essence of the philosophical part.
The alternative to what I'm saying, which I am against, is to assume a world which is all already cut up and defined. It's an unphilosophical world, you see. You assume that human beings come in little units that Freud defined, or they come in little units that Jung defined, or they come in little units that Skinner defined, or they come with a self-concept and a self-actualizing tendency that Rogers defined, or even they come in some kind of units that Gendlin defined, or whatever . . . But to assume that the world comes already cut and dried and defined, is the primary mistake, I think. And my understanding of what philosophy is, is to deal with that, that we want to be able to think before the assumption that everything is already cut up, because we know that everything can be cut up in many ways. And there is no use really in "O.K., I like this theory, and so I believe the world comes in those units," because just in the same building with you, there will be people who will see the world defined in different units. And so you are missing the basic question, which is, that there is some relationship between how we define (which has variety) and the life-process. And that relationship, if you have that in your practice, then, if you don't want to read the philosophical discussion, that is perfectly right.
L: As you say, you see the focusing process as basic to personality change.
G: It doesn't have to be called the focusing process, you know, it can come in other ways. I don't want anyone to say that the way that I'm saying it, it has to be that way or you cannot change. There will be many avenues of expanding on an edge.[Page 93]
L: Yeah. Do you see that process as the only curative factor in psychotherapy? Or, to put my question in other words, as you know all orientations get about the same rate of success. Do you think this means that in all these orientations therapists work experientially, or do you think that different curative factors may be at work in different orientations, such as: the placebo-effect, modeling effects, catharsis, selective reinforcement, the working through of transference, . . . ?
G: Well, can I answer that on two levels? That list you just gave is an example of a list of different methods in therapy. I would say there that . . .
L: Of different change mechanisms.
G: Yes, you meant it. But I think that the different change mechanisms that we know about, all of them could be done more effectively, if they are done in relation to the person's directly sensed edge. Even to choose certain steps of action during the week that you will reward yourself for, it will be better to consult your directly sensed experience as to whether the step gives you energy or whether it's going to be too hard to do, and whether this particular target for conditioning is one that gives you some life-forward movement or whether it just sounds good and so on. So that for the current methods, I would take the first alternative you offered me, the one which would say: all of them will be done better with focusing. And I do however want to make it clear now, focusing by itself is not enough, I would never do just focusing. There is a relationship process that is absolutely vital, and then I would want at least to be doing client-centered therapy and take a lot of other things; the role-reversal from Gestalt I think is important, and many, many dimensions; dreams are important and so forth. But I would say that putting focusing into the center of any method will make that method better. And this is not just me saying it. If you understand what focusing is and you do a certain method, you are very likely to say: "Well, that is anyway what I want to happen. All you have done is you have made that more specific." And I think that's right. If you look at most methods, you will see that that's what they want anyway. The operant people don't want to condition you for something that doesn't have any life-forward meaning for you. They assume—they don't pay any attention to it—but they assume that that's some kind of a life-enhancing thing, that little step. And when you talk to Gestalt people and you make that distinction between acting and speaking from something that comes directly in your body, they will immediately say: "No no, it comes in the body, that's how we want it. We don't want you to make it up." They just aren't very specific in their instructions to the client always. Or if you ask a client-centered therapist: "Which do you think is client-centered therapy, just to repeat [Page 94] what the client says, even if the client is talking only about what he did during the week, or this thing where the client stops and senses down deeply and something more comes?" he will certainly say: "No, the second is, that's client-centered therapy." So focusing really, in that sense, is just a very specific way to instruct an individual to sense that edge, which every method of therapy assumes that it should be involved, and that the steps should come from there.
But on a second level, I would never want to say, that anything that I say or anything else is the only way change can come. Because that is false and dangerous. We don't know enough about how change comes and there are bound to be other ways and there are bound to be things wrong with what I am saying or what anyone is saying.
L: In client-centered and in experiential psychotherapy we do not have a differentiated description of psychopathological phenomena. For instance in your theory, you describe the basic core of psychopathology, I think, as a frozen whole, by which you mean that a person is alienated from his own flow of experience. But you do not further differentiate it into different modes. Do you think we miss that or do you think we can just borrow the insights of other orientations or we don't need them to do psychotherapy, or anything else?
G: Yes, yes. First of all it is the greatest foolishness always to want to say that any one orientation or any one theory or certainly any one person, what they say is enough, that's all you need. I couldn't possibly want to say that. No, my theory misses that, I have nothing to say about different kinds of pathology. I still think it is right that what the pathology is, is not as important as how one moves that. By being so good at classifying people, we have not been as good at talking about how change happens. That I still think, but that's not an excuse or a substitute for not being able to say anything about different kinds of pathology and I appreciate what the psychoanalytic theory and the Jungian theory—those are the two I know best—and a few others have given me about different kinds of pathology. And yes, I think it is important to be instructed in those. It helps you see, it helps you sense and hear quicker, what may otherwise take a long time, especially some of the reversals: where what phenomenologically appears to a person as depression, that there is likely to be anger there; what phenomenologically appears as overly concerned about another person, that there is likely to be some hostility there. Those kind of things, and many others, many many others from psychoanalysis and from the Jungian body of concepts, I find very valuable and I wouldn't want to be without them.[Page 95]
But I do not think it's wise to use those to lay interpretations on another person. I think they can lead you to look for certain feelings and experiences which may directly be there. So that I would then say to someone like that: "Can you sense anger there?" especially if I start to hear it. E.g.: The depressed person says: "It's no use"; I very often can sense anger there. Now, if I didn't know the psychoanalytic theory I might not. This way it helps me, they have that concept so I'm sensitized to that: "Ah, now I hear it!" But now I still wouldn't say: "You know, according to the psychoanalytic theory, you are really hostile against yourself," or something. I would simply say: "Is there anger there? Can you sense any anger?"; and if they can't, I'll try it out some other time when I hear it. And if he can, still I wouldn't say: "Oh, now you have this anger that my theory said." I would simply say: "Be with that for a minute, and sense what that is," and pursue what comes in the client rather than what my theory says. With that understanding I would very much advocate that every therapist would be familiar at least with the theories of Freud and Jung, and I emphasize with both of them, because one theory is dangerous and two theories are much better. Immediately, without any philosophical complexity, when you have two theories you know how to use them because you don't fall into one. And so, you can then know that directly sensing the experience you have and directly hearing from the other person is the criterion. And the theories only sensitize you to what might be there. And if it isn't there, then just listen to what is there (GENDLIN 1974a).
L: I see. Well, maybe a last question as to your approach. Do you think that all procedures can be used experientially or are there methods which intrinsically are anti-experiential or at least non-experiential? For instance: Giving advice, trying to persuade the client . . . And a question related to that: What are the procedures from other orientations for which you have a preference and why?
G: I think that there are ways that people deal with other people which, at least the way they stand, I would not want to use. Someone told me the other day about one of those where for 3 days you say everything negative and then you turn and say everything positive: That must make a lot of effects in a person, but I wouldn't want to do that. However—it may even be true for what I am now talking about, since I know nothing about that, you see—I want to say: when you first hear about another method, you very often feel like: "Oh my God, I would never want to do that to anyone and I hope no one ever does that to me." But then, when you observe the method more and more, you may then say: "Oh, I see, something is really working here that I didn't understand." And if you go even further, you may then understand [Page 96] what that is, at least enough, so that you may want to be a patient or a subject in that method for at least a day or two or three, so that you can experience that. And when you then do that, you may find that inside yourself, you can think about what is effective about it, even though you still don't like it, and you still wouldn't ever do it. And when you can—and this is a way of dealing with everything experientially—if inside yourself you experience what about that is effective, then you have an experiential version of that method. And that, rather than just sticking methods together, I think you should synthesize on an experiential basis, and not just be eclectic.
So, I would suspect that any method, even as ugly as it may look to me at first, if it has some effectiveness, and if I can experience that in myself as a client, then I am in a position to evaluate it, and if it then seems to me like something that is really working, I will then find a form for it, which may look very different from that original method and yet I will have gotten it from them. And that form I will be willing to do and that has happened to me with many methods. Certainly, just broadly speaking, with using Freudian and Jungian concepts in an interpretive way, I use them very much and yet I don't use them at all, because for me it has changed completely, and it is just for me the question: "What might this person feel right here, if the theory is right?" And if I can't find that, I don't say anything; and if I can, then I ask a little question and it only takes a moment; and if it isn't there it isn't there. And it doesn't cost me anything and I don't stop the client. I don't suddenly become a wise interpreter, or anything. I just have a little question and if that moves, oh I'm grateful to the theory and if not, not. And in the same way you can change any of the methods. I wouldn't use operant conditioning in the way that many people do, where they use it for an institution. Like in a school I know, they conditioned all the children not to put their hands on the wall. I think that's a waste of human living, to do a thing like that. The Skinnerian at the University of Chicago is my friend actually, but I've never been able to explain to him that there is this vital difference between giving the power of the operant method to the individuals and giving it to institutions. I'm against giving it to institutions, I don't care what institutions. But if you give it to individuals, it's an extension of their capacity. And then, I think, in operant conditioning they pick a target. You come into an operant kind of therapy and in the first hour you pick a target and then the rest of the time you work on that target. Well, I would never do that. We know from our kind of therapy that what the person's purpose is, changes as he grows. So it would be much better to have that included in any way in your work, right?[Page 97]
So, one can translate everything into an experiential form and in that form it will not contradict other things that you have in that form. Then you are not eclectically pasting together things, because there is an internal integrity and consistency, because whatever the method used to be, now you are using it in the very same spirit, as saying: "Does this make a step? Does this bring something?" That's all you are doing every time, the same thing.
L: I think we can shift now to a third and final set of questions, mainly concerning the future of experiential psychotherapy and of psychotherapy in general. Can you tell something about the topics you would like to work on in the next years?
G: I don't know . . . it makes me smile, because you want me . . . you ask me to take the supposition that I . . . this phase of my work has been completed. Oh, I like that very well.
L: No, I didn't mean that, but . . .
G: It's beginning to be true, but it is not completely yet. Well, my philosophical interest is probably the strongest, so that if I imagine myself having completed the present phase, that is probably what would come there . . . Oh, no, you see, there are other things waiting in line. I'm very interested in putting together—or helping, 'cause I can't do that alone—in helping to put together the psychological, the political and the spiritual. As I look around me, I see there three groups wildly separated, with very different things, and I find myself saying things in one group that are perfectly obvious in the other and vice versa. And I wish they would talk to each other, then I wouldn't have to do that. A lot of the spiritual things take the person away from their development. And those very same things would be very good if they were together with the way that we know how to penetrate what is at first tight and closed in ourselves. And vice versa, it seems to me that some of the worst criticisms that we are getting as psychological people these days come from the trivialness and the smallness of being concerned only with one's self. And then the political people are still in the third place, where they're really quite closed often to the personal dimension of things. They think: "Well, that will just get in the way." So, they can't give each other any energy and they're always just giving out things and then getting tired and leaving. And something to me is very important about it, bringing these dimensions together.
L: Do you see yourself as a quiet revolutionary, as is said of Carl Rogers (FARSON 1974)?[Page 98]
G: Not so quiet!
L: Not so quiet . . . I mean, do you think that the basic philosophy behind your experiential approach will have a serious impact on social realities such as education, personal relationships, community life, and so on?
G: Sure. I think there is no question that these processes will soon be taught in schools, and they're beginning to be. That, to teach individuals to be able to have these steps, is a fundamental change. Throughout the centuries we have always said that a person's character is formed when he is about five and that it doesn't change. And in some sense this may still be true too. But in some other sense, the fact that one can have steps of this kind of change is a gigantic fact and I know this from my own experience and the people that I know. It is a real difference and it becomes very frustrating then to live and work with people who don't know that. You want to keep saying to them: "Oh, you don't want to do this; well, go look why. You know, don't just tell you don't want to do it, go see why you don't want to do it. Then we will be able to work it out." And you go down there and you spend 2 or 3 minutes, and you take a breath and you say: "Oh, I see why I don't want to do it: it's really because of this. In this other part I don't mind doing it"; and you make a distinction or you find some way and we can go ahead. And if you don't know that, you say "I don't want to do it, that's all," or you give some justification for it and we are just stuck. So there is a real large difference, even though it is not necessarily true that we will find a wonderful way out every time. But there is still a very large difference and a great frustration when people who know how to make these steps deal with people who never heard of that: "What do you mean, go see?" "You know, it's a simple thing, go and feel the whole; well, go see, what is that?" And then they say: "What do you mean? Where do I go see?" And so, it makes a lot of difference, and in social terms too.
I think what is coming is the kind of social structure which will understand that individuals make and change social structure. It's like the question: shall you arrange classes as lectures or as discussions or as some other way, you know. Shall the teacher present information or shall the teacher make discussion or shall the teacher do both or whatever? It's still in the old form, as if there has got to be a structure: a class has to be this or this or this. And clearly, we are going to have a different kind of structure in which the people there will participate in changing it as they need it each time. And the same is true as: what is it to be a man with a woman, or what is it to be a woman with a man? People say: "Well, it's gonna be this. No, it's gonna be that." Well, I don't think so. I think it will be that we will learn that each of us [Page 99] creates that structure as we live. And what it is to be a man with a woman for you isn't going to be the same thing as what it is to be a man with a woman for me and vice versa, because we will work that out each of us with his woman. And when that is understood better, society will be a much better place to live. Individuals are getting much more developed and much more complex and much more interesting and the social patterns will have to come along with that, pretty soon. Now, I'm not saying that it will be very easy. We don't understand right now how individuals change the social structure, we don't understand that. Social structure remains the same and the individuals become more and more developed; what exactly will happen, we don't know. But at least this one ingredient I see, which is that you can have social patterns which assume that the participants will change the structure. And you may have a structure to begin with, it's better. Like as a teacher I find it's much better I prepare my class and I have a structure, and then I let all of us change that as I go along, than to come in and say "I have no structure." It is much better to have one, if it's understood that we change it.
L: As to research, I have the impression that during the last decade, there is not much work done any more within the client-centered/experiential orientation, in comparison with other orientations. Do you agree with that and if so, do you have some suggestions for fruitful research projects?
G: Oh, I love to have suggestions, because you can think of so many things and you can do so very few . . .
L: But my first question, do you . . .
G: Your first one is a little harder. I think a lot of research has been done, but perhaps not as famously. Really, perhaps what you mean is: from Rogers not much research has come recently . . .
L: Well, when you look in the journals and in Psychological Abstracts . . . the last 10 years I didn't find much.
G: Under my name either . . . I think that there is, but many of these researchers are not well known yet, and it's also a new generation of research. It's more specific. I like it a lot. What we haven't had is a big project like the Wisconsin project which makes news or which you hear about, even while it's going on. We haven't had that for quite some time. And it's a good question why we haven't too.
L: Sometimes I think, people from our field are a little bit anti-intellectual.
G: But not me!
L: I know. But maybe you are an exception. Many people left the universities and in the United States there are almost no centers any more where a group of people [Page 100] really think and work deeply on certain aspects of the experiential approach, except maybe where you are working.
G: I think you are right. I would never claim that we have a center in which people together were doing research. These are dispersed, separated people. You are quite right about that. I want to point to Karon's research (KARON & VANDENBOS 1972). He's not exactly, not at all client-centered and not even experiential but he just completed recently a project. This is a next step from the Schizophrenic Project of Wisconsin, and my feeling was: "Oh, that really starts to pay off when people take what you learned and use it further."
Oh . . . Oh yes, about anti-intellectual. I think it's true and right that people have lost confidence, and I have too, in what I call "agricultural statistics," by which I mean you have some large number . . . say 32 clients or something and you compare 16 of them to 16 of them, and you come to some conclusion about this. And in fact, where there is such a large study that I know about, there is also a lot of resentment from the people around about that, because they're saying: "We sort of know in advance how that is going to come out. In that kind of project you can't really test psychotherapy and if you're going to compare that to drugs or something, the drugs will certainly come out better, because look at the psychotherapy that you are doing, it's not really psychotherapy, it's all artificial this way and that way." So I think it's correct that psychotherapy is not a single thing which you can examine. You cannot say: "O.K., here psychotherapy is happening with these 16 people and with those it is not." I saw that in Wisconsin, that was how our project was there. And, you know, the 16 people who are not getting therapy are getting everything the hospital can provide, which is sometimes therapy; it may not be called that but not every nurse is inhuman and not every psychiatrist does not know what he is doing and not every relative is mean, and so on. And then you have 16 who are in therapy, but therapy doesn't necessarily happen just because somebody tries.
And that kind of research doesn't work very well. Therapy by itself doesn't name anything, except perhaps the attempt to do therapy. So you're testing whether the attempt to do therapy is better than the attempt to do the best you can.
But when you become very much more specific, then I think there is both a great opportunity for research and also a lot of research going on, and in a very much more specific way, and that's really what has happened to the field of research in psychotherapy, I think for the most part. There are people who are testing whether this particular specific set of moves has some kind of result that you can predict and make out whether you can do it with this population and so on, and I think that's very [Page 101] encouraging. The research that I am most interested in, of course, for myself, is on focusing. But before that, I want to take you up by your question, and say: one kind of research that we need badly is for someone to collect let's say ten cases that are really successful, where there isn't any doubt that the person's life changed. That's the psychotherapy process that should be studied, instead of just taking 30 cases of psychotherapy where most of them didn't change at all. It didn't really happen, the psychotherapy. And then I always say: "Would you accept a study on drugs, in which you say: this is the drug-group, and we will compare it to the non-drug group, but unfortunately most of our drug-group didn't get the drug. Would you accept such a study?" No, you would want to know: did they actually get it? So you're gonna have to define what psychotherapy really is and then we check if they have actually got it. One way to do that is to work backwards and take some cases where the person's life actually really changed. There the person says: "Look before that, I was always anxious and I couldn't have a relationship, and I couldn't really work and I was in this and this shape, and now, look at me, I have all of these things and I'm really fine and you don't have to measure me to know that it was successful." Such a case would be nice to have tape-recorded and to study, right? And I think if you collected from the whole world, you might be able to gather some group of cases like that, and study what . . . That's one suggestion that I have, and I've never been able to carry out.
Another suggestion I have is to take the cases which are not going and teach focusing or do something else if you believe in something else, and then see if they turn into cases that go. That would be a very nice study. And then, I think, a general suggestion that I already made, is become much more specific about what you think is effective. Don't just say "Transactional Analysis"; there is no such thing. Tell me exactly what I would do in such a form. And you see there . . . To defend research, what is necessary to define and operationalize for research is exactly the same thing as what is necessary for training. If you can make it specific enough so that you can train people and you can know if they are doing this or not, then you have made it specific enough for research. That's exactly the same work. So why not do it? Why play those against each other?
L: Well, maybe a final question. What are your hopes for the evolution of experiential psychotherapy and for psychotherapy in general?
G: All right, I will take that question this way. I believe that psychotherapy in the form of a doctor and a client or a non-doctor and a client, in that form we will always want it; there will always be a need for experts, it will always be wonderful if [Page 102] we have certain individuals who can straighten out what is going on and who can help us take a step when we are really blocked. But essentially, psychotherapy has to become part of the society and this is already happening. I have said this for a very long time but now it is in the process of happening (GENDLIN 1970). By which I mean many things, but the most important one would be to teach the skills to the people, to teach them in high school and earlier, to let these skills of relating be part of our social training, just as now we train everyone in gymnastics. We don't have just certain athletes who only do this and still we'd like to have these extra special athletes. You know, we train everyone in what is socially important as processes and yes, we also have experts to whom you can go for certain special problems. In my opinion, even from the economic point of view, therapists who make money have nothing to lose from what I'm saying. The more widespread it will be that people work with each other in these processes, the more people will also be looking for an expert. It's true that the experts will have to do better than they do now, they will have to do better than the ordinary trained people can do. So the most clear, I think, way to answer your question is to say: these processes, as they become more specific and more teachable, need to be taught to everybody, as part of what socialization is in school. And along with that would come a lot of other changes. Our whole way of living with each other would become in some ways more complicated but also much better. And then certain things that now go on, couldn't go on so easily. And some of that has been happening in our time.
L: Are you thinking of certain new ways of non-professional work?
G: Yes, someone has told me, I don't know if it's accurate, that there are now 20 million people in the United States in some self-help network or another. I think that the large number comes from the fact that Alcoholics Anonymous is included. It is indeed the first self-help network, and it has some 10 million people in it, and it is a very good model, which many many other networks have followed. And what I call a network is the sort of thing where you belong to some group of people who have something or other in common with you, and with these people you get some training of working with them, so that you both receive something for yourself and you also give something, both of which are important, so that people give each other energy and when you come away from such a meeting you are stronger and you have more energy than when you went there. And that's one process that is now happening. As I say, I foresee this enter in the schools; that's where it really belongs.
L: Do you think of any other question you would like to answer?[Page 103]
G: I think this has been pretty, pretty well covered. I don't know. I will think for a minute...
Well I think, you give me that opportunity, I would like to say two things. That it's important to ask oneself, especially as a therapist: "What kind of interaction is this, that is happening for my patient or my client?" It's a different dimension. But if your client is always passive and you are always active, if your client is always taking instruction and you always know what is going on, for example, it would be good to notice that, and to say: "Wait a minute, that cannot be a good training, that cannot be a good change process." If your patient, to talk psychoanalytically, repeats in transference some of the experiences that he has had with the parents, that is not sufficient just for transference, that comes of its own accord. Now you have to say: "What sort of Interaction will the patient have with me that is new and that transcends and goes beyond that kind of interaction?" And that will often be an interaction in which the patient will know what he is doing and you will be confused. It will often be an interaction in which the patient sets the limits, and not you, and in which the patient says: "Now I know what I am doing, and you get out of my space, or you go with me," or whatever. It will be an interaction which perhaps will leave the therapist not so comfortable and not so competent and not so well-balanced, but it will be an interaction in which the patient stops being a patient, and lives in a way that was not possible with the parents, and should be possible with the therapist, and that's a neglected point.
And then, just to sum up, if you're confused about what focusing is, to say that in one long sentence: focusing is paying attention to what is not yet clear: that's where the big difference is: everyone knows about paying attention to feelings and body-things and so on; to pay attention to what is not yet clear and more exactly: what is a holistic body-sense, which forms only if you let it form; it is not yet clear, it becomes clear. It gives a step, but at first it is a not clear sense.
L: Thank you very much.
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- Biographic Note: Eugene T. Gendlin is a seminal American philosopher and psychologist. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Chicago and taught there from 1963 to 1995. His philosophical work is concerned especially with the relationship between logic and implicit intricacy. Philosophy books include Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning, Language Beyond Post-Modernism: Saying and Thinking in Gendlin's Philosophy edited by David Michael Levin, (fourteen commentaries and Gendlin’s replies), and A Process Model. There is a world wide network of applications and practices (http://www.focusing.org) stemming from this philosophy. Gendlin has been honored three times by the American Psychological Association for his development of Experiential Psychotherapy. He was a founder and editor for many years of the Association’s Clinical Division Journal, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. His book Focusing has sold over half a million copies and has appeared in seventeen languages. His psychology-related books are Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams and Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy.
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