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Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy: A Manual of the Experiential Method Format Kindle
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In the first part of the book, he gives a detailed description of focusing, along with generously annotated transcripts of focusing-oriented therapy sessions.
The second part is an attempt to explicate the field of psychotherapy, by taking the various orientations, extracting the techniques they employ, and reconceptualizing them as "avenues" or approaches to therapy. These avenues include bodily energy, role-play, dreams, images, reliving and catharsis, cognition, action steps, processing the superego, and values. Once the therapist (or the client) has learned to work on these avenues, as such, he is able to move freely among them, using the 'felt sense' of focusing as a touchstone.
As a client of an immensely talented focusing therapist years ago, I can say that this process saved my psychic life with its skill and compassion.
It has been a long time since there has been a system of psychotherapy that has its ground in a metapsychology/philosophy that stands up to inspection.
I recommend this book as an adjunct to self-therapy. It is a great way to take disparate techniques that you may have learned here and there and increase their potency by "experientializing" them and learning to use them with one another.
In "Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy", Gendlin shows -- carefully, precisely & with many specific examples from psychotherapy -- how Focusing, with its "Eight Characteristics of an Experiential [Change] Step", can be seen & encouraged when clients already know how to Focus. He also shows -- again carefully, precisely & with many specific examples from therapy -- how these steps, how Focusing can be fostered when clients don't come into therapy already knowing how to Focus.
And more: Gendlin shows how these "Eight Characteristics" can be fostered within 11 different therapeutic techniques & approaches, making those techniques & approaches more effective. Here, he's also modeling how Focusing and the felt-sense can be combined with any technique, any approach to increase its effectiveness. Which is why it's not called "Focusing Therapy", but rather "Focusing-Oriented Therapy".
This book comes out of decades of Gendlin's work as a practicing psychotherapist and as a teacher of psychotherapists. Gendlin was also the founding editor of the American Psychological Association's psychotherapy journal. He was the recipient of the APA's first "Distinguished Psychotherapist Award", as well as anther "Distinguished Therapist Award" within the past decade. He's perhaps best known as the writer/developer of Focusing (See my review.) as well as a world-reknowned philosopher. (See his Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning: A Philosophical and Psychological Approach to the Subjective (SPEP) and Language Beyond Postmodernism: Saying and Thinking in Gendlin Philosophy (SPEP).)
Disclosure: I've been a Focusing-Oriented Therapist for 20 years. I learned Focusing from Gendlin's book, and with my wife, for many years we were trainers in his Focusing workshops. I write & present on many Focusing topics, including Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy.
"Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy" starts discussing two types of "dead-end" therapies, therapies where nothing changes: "Dead-End Discussion" & "Dead-End Feelings". From this, Gendlin draws two conclusions. First, "Moment by moment, after anything either person says or does, one must attend to the effect it has on what is directly experienced". "Directly Experienced" means, in Gendlin's terms, the client's "felt-sense", "a bodily change", "an inner, non-arbitrary touchstone that will show the success of any intervention, namely whether a bit of movement comes, a physical experiential effect" (NOT simple emoting or catharsis).
Gendlin describes & demonstrates key aspects of a felt-sense and its physically-felt change in his "Eight Characteristics", including, "A felt sense forms at the border zone between conscious and unconscious. [It] has at first only an unclear quality (although unique and unmistakable). The felt sense is experienced bodily.... [and] experienced as a whole, a single datum that is internally complex. [It] moves through steps, it shifts and opens step by step." For more on this special kind of feeling, Gendlin describes the felt sense, in Chapters 6 & 7, "The Crucial Bodily Attention" & "Focusing", including how to differentiate felt senses from the better-known emotions. He also describes how to invite a felt sense to come, this in Chapters 8 & 9, "Excerpts from Teaching Focusing" & "Problems of Teaching Focusing during Therapy".
The second conclusion Gendlin draws in moving from "dead-end therapies" to therapies that work, therapies that heal & change: "Every experience and event contains implicit further movement.... One must attend to such [bodily] sensed edges because steps of change come out of those edges."
What about the past, especially horrible pasts? Gendlin: "To say it pungently, present experiencing changes the past. It discovers a new way in which it can be the past for a present." And that change, that "growth direction", those "positive stirrings", as Gendlin says, come directly from feeling into those at-first unclear edges, into "that intricate mesh with many strands". As this is done, you'll discover in your clients that "the process has its own direction." Which emerges via Focusing or a Focusing-awareness, a Focusing orientation, this over time & in many steps.
Gendlin: "Am I saying that direct contact [with the felt sense] brings absolute truth? No, because further steps will also be changes in the whole texture, and what comes of those may lead to an alteration in what was said at an earlier step. This process of steps has truth at every step, but it is not the kind of truth that can be stated in verbal propositions at each step. It is a truth of change and development in the whole mesh of experience."
Focusing-Oriented therapy emerges from a special listening, both of them intimately linked. Chapter 5 is, perhaps, the best description of experiential listening ever written. That alone, with its clear examples, and with Chapter 10 & its extended examples plus discussion, is worth reading the book. Understand Chapters 3, 4, 5 & 10, and your practice - whatever your theoretical/training background - will be enhanced.
Provided you also read, and re-read, Chapter 23, "The Client-Therapist Relationship". For most of all, Focusing-Oriented therapy emerges from a special client-therapist relationship. As Gene opens the Introduction, "Many methods and strands of psychotherapy are integrated in this book. Each is uniquely valuable in certain respects, provided the client-therapist relationship is given priority over anything else."
Such a statement may seem, to contemporary psychotherapists either "already understood", or quaint, a bit out-of-date, a throwback to Gene's training with Carl Rogers. If you think so, again, read and absorb Chapter 23, "The Client-Therapist Relationship". "Interpersonal interaction is the most important therapeutic avenue. Its quality affects all other avenues, because they all happen with the interaction." In particular, take in the section, "Concepts Pertaining to the Overall Interaction": "Putting Nothing Between", "The Person in There", "A Deeper Continuity", "Providing Safety", and "In the Interaction We Are Still Separate People". With this chapter's introduction and Gene's comments on the "overall interaction," it's just 8 pages. But I've come back, over & over, to these 8 pages, whenever I'm stuck with a difficult client or client family - reactive attachment disorder, schizophrenia, Asperger's, PTSD, angry teen, messy divorce, Borderline, OCD, whatever the situation and/or diagnoses. These 8 pages have a depth nothing short of brilliant and healing. It's how to create & maintain a relationship, a therapeutic bond where, as with Focusing, everything becomes more healing. And changing.
Very clear and powerful tips for including focusing in therapy. Easy to apply and very rewarding for both therapist and client.
Well worth the price!
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