One-to-One Focusing Sessions

“The very first Focusing session I did with Ann was transformative, powerful, magical. It allowed me to gain access to parts of myself that years of different kinds of inner work had never led me to. It was like being with a master guide/teacher who was also a very human, very present being who could be with me so skillfully that I could get out of my own way enough to listen to myself, really start to listen to hidden parts of my heart.”

– Abbe Blum, Education Consultant, Certified Focusing Professional, Berkeley, CA

In a one-to-one session, you are guided through Inner Relationship Focusing (IRF). You don’t have to know how to do the process — we take you through it, with respectful and compassionate suggestions.

Some of the benefits:

  • a sense of relief and clarity about your life and your forward steps
  • a greater ability to be compassionate to yourself
  • a shift in perspective about what’s bothering you
  • new possibilities, new options, and fresh energy to move forward

A series of sessions enables you to transform your inner relationship and to fully experience the benefits of IRF with caring support.

Focusing guided sessions are not therapy or coaching, but they can be therapeutic. Read more about the difference here.

About Your Guide

Ann Weiser Cornell, PhD, is the co-developer (with Barbara McGavin) of Inner Relationship Focusing. Ann learned Focusing in 1972 from its developer, Eugene Gendlin, and was his close friend and colleague to the end of his life.

Ann has written several definitive books on Focusing, including The Power of Focusing: A Practical Guide to Emotional Self-Healing, and Focusing in Clinical Practice: The Essence of Change.

She has been guiding people in Focusing, as well as teaching Inner Relationship Focusing around the world, since 1980. She is a past president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology. Read more about Ann here.

Ann Weiser Cornell

Free Sessions

There are 2 ways to receive a free Focusing session:

1. You can have from 1-6 private sessions via phone/Zoom with an advanced student in training. After each session, you’ll fill out a feedback form in detail, which is your payment for the session. You also agree for the student to discuss your process with his or her supervisor.

2. You can have your first Focusing session with Ann Weiser Cornell via Zoom if you are willing for a small group of advanced students to listen in during the session. There are limited time and date opportunities for this; it is part of our Demonstrations course.

Note: We typically look for people having their first Focusing session. If you’ve already had one, you may not qualify for this opportunity. But you can always recommend a friend! To volunteer for one or more of these opportunities, please fill out our form (click the button below).

We’ll contact you as soon as an opportunity becomes available.

I’d Like to Volunteer for a Free Session

What is 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.

What do people use Focusing for?

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

Where did Focusing come from: who developed it?

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. 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.)

What is the philosophy or guiding principle behind Focusing?

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.

How would I start learning Focusing?

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.

What happens in an individual Focusing session?

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.

I’m hesitant to tell someone I’ve never met my deepest secrets.

Of course! In a guided Focusing session 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.

Do phone/online sessions really work as well as in person sessions?

We were doubtful about that, too, at first… and after doing phone (and then online) one-to-one 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, online, or in person.

One Focusing session, or many?

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.

Is having Focusing sessions like working with a life coach?

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

Is having Focusing sessions like seeing a therapist?

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

Is Focusing a form of meditation or mindfulness?

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.

Is Focusing a type of self-hypnosis?

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.

Could you compare your method to the Internal Family Systems (IFS) method of Richard Schwartz?

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.