Want to know more about what Focusing is really about?
On this page, you’ll find a bunch of helpful information about Focusing. If you’re wondering if Focusing is right for you, check out our “Is this you?” section. Our FAQ offers in-depth information about Focusing, what it is, the philosophy behind it, how sessions work, how our classes work, and more. Read on, and find out more about how to move forward and the broader world of Focusing!
See if one or more of these scenarios feel familiar to you.
You want to be able to follow your inner journey, perhaps through a practice like meditation, but you don’t know what to do with the intrusive thoughts and distractions. Or you might want support in learning a new practice that has the acceptance and quiet mind of meditation, yet allows you to engage with emotional issues and resolve them.
Your life is going very well externally, but deep down you feel unworthy, like a faker. People seem to look up to you, even depend on you, but you keep thinking, if only they knew! And then you feel like you have to work even harder, to hide that.
You feel you are in a kind of spiritual wasteland, a darkness of the soul, where nothing feels true or right, but you can’t even explain what the problem is, and everywhere you look for answers seems just as empty as you feel.
You feel blocked. You can do anything except what you most need to do. When you put some task Number One on your priority list, you find yourself doing anything but that. You’re so far behind on the important things, you feel like you’ll never dig out.
You’re reactive out of proportion to what’s actually happening, blowing up or bursting into tears at little criticisms or panicking at little setbacks. Too often your family makes you feel crazy or your clients irritate you. You’ve tried talking yourself out of the feelings but they persist anyway.
You’re in a life transition, and you’re feeling overwhelmed by too many decisions. A lot hangs in the balance and you feel a sense of inner pressure that doesn’t help at all. You need to find some way to navigate between the different choices, some way that lets you trust yourself.
You’re facing a health challenge and you realize that this is absolutely the time to be able to listen deeply to yourself and your body, because not listening to your body is probably part of why you’re in this situation. Maybe you’re in physical pain, having trouble sleeping, anxious about the symptoms you’re experiencing.
Focusing is a way of tapping into your vast emotional intelligence through the messages of your body. With Focusing, you return to a source of knowing that has always belonged to you. Focusing gives you direct access to your own inner compass, where you know the right direction for your life. Focusing works because life naturally wants to move forward and find new possibilities. Sometimes we get stuck because we get cut off from that natural life forward energy.
You learn Focusing for yourself – as a process you can use any time you need it, in stressful times, in challenging relationships, to transform frozen patterns and beliefs, for emotional and physical healing, any time.
Focusing is simple, natural, and in a way also revolutionary – because you are learning to trust your own inner knowing instead of relying on other people’s opinions.
Focusing has a very wide range of uses, from enhancing your creativity to improving your thinking ability. Focusing can enhance and deepen every part of your life. The uses of Focusing that we specialize in include:
- releasing blocks to action
- making clear decisions
- knowing what you really feel and want
- getting in touch with your life purpose
- releasing emotional burdens
- transforming inner critics
- nurturing a sense of self worth
- being present to your life
Focusing was discovered when Professor Eugene Gendlin of the University of Chicago researched the question: “Why is psychotherapy helpful for some people, but not others?” He and his colleagues studied tapes of hundreds of therapy sessions and made a fascinating and important discovery: successful therapy clients had a vague, hard-to-describe inner awareness, a bodily felt sense about their problems. Paying attention to the felt sense in specific ways proved to be a key component of successful psychological change. Gendlin discovered how to teach this skill, which he called Focusing. For more about Eugene Gendlin and his Focusing Institute click here. Inner Relationship Focusing is a further development of Focusing created over many years of work by Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin. (For an article about Inner Relationship Focusing, click here.)
The Focusing process is based on a radical philosophy of change: that there is no need to do anything to what you are feeling in order to experience transformation. Instead, when we understand that feelings are in process, we realize that acknowledgement and Presence are what is needed for natural change. Click here for an article about this.
We recommend starting with an individual session, which can be done in person or on the phone. After that, many people go on to take the Path to Lasting Change, Part One workshop, which can get you started immediately on using Focusing in your life. Most of our other workshops have the Path to Lasting Change, Part One workshop as a prerequisite.
When you have an individual Focusing session, you will be guided through the Focusing process by a skilled and experienced Focusing teacher. The most important purpose of the session is for you to actually experience what Focusing feels like. You are also welcome to ask questions about how you can apply Focusing after the session.
Of course! In a guided Focusing session, in person or on the phone, you will not be asked to tell anything about your life issues. We concentrate on the process itself, not the details of your life. If you want to tell a little bit, to set the stage so to speak, you are welcome to do so, and anything you say will be held as confidential. But there is no requirement to tell anything.
We were doubtful about that, too, at first… and after doing one-to-one phone sessions for more than 15 years, we can say that there seems to be no difference in the benefits that people receive, whether on the phone or in person.
That’s up to you. One session is typically enough to prepare you for a Path to Lasting Change, Part One class, although in a few cases people may need two or three sessions. If you would like to continue to have sessions to support your Focusing process, perhaps to work on some particular areas of life that need extra time and care, this is something that people often do. The number of sessions, the frequency, and when you start and stop are completely up to you.
It works quite well. We’re very experienced in teaching classes online, and we’ve developed a lot of methods to help you feel comfortable and connected. Many people actually prefer online classes because you don’t have to travel, you can connect from the comfort of your home, and you can take notes or lie down without disturbing anyone.
We’re pleased that more and more life coaches are incorporating Focusing in their work with clients.
However, you’ll probably find that Focusing sessions are different from life coaching in most of the following ways:
- You will not be asked questions.
- Your Focusing guide will not help you set goals or remind you of your goals. (If you want to use your sessions to set goals, you are of course welcome to do so, but that would be initiated by you)
- There is no homework or assigned work between sessions
We are happy that more and more therapists are incorporating Focusing in their sessions with clients. (Therapists: learn more about how to do this.)
However, receiving guided sessions from a Focusing professional isn’t the same as therapy. Here are some of the ways you might find it different from many kinds of therapy:
- You will not be asked to disclose details or history about the issues you’re working on
- You will not be diagnosed, analyzed, or given advice about your life situations
- You are the sole decider of whether and when to have more sessions, and whether and when to stop having sessions
- The emphasis is on your relationship with yourself
Although Focusing can be done inwardly, sitting quietly, with eyes closed, it is not a form of meditation. Focusing is an engaged process of self-exploration that involves the deliberate inviting of felt senses. Because Focusing is more than simple awareness of body sensations, it is not the same as “mindfulness,” although it shares elements of acceptance and being in the present moment.
Focusing is not self-hypnosis. Hypnosis involves suggestion, and in Focusing, no type of suggestion is involved. Although people who are Focusing may feel quite relaxed, they are not in a trance. The Focusing process is one of listening to what comes in the body, rather than suggesting or telling the body anything.
Inner Relationship Focusing (IRF) and Internal Family Systems (IFS) share many attitudes and are quite compatible. The differences are more a matter of emphasis and the specifics of how we work.
The Internal Family Systems (IFS) model of psychotherapy is an empowering method of understanding human problems, as well as an innovative and enriching philosophy of practice that invites both therapist and client to enter into a transformational relationship in which healing can occur. IFS was developed by Richard Schwartz when the inner parts encountered by his bulimic clients called forth his training in family systems therapy. Although many methodologies address multiple ego states and work with parts, Schwartz developed a unique approach centered on the strength and clarity of his concept of “Self leadership.” The client is assumed to be capable of being Self, a noncoercive, collaborative inner leader.
IFS and IRF share an emphasis on empowering the client while viewing the client’s issues in a nonpathologizing way. Clients are assumed to have the resources they need for healing and transformative change. There is a strong similarity between the IFS concept of Self and the IRF concept of Self-in-Presence… and that is not a coincidence, because we were influenced by Schwartz’s work at a later stage of the development of Self-in-Presence.
Both approaches are oriented toward healing trauma and are appropriate for deep and transformational inner work.
Here are some of the differences that we are aware of:
- Both IFS and IRF can be used for self-help and can form a part of psychotherapy. But as a matter of emphasis, Inner Relationship Focusing is more often taught as a self-help skill, and has a culture of Focusing partnership so people can do Focusing without a professional. Internal Family Systems is more often taught to professionals to use with clients.
- At the heart of Focusing is the felt sense, a bodily sense of something that is not yet clear. Although IFS sometimes includes body feelings, they are not emphasized, and even if body feelings come, they are not related to and explored as they are in Focusing.
- What the practitioner actually says to facilitate the process in the person is quite different between the two approaches. There is almost no overlap in the actual language used in facilitating.
You learn enough about Focusing to know you want to go further. How long this step takes depends on you. (You might be there already.)
- You can read the first chapter of my book The Power of Focusing. If you like it, and want to read more, I’ve got the book available in my online store.
- You can listen to this 45 minute free phone seminar that I recorded on January 12. It includes a Focusing exercise that you can try yourself. (download mp3)
(And there are other free seminars here.)
- You may want to get our CD set “Learning Focusing” for a home study course in Focusing.
You have an individual guided Focusing session.
Receiving a guided Focusing session (on the phone or in person) is the most direct way to experience the benefits of Focusing immediately. You’ll be guided through the process in a way that is respectful, confident, and unobtrusive.
We have Focusing practitioners doing sessions at every price range, from free (with a trainee) to $225 (with Ann Weiser Cornell).
Take a Path to Lasting Change, Part One course, online from anywhere in the world, or in person in selected localities.
You’ll learn how to take yourself through the Focusing process and how to be a Focusing partner (“Companion”) for another person. We do everything we can to make your experience, safe, supported, and empowering for you. We have a LOT of experience doing online courses in Focusing.
Taking a course online is easy. First of all, you don’t have to travel anywhere! You can find a comfortable spot in your home or office where you won’t be interrupted, and settle down with your computer, tablet, or telephone and the course materials. We use Zoom, an online video conference platform, to connect you to other students and the teacher. Zoom is free and easy to use.
Make Focusing a trusted part of your life, with the support and skills you learned in the course. Be able to listen deeply to yourself, know better what you feel and want, access your calm self in the midst of stressful situations. What most people find is that doing Focusing on a regular basis lets them be more fully themselves – as they always knew they could be.
You can also:
- Meet potential Focusing partners in a worldwide network of Focusers in over 50 countries
- Take Focusing Training Program to learn Focusing skills and deepen your abilities as Focuser and as Companion
- Take one or more of our other courses or retreats.
Still not sure where to start?
Feel free to contact us for a chat about what you’re looking for and how we can help.
What I am discovering is that checking in, asking the body, can have a great effect in finding a path that is completely correct for me. It also means I consult my body on simple things like food choices. Pause and reflect on how to structure and restructure my day as it unfolds, listen when I need to relax for a mere five minutes. Breathe before an important phone call. Connect to people on a deeper level when we are engaged. Be in contact with that unique thing that is me while respecting an honoring that everything “out there” has its own unique qualities. These are just some of the ways I have brought focusing into the experience of my life.David Battistella, Italy
The Focusing process was developed by award-winning psychologist and philosopher Eugene Gendlin out of research into successful psychotherapy and his philosophy of the implicit. His best-selling book, Focusing was first published in 1978. Since then, Focusing has spread all around the world as a process used to enhance people’s lives in countless ways.
Ann Weiser Cornell was one of Gendlin’s early students, starting in 1972. After teaching with him for a number of years, she began developing her own approach to teaching Focusing, calling it “Inner Relationship Focusing.” After she was joined in that process by Barbara McGavin, she and Barbara also developed “Treasure Maps to the Soul,” an application of IR Focusing to life’s most difficult issues.
Ann and Barbara have trained many people worldwide as practitioners of Inner Relationship Focusing. Here is a Directory where you can find a teacher near you.
One of the most striking applications of IR Focusing is how it is being taught in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Dr. Pat Omidian and her students, supported by Nina Joy Lawrence, in a community-health model.
The primary resources for Focusers all over the world is the International Focusing Institute, the nonprofit organization founded by Eugene Gendlin. It is presently based in New York and the Executive Director is Catherine Torpey. The Institute operates a website with a bookstore, archives of articles and research about Focusing, a directory of Focusing teachers and therapists, and certification of Focusing Trainers and Coordinators. Joining as a member connects you with the heart of the Focusing world! The International Focusing Institute, 15 N. Mill St., Nyack, NY 10960, USA 1 (845) 480-5111 firstname.lastname@example.org https://
The International Focusing Conference is put on every year, usually in May, by local groups of Focusing people. To find out when and where the next Focusing Conferences are, see www.focusing.org/conference.html.
The Institute for Bio-Spiritual Research was started by two Jesuit priests, Peter A. Campbell and Edwin M. McMahon. They too have a worldwide network of people applying Focusing to daily life, families, schools, and especially spirituality. www.biospiritual.org