September 5 2006

September 5 2006
September 26, 2006 Ann Weiser Cornell

More About Using Focusing in Group Settings

Last time we talked about starting a group with a Focusing “attunement,” and how that helps people get started listening to themselves, and helps them be more open to listening to others as well.
How use might we use Focusing in a group setting, especially a therapeutic group? (All groups can benefit from Focusing, including groups convened to do a work project together… and we will get to that in a future newsletter.)

Therapeutic groups usually follow a format of individuals taking turns to receive the attention of the group leader. When this occurs, using Focusing in a group setting is just like using it in one-to-one therapy. The leader may invite the person to get a whole sense of the story he is telling, for example, and then speak from that sense. The leader may invite the person to describe what he is feeling right now. And so on… through all the stages of Focusing.

Because there are other people present, one person’s work impacts others… and that is one of the benefits of working in a group. The leader can make this explicit by inviting a pause after someone is finished. “Let’s all take a moment to take in what David has been saying. Maybe each of you just sensing what has been touched in you by this…”

This kind of invitation tends to prevent people getting identified with aspects of themselves that are uncomfortable with one person’s work, and jumping in to give advice or argue with what has just happened.

In essence, the leader “makes a space” around each person’s work, by calling for silence, time to take it in, time to honor our own reactions to it. This kind of space is a key part of Focusing.

Listening Can Become the Norm

It is a great gift to a group when empathic listening becomes the norm. Then anyone in the group can take the place of the leader in facilitating someone’s process, and this may suit the style of some groups better… for the leader to step back and let the group members respond to each other.
When a group meets over many weeks, it could be very beneficial to take an early session to teach and practice empathic listening. Perhaps just going around the room, one person saying a sentence and the next person saying it back. In order for this to not feel like a parroting exercise, the person saying the first sentence is instructed to say “something real and true about how you are feeling right now.” Then, when hearing the sentence back, that same person is asked to check it inside, “notice if it still feels true, or if it has changed.” This way, people can feel the usefulness of the listening, that it lets the speaker get more directly in touch with their own truth.

After one session of practice, it can become a norm in the group that anyone can ask for “listening.” People quickly learn that this is a way to find out if they have been understood, feel connected with others, yet stay with their own process. The leader, of course, models listening and also asking for listening.


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