• Paula Newman

Part 4:Focusing in group Supervision: The third term

Updated: Nov 28, 2021

I am aware of our last term having a certain feel to it and focus alone to get a deeper sense of this.

At first all I am aware of is ‘there’s something about this term’ so I sit quietly, holding a space for something to surface. Eventually I notice a knotted sensation in my stomach. I picture a rope around my stomach being pulled at both ends and experience a tightening. I gently put my hand there which releases the tension a little. As I continue focusing I am in touch with my anxiety around ‘how can we fit everything in?’

A Defending Partial Self

We need to include end of year reviews in addition to our usual supervision. I suggest to the group that we work out the timing together. Then I write out a plan by myself!

I am sensing an impatient energy in my whole body and I am finding it difficult to sit still. Something in me really wants to get things sorted. I am very vaguely aware of some discomfort around what I am doing, but this does not stop me.

Cornell & Mc Gavin (2008) Identify three inner processes which they call partial selves. At various times in our lives we are unable to deal with a situation internally and a stoppage occurs. Although the initial causes of the stoppage may now be forgotten, partial selves are still seeking inner resolution. Very basically:

Protecting Partial Selves are anxious they are trying to prevent something or perhaps everything from going wrong. They may try to control us by criticising or coaxing.

Compromised Partial Selves can feel young, wounded, vulnerable, afraid, useless and worthless. They may be aware of having missed out on something essential such as parental love. There is often a yearning to replace or to find what they have lost.

Defending Partial Selves are impulsive and react quickly without considering the consequences of their actions when they experience some threat to the Self. For example binge eating might be a way of saving the Self from emotional pain.

I am scribbling away when I notice that the room has become silent. Gradually I realise that I have been ‘hijacked’ by a Defending Partial-Self. As a result I have launched into action, organising our time by myself instead of working collaboratively. So I pause and check in with supervisees about our arrangements.

Towards an Ending

I provide information about Focusing websites and we discuss Focusing partnerships. I invite supervisees to give Lead Ins to the group, providing opportunities for practice and feedback.

We continue Focusing upon supervisory issues. Robin focuses upon ‘something uncomfortable in my stomach’ relating this to a client with mental health issues. She gets a sense of the responsibility that she is experiencing ‘to keep him afloat’ and bearing this responsibility alone since the client will not see a doctor ‘It’s only me’. As a group we consider the client’s needs, Robin’s responsibilities as a counsellor and the pressure that she is experiencing.

Supervisees discuss and Focus upon their uncertainties, wishes and plans for the future. Julie senses ‘something around my head’. She becomes aware of ‘many areas of my life, all vying for attention’ and ‘all the chattering in my head’.

Gradually all supervisees decide that they are ready to leave the placement. There is a mixture of sadness and appreciation for the counselling placement and the accepting environment that we have all created. Robin writes

This year we did things differently. Our way of working felt more organic. We were more experiential in our way of arriving to talk about our client work. The group felt comfortable and supportive ‘ (review). She says ‘I would like to introduce Focusing into my work.

Julie talks about bringing Focusing to a counselling peer group and says ‘Focusing has really helped me to get in touch with what’s going on. I am more in touch with the most important issues’.

Rebecca says ‘I’ve been most aware of what Focusing has brought to this group. Touching base with myself has helped me to be more available for others. I think that’s why we’ve had those amazing discussions, reaching a deeper level.’

Concluding Remarks

Supervisees’ responses suggest that Lead Ins helped them to relax, to pause and to become aware of their inner experiencing.

I have found that Paula’s use of Focusing this year in supervision has been very useful. The lead in at the beginning of sessions has helped me to let go of other concerns and notice what is happening in my body. I think that this has helped our sessions to be more fluid and closer to the client’s core concerns.(Julie) (Review).

My own sense is that Focusing increased self-awareness (congruence) and enabled a deeper level of exploration. Supervisee’s comments support this:

I have found the supervision extremely helpful and the sessions have often resulted in a deeper level of work with my clients. (Rebecca) (Review).

It’s not enough to just talk about clients. This puts me in touch with what’s going on for me and why counselling sessions are going as they are (Robin) (Comment).

In addition to enhancing our explorations of their work Focusing has had an effect upon supervisees’ practice. At various times each supervisee has spoken about bringing Focusing to their therapeutic work.

This year I have also taken advantage of my supervisor sharing her knowledge of Focusing with the group and I have learnt to be more confident about using this with my clients as a way of recognising the importance of body language and feelings located in the body. (Rebecca) (Review).

Overall, I am pleased with the effects of Focusing upon our supervisory explorations and group process. I find that my approach to supervising a group has become more open and less structured and that my beliefs about the value of Focusing have strengthened.

I would like to thank Julie, Rebecca and Robin for joining me in this project. I very much appreciate your participation and feedback. I would also like to thank the Counselling Service Managers for agreeing to my project and for giving me the freedom to carry it out in my own way.

Cornell, AW &, McGavin, B, (2008) Treaure Maps to the Soul. The Focusing Folio, 21 (1). http://www.focusingresources.com/articles/treasure-maps-to-the-soul.html

Contact Paula Newman
Counsellor, Supervisor, Focusing trainer

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