& listening

Questions & Answers

What is Focusing?
It's a natural way of sensing into bodily-felt experience so that we get beyond our usual thoughts and feelings to the underlying 'felt sense' of a situation. What is sensed at first unclearly comes into 'focus' if we listen within, rather than tell ourselves what we are experiencing. Doing so opens up our intuition and creativity, and enables us to think with our hearts and recognise our true feelings.

What is a 'felt sense?'
The phrase refers to the subtler feelings we sometimes sense inside, maybe in our bodies rather than our minds. The felt sense of a situation can be hard to name at first and in the rush of life we may ignore it - but it is a reliable guide when we take the time to let it speak to us.

Where does Focusing come from?
It's based on the research and observations of Professor Eugene Gendlin of the University of Chicago into the way those clients who benefit most from counselling and therapy pay attention to their feelings. Gendlin devised a step by step method to teach this natural mode of awareness, which developed into a self-help method as well as a contribution to counselling and therapy. Focusing is a close cousin of the person-centred approach begun by Carl Rogers with whom Gendlin was a colleague for many years.

How do you practice Focusing?
You can meet with a 'focusing partner' to swap Focusing and listening turns on a peer-exchange basis. Or, you can practise Focusing on your own, though not everyone finds this so easy to do. Also, the steps and principles of Focusing can be incorporated into many human activities: counselling, therapy, bodywork, complementary medicine, meditation, coaching, consulting, parenting and so forth. In fact, Focusing naturally is so intrinsic to how people 'tick' when they are at their best that this approach can, given some flexibility and creativity, be mixed with virtually anything!

What are the benefits of Focusing?
People generally feel more centred and 'in touch' with their bodies, their feelings and themselves when they focus. You can work on your personal psychological 'stuff', clarify your thoughts and feelings about a situation, find a 'clear space' inside yourself to aid meditation, and learn to trust your own intuition, good sense and creative ideas.

What about the listening side of it?
Focusing is a way to 'listen' to yourself, but learning it also involves learning to listen to others with patience and sensitivity. Listening skills complement focusing skills, and listening to someone who is focusing can be just as rewarding as your own focusing. Because Focusing looks at the process of inner experiencing that lies behind the content of that experiencing, it can help you to develop your listening skills in empathic and creative ways.

How do you learn Focusing?
As with any other valuable human skill, the best way is by practising it over a period of time in a way that suits you. To get started, most people learn most quickly in a small group workshop setting. An introductory workshop will get you started - what you do after that is up to you. The alternative is to learn over a number of one to one sessions. Bear in mind that there is rather more to learning Focusing than meets the eye at the outset - and more to gain than you may imagine.

How do people become Focusing teachers?
Like some of the other people involved with Focusing in Britain, I started teaching it through my own efforts and interest, and later was accredited by the Focusing Institute in the USA. However, there is now a system run through the BFA - the British Focusing Association - to train and recognise new practitioners and teachers.

What about Focusing in counselling & therapy?
Learning to focus can help clients to make the best use of their time in therapy. And counsellors and therapists of any persuasion may find that studying and practicing Focusing for themselves develops their ability to work with the subtleties of their clients' thinking and feeling processes - supporting clients to follow the therapeutic journey in their way rather than the therapist's way.

What happens in your workshops?
I teach Focusing & listening in small groups of up to 12 people (often only 4 or 5) at a time, as learning it is a very individual thing. I like to demonstrate both Focusing and listening, give people lots of opportunity to practise for themselves, and leave time to discuss what happens and what they observe. The atmosphere is generally relaxed and easily-paced: no one has to do anything they don't feel ready to do.

And for all your other questions...
Please email them to me, Peter Afford, at - or phone me on 020 8673 1860.

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