“The body-sense has all the forms in it, all your culture and life. And yet it implies further. It is not just a product of the events and the culture. You can see that in the silences, when therapy works. You can see it even more dramatically when clients say: “I am feeling something, but there are no words for it.” –Eugene Gendlin, PhD
The Small Steps of the Therapy Process:
How They Come and How to Help Them Come
Why are some clients successful in therapy while others are not?
In the 1950s, Eugene Gendlin was grad student in Philosophy at the University of Chicago. He was concerned with the age-old philosophical questions of what it means to be human and where consciousness comes from. He started working with Dr. Carl Rogers in the psychology department, figuring that psychology might be able to shed some light on how change happens in human beings. Gendlin and Rogers brought research into the therapy office for the first time. In one experiment, they recorded hundreds of sessions with therapists of differing orientations. The tapes were analyzed to discover which therapeutic orientation produced the most successful results. The researchers could not find a clear pattern. The therapists would do their best, and some clients would change, others would not.
Then the tapes were analyzed paying attention to what the clients said and did. The researchers found that they could predict, from the recordings of the first two therapy sessions, which CLIENTS would have a successful therapeutic experience.
What did they hear in the first two sessions that enabled them to predict which clients would be successful in therapy? They would hear pauses and silence. Successful clients would slow down and pay attention to their own inner experience. The successful clients would pause and “take in” what they themselves were feeling. They would pause and “take in” the therapist’s response. Unsuccessful clients would tell story after story, or spend their time blaming others or themselves for what was happening, never stopping to sense into their own inner meaning.
Gendlin was inspired to develop a way to teach this process of “pausing and listening” to people who did not innately know how to do it. He noticed that there were bodily felt sensations that went with inner meaning. The difficulty of paying attention to a bodily felt sense is that it is often fuzzy and unclear at first. Learning to slow down and have an open, patient, friendly attitude toward these vague sensations allows the felt meaning to “come into focus”. Thus, the process was called Focusing.
From this research, Gendlin wrote his seminal book, Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning in 1962, and has gone on to write many other books and articles, most of which he has made available for free at the Gendlin Online Library at www.focusing.org. Hard copies are available through the bookstore at www.focusing.org.
In 1983, Gendlin published his most famous book, Focusing, outlining a 6-step process. It was not until the 1990’s that Gendlin and his wife, Mary Hendricks Gendlin, found a way to combine Focusing and thinking in the process called Thinking at the Edge.
I am not a therapist, but I have many years experience as a Focusing Trainer. I can help you learn to listen to your clients in a Focusing way, so that you create an atmosphere in which your clients can have better results. The best way to learn to use Focusing is to experience it in your own life, over time. I invite you to sign up below for a free, half hour Focusing session.