Focusing is a simple matter of holding a kind of open, non-judging attention to something which is directly experienced but is not yet in words. (Cornell and McGavin, 2002 pi).
Have you ever told someone how angry you are and felt that they are really listening to you? Perhaps your anger changes a little. That is how it is with Focusing. Listening to ourselves with acceptance can allow us to see things freshly.

Sometimes our feelings are clear; anger, joy, despair, disappointment, etc. They can also be less distinct, perhaps a slight uneasiness, or a vague sense of ‘something is not quite right’. For example, the street is deserted and all I can hear is the birds singing, yet my body is alert, sensing danger. Gene Gendlin calls this a felt sense.
A felt sense doesn’t come to you in the form of thoughts or words or other separate units, but as a single (though often puzzling and very complex) bodily feeling. (Gendlin, 1981, p33)

Focusing with a Felt sense
If you pause for a moment and turn your awareness inwards you might be able to get a felt sense of your experiencing right now. Some of us can do this quite naturally, whilst others may learn to do so.
Focusing is the name that Gendlin gives to the process of paying attention to a felt sense and describing it. In his research during the 1960’s he found that clients are most likely to change or to have some sort of shift during therapy if they are in touch with a felt sense. As a vague experience is described it becomes more fully formed and the client can discover something new.
Once you start Focusing you may find that there is always more to discover. For example sensing into an urge to eat and eat may reveal a part of you that is afraid of stopping, what lies beneath that fear may eventually emerge and so on.
A felt sense contains a maze of meanings, a whole textile of facets, a Persian rug of patterning – more than could be said or thought. (Gendlin, 1996, p56)

Congruence and Focusing
From a person-centred perspective, counsellors endeavour to be aware of what they are experiencing whilst they are with clients. This allows them to respond honestly and to share anything that seems to be of therapeutic benefit. There is consistency between what counsellors are experiencing and their responses to clients. I find that Focusing enhances congruence since it is a process of paying attention to my inner experiencing thereby increasing self-awareness.

Next Steps
In Focusing workshops you can practice Focusing and learn about the ideas behind it. There is a worldwide Focusing community. Once you have completed a Level One workshop you can practice Focusing alone or with a partner, taking turns to be the Focuser and the Companion. You could also have guided Focusing sessions with a Certified Focusing practitioner, by telephone, Skype and face to face.

More information

Paula Newman

Cornell, A.W &, McGavin, B (2002) The Focusing Students and Companion’s Manual, Part One. Berkeley CA: Calluna Press.
Gendlin, E.T (1996). Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy: A Manual of the Experiential Method. New York : Guilford Publications.
Gendlin, E.T (2005) Focusing 25th Ed. London: Rider.