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What is Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy?
A Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapist is a trained professional who will be committed to a relationship with you in which you can work through whatever you are up against.
What you can expect from a Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapist:
- You will be treated with respect as a whole and competent person
- The therapist will not tell you how you should behave or who you should be. On the other hand, he or she can help you find the little steps of change which come once you learn how to listen to your own bodily felt sense of your situation.
- The therapist will be in contact with his or her own felt sense. Knowing the territory first hand, the therapist is never applying a text book theory or formula, but can creatively find many ways to point you to your own felt sense.
- The therapist will know how to listen to you so that you experience being exactly understood.
While Focusing Oriented Psychotherapy is a distinct and effective form of psychotherapy in and of itself, any therapeutic modality contains the value of focusing when the client is heard in such a way that a felt sense is allowed to form and bring something new to resolving problems.
Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy comes from the pioneering work of philosopher and psychologist Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago, where he collaborated with Carl Rogers. Dr. Gendlin's work has been honored by three awards from The American Psychological Association. He and colleagues studied why some psychotherapy clients improved while many others did not. It was found that successful therapy was not determined by the therapist's technique, orientation or the kind of problem being discussed. What did make a difference was what the client was doing internally. Successful clients were regularly checking inside themselves for a whole bodily felt sense of their situation. These findings led to much further research in the last fifty years and to exact understandings about how this inner checking can be found.
Most of the time we don't know what we are experiencing. No one takes the time to really listen to us and we don't actually listen to ourselves at a deep level. In Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy the therapist knows how to listen in a way which helps the client find his or her own intricate bodily sensed experience. Feeling the therapist's intent to actually understand, without judgment and evaluation, the client's attention can come inside to a level of awareness called the felt sense.
We are all familiar with emotions, but a felt sense is not an emotion. It is a new human capacity. The felt sense of a situation or problem, when it first forms, is typically vague and unclear. You can sense that something is there, but it is hard to get it into words exactly. The felt sense is holistic in nature and contains within it much more than we can easily think or emotionally know about our situation. As the therapist and client spend time with the felt-sense, new and clearer meanings emerge.
The felt sense, of its own accord, brings the exact word, image, memory, understanding, new idea, or action step that is needed to solve the problem. The physical body, in response, will experience some easing or release of tension as it registers the "rightness" of what comes from the felt sense. This easing of tension is what tells us that we have made contact with this deeper level of awareness and that we are on the right path.
Imposing other's ideas of how we ought to be, reliving old traumatic experiences and even insight about causes of our problems, doesn’t usually bring change. Therapeutic change is bodily and feels good, even if the content we are dealing with is painful. Resolving our problems usually comes in small, successive steps of contacting the felt sense and waiting for it to bring something new to our situation.
When we attempt to solve our problems with what we already know, think, and feel, then we may find that we are just going in circles. But from the felt sense level of awareness where something new can emerge and real change can occur. The discovery of the felt sense is an advance in the field of psychology. It transcends what is known on the levels of behavior, emotion, and cognition, and brings meaning from a new level which has all these functioning implicitly in one whole bodily sense.
As we sense inside and connect more deeply with ourselves, we are also able to listen and connect in new and more satisfying ways with others. This paves a way for resolving our differences and enjoying cooperative relationships with family members, friends, and our larger communities. The felt sense and what it brings for individuals and their relationships has implications for how we address the more complex and global problems of our world. Truly resolving our problems, individually and collectively, requires something new - something fresh - something more.
Many models of psychotherapy involve making clients into objects to be changed in accordance with the therapist’s ideas or theory. If the client objects to being treated this way, the client is considered "defensive" or "self sabotaging." Contacting your own felt sense of your situation makes any kind of psychotherapy safer because you can check what feels right for you or what feels demeaning or not helpful.