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!
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
- healing emotional trauma
- transforming inner critics
- nurturing a sense of self worth
- being fully present as yourself
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 our on-demand course, SHIFT, which can get you started immediately on using Focusing in your life. Or you can go directly to our foundational Focusing course, Your Path to Lasting Change.
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.
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.
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. For example, the IFS practitioner often asks questions. The Focusing practitioner uses guided prompts which are not questions. The IFS practitioner may ask Parts to step aside. In Focusing, Parts are not asked to change in any way.
Take a Course
Focusing can be difficult to learn on your own. Ann was one of many who benefited from the help of Focusing teachers, groups, and partners. Her experience led her to set up the Focusing Training Program. It’s the most affordable, efficient, and effective way to teach you how to use Focusing in every situation where you need it.
We offer courses online and in person. Find out when our next class starts and get on your way to learning Focusing!
Schedule a Session
In a one-to-one session, you are guided through Focusing. You don’t have to know the process. We take you through it, with respectful and compassionate suggestions. You can expect to feel deeply understood, with your concerns and your goals at the center of the work.
It’s possible that just one session can bring relief and insight. We offer sessions at 2 price points, from free (with a trainee) to $225 (with Ann Weiser Cornell).
Learn on Your Own
Perhaps you prefer to explore at your own pace. Do you like to learn by reading? By listening? Would you like to stay in touch through our famous newsletter?
Whatever your purpose, we have a book, CD set, or video for you. Our products are based on over 20 years of experience helping all kinds of people learn Focusing. If you’re just getting started, know that our books are easy to read, practical, and accessible for those at any stage of their Focusing journey.
- Elisabeth, K."Before Your Path to Lasting Change, I was often overstrained to finish things. I'd start and then run out of energy. When I took breaks, I'd hide from challenges/the world and then I'd lose connection to my project and stop everything. That left me feeling guilty, weak, and good for nothing. Now I can distinguish if I'm starting a project from my heart or from the intention to be everyone's 'good girl'. I feel more confident in the decisions I make and I've stopped making useless plans. Best of all: the course gave me a deep conviction I'll be able to manage things I've always shied away from in the past. This course was my first step into Focusing and I know, from my heart, that I'll stay with it."
- Renee D."Now that I've completed the SHIFT course, I've become more aware of how to listen deeply to the ways in which my body communicates - ways that are much more holistic than simply trying to "figure out" my next steps. There is so much more wisdom and guidance accessible through Focusing than through our usual ways of approaching life."
- Jana Schweeren"I used to find it challenging to coordinate all the tasks in my life and that left me feeling really stressed out. Now I feel a lot more grounded and able to move forward because I can do Focusing and get a different, calmer perspective on things I used to just ruminate about."
- Elizabeth H., Counsellor UK"I knew SHIFT made a difference for me when I realized how much it helped me with something that seemed small but intractable: my rather cramped and untidy desk space! I hadn't even noticed how much this irritated me and hindered me from working until my Focusing session about it. The sense of it came to me like an unruly dog bouncing around out of control. Further Focusing showed me how this was connected to my past and something shifted inside. It really made a difference to how I feel about sitting down at my desk to work!Thanks, Ann."
- Jerene G."Before taking Your Path to Lasting Change, I felt stuck. Enforced inactivity due to the pandemic sapped my energy and my ability to concentrate. That left me feeling like a crummy third-rate human. I cried a lot. I hated that the pandemic had swept away my volunteer activities - places where I felt valuable and like I was helping in small ways. Through the course, I learned to be more patient with myself. I began to recognize several 'somethings' that pulled me in different directions. I discovered the miraculous feeling of calm and peace that comes from simply saying to a 'something,' "I hear you. Let me sit quietly and be with you." Part-way through the course I had an epiphany that shook me right down to my socks. I sat with an unpleasant feeling I was afraid of and I felt ITS fear for me! After staying with it, I was flooded with gratitude for this part that's been doing its best to protect me (generally by encouraging me to back away from unpleasantness). Now, I'm on speaking terms with several "somethings" in me - I'm able to communicate with them. I feel large, as Walt Whitman wrote. I feel like I fell into this course at exactly the right time. With every exercise, I learned new things about myself and my fellow humans. Internal walls and barricades, some I hadn't been aware of, have melted, shifted, bathed me in lightness and peace. If you decide to take this course, you'll be in the company of the kindest, most generous people you'll ever meet - some will be the instructors, but many will be your fellow students."
- Kim Phillips, Marriage & Family Therapist"Your Path to Lasting Change created a shift in my goals as a therapist. The surprise was, this course also created a shift within me. I found an awareness of my Self-in-Presence and learned to say 'hello' to the ever-changing aspects of myself that I experience as my emotional life. From the viewpoint of a therapist, before the course, I felt I had to be responsible for 'fixing' others. Now, being present within, I'm more often able to help others do the same -- to connect to their own emotional wisdom which allows them a lifetime of self-compassion and greater calm. Personally, Focusing gives me a feeling of being more alive, like the lights of awareness, acceptance, and peace have been switched on inside -- so critical during this time of social upheaval, COVID19, and general life unrest. I can't say enough about the course, because it's difficult to find the exact words to describe the experience of Focusing. Sometimes we just need to listen to something inside telling us to get off the fence and experience it for ourselves."
- Susan Choi"Before the course, I was aware of subtle anxious states I'd wake up with each day and how I'd quickly move those feelings aside or replace them with something more pleasant. Now I approach each morning's sensation with curiosity, instead of the knee-jerk impulse to "get rid of it". I'm learning there's nothing in me to be afraid of. I love the idea that there's nothing in me that needs to be rejected...nothing to be gotten rid of!"
- Mary Baker"Since completing SHIFT, I'm getting so much more done because of the sections on decision making and blocks to action!"
- Elizabeth"For me, a pivotal moment in the course came with the introduction of the language, 'I'm letting it know it can be as it is for as long as it needs.' I've done so much trying to change myself (that was the message I got growing up and still get from my family). That sentence is shifting how I heal - my patience and sense of gentleness towards myself, my patience as a parent. Now, I feel more openness. I know myself better, have more self awareness. I also have a tool to serve me when I feel overwhelmed, and some greater tools to use in my work with clients. I have no doubt that this work will make me a better parent in time. I'm still learning and I feel Focusing is helping."
- Elda P."Before Your Path to Lasting Change, I was often avoiding intense, uncomfortable feelings without realizing I was doing it. This left me feeling unsteady and agitated. I also used to be critical of my pace - described it as slow and tended to compare it to others. Now I allow myself to go at the pace that's good for me, even when I need a lot of time. And I can give uncomfortable feelings a gentle hand (on my belly or chest) to offer them presence or a place to be heard. I have more trust in what I sense and can give myself support and that's really great!"
- Julia T."Before taking the course, I often felt there was a giant weight bearing down on me. That left me feeling depressed, numb, and hopeless. I was constantly trying to avoid my feelings. While I still experience these feelings, I now have a way to engage with them that allows me to become bigger than they are. I have a process that helps me listen to my feelings instead of being overwhelmed by them. I've learned how to validate and empathize with my feelings so that their intensity decreases. I feel free of the oppressive weight I used to feel. The sense of peace and calm I experience is extraordinary. There's a saying, "...leap and the net will appear," my experience is that Focusing is an extraordinary, powerful net."
- Daniel Noel"After taking the SHIFT course, there was a noticeable change in how I respond to people and things which would have set me off. I obsess less over past wrongs; some of them have disappeared completely from the library of unfair and hurtful stuff I stew over. And, in the present, not only am I more prepared to pause and prevent kneejerk reactions from escalating things to soap opera drama levels, but people/things are behaving and responding in ways in which I am not diminished or dismissed as an individual."
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