Part 2: Focusing and group supervision: The first term
Updated: Nov 28, 2021
We start supervision sessions with a Lead In to help bring our awareness to our bodies and to be Self-in-Presence.
Inviting supervisees to get a sense of their whole body, before sensing into their outer body, arms, legs etc and inwards to their throat, chest and stomach, noticing sensations in all these areas, being aware of their breathing, whether it is fast, slow, deep or shallow. We take time to see if something feels easy and flowing and then wait patiently.
Supervisees' Responses to Lead Ins
Rebecca is aware of sensations in various parts of her body and notices a difference in how the back and front of her body feel.
Robyn - It allows me to arrive properly. This is the first time I’ve been silent and really noticed what is going on within me.
Rebecca – I’m noticing the tiredness, really feeling the tiredness.
Julie – It’s very hard to be in touch with my body – I’m not used to it.
Eugene Gendlin (2005) coined the term ‘felt sense’. An example of the felt sense is waking up with indistinct and elusive feelings about a dream. Another example is having a vague feeling that you have forgotten something. The felt sense is a vague bodily feeling of 'something'.
Focusing is a process of getting a whole body sense of this insubstantial 'something' . The Focuser listens inwardly with empathy, acceptance and compassion, this creates a safe atmosphere where more might be revealed.
A supervisee Focuses with her Felt Sense
Rebecca has a vague sense of ‘something is going on’ in a client relationship. I suggest that she might like to just sit with it for a bit, noticing what comes as she keeps it company. Rebecca becomes aware of an all over tiredness and feeling sick. We acknowledge these sensations and wait.
Rebecca continues describing the felt sense. ‘It feels like a dance with me trying to catch my client and her slipping away’. I reflect what Rebecca has said and she is quiet for a while. Then she remembers dropping off to sleep for a few moments after the session. She continues ‘It felt like I was chasing my client and there was a voice saying ‘I want to counsel my client and she’s not letting me’. Rebecca identifies this as a ‘child’s voice’, a part of her which is coming into her relationship with the client. She acknowledges this part.
Providing the group with more information about Focusing
Afterwards I ask Rebecca about how Focusing on this issue has been for her ‘was that Focusing?’ she asks surprised. So far supervisees have experienced Focusing without the distraction of explanations which might take them to a more intellectual place. Rebecca’s remark indicates to me that it is time to explain more. I send an email to supervisees explaining about Lead Ins and Self-in-Presence, telling them that they are welcome to ask about or to discuss anything of interest during the next session.
In the next session we discuss creating a space through being Self-in-Presence. Rebecca wonders whether being self-in presence lessens the intensity of an experience, reducing the depth of explorations. Julie and Robyn feel that spaciousness prevents them from becoming overwhelmed by an experience, making it safer to explore at a deep level.
Throughout the year I provide information based upon supervisee’s questions, group discussions and my sense of what is helpful. I explain that there is no obligation to read the information and that I am also ready to discuss anything of interest.
As we approach the end of term I invite supervisees to give me feedback, welcoming both written and verbal comments. The feedback falls into four areas:
Relating Focusing to other approaches
Julie and Rebecca both find that there is something familiar about Focusing because of its association for them with other approaches.
Julie says‘I really like the Lead In, it is a similar experience to mindfulness’.
Rebecca writes I can only think of it in relation to the rest of my training both in Reichian body work and Gestalt and there seems to be elements of both in it.
All three supervisees find Lead Ins helpful.
Robyn says ‘brought me somewhere and I could explore a bit more deeply’.
Connecting with their bodies
Robyn says ‘I’m aware of what I’m not feeling, like I’m looking for something’.
Julie says ‘I struggle to connect to an actual feeling’.
Rebecca writes I have found it easier to locate some feelings in my body than others - anxiety stands out for me as something I feel in a very physical way. Sometimes if I can't locate any feeling I go into my head and worry about it and then I can guarantee I won't find anything!’
Balance in bringing Focusing to Supervision
Supervisees would all like more Focusing. Robyn talks about wanting more and also wanting to make sure that there is sufficient time for client work. She feels that she is ‘missing’ in not having more Focusing. Rebecca finds that Focusing facilitates supervisory enquiry. Julie says ‘I would like a bit more when talking about clients, exploring what I am feeling now’. Rebecca agrees and says ‘but don’t we do that anyway?’
My own process
Frequently there is a part of me that is unsure. Does each person feel heard and supported? Are they benefitting? Is this the best use of their supervision time? Nervously this part hangs back, wary of imposing my project on others, bearing in mind that the position of supervisor holds a degree of power and authority. So I say ‘hello’ to this part with its doubts and its hesitancy. I listen to what it is wanting and not wanting with acceptance and interested curiosity.
At the same time there is another part which has a more vibrant energy. I notice it wanting to push forward and I sense into a tight frustration deep in my chest. I acknowledge this part, making space for it too.
My supervisor and I both focus upon bringing more Focusing to the supervision group. There is a strong sensation in my arms, they want to stretch out as widely as possible and I am aware of an energy and excitement around embracing Focusing more fully within the group. My supervisor talks about ‘integration’ and we reflect upon integrating Focusing in a more complete and flowing way.
Gendlin, ET (2005) Focusing 25th Ed. London: Rider