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. They 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.
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.
A felt sense is not an emotion. 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. From the felt sense level of awareness something new can emerge and real change can occur. Change occurs based on the forward movement of the therapeutic alliance/relationship.
Dan has completed the two year Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy certified training under the direction of Charlotte Howorth and the Focusing Institute. For more information please go to: