Focusing in the Counselling Room
Updated: Nov 28, 2021
This blog stems from my own experiences of bringing Focusing to the counselling room. I find that Focusing helps me to be more present with clients and enhances my practice.
As a person-centred counsellor the therapeutic relationship is central. I will begin by looking at the core conditions of empathy, acceptance (also known as unconditional positive regard) and genuinness, (also known as congruence).
Empathy - I am interested in understanding the clients' point of view. Not just cognitively understanding, but really understanding in a feeling way, so that when I respond my empathy is sincere, and sufficiently accurate, and hopefully the client experiences this.
At the same time I need to be aware of my own reality. Becoming swept up into the client's world is not be helpful. They might be exploring something painful and frightening. As their counsellor it is important to be calm and containing as well as empathic.
Acceptance - Accepting people just as they are, without judgment or criticism creates a safe relationship where it becomes easier for clients to speak openly, without worrying about judgment and criticism.
Furthermore, when people feel that they are genuinely accepted and valued, even though they might have grown up with negative messages, there is now an opportunity to view them self in a different and more positive light.
It is therefore my intention to have an accepting, non-judgmental attitude towards clients, However judgments can creep in, with and without my awareness. I can only explore and address my judgments and expectations when I am conscious of them.
Genuinness - knowing that your counsellor is trustworthy is essential. When I am aware of what I am experiencing inwardly I can respond in a genuine and real manner. Thus if I realise that although a client is laughing I am experiencing their sadness, it is clear to me that laughing with them is inconsistent with what I am really feeling, and I can respond to them in an honest way.
Counselling involves paying attention to my client whilst having an awareness of my own experiencing. Focusing is a gentle way of deepening self-awareness.
Focusing involves pausing and noticing a vague sense of something fuzzy and indistinct. This ‘something’ is so slight that it is almost not there. It is like the feeling that we are left with on waking from a dream. Gene Gendlin, the founder of Focusing calls this the ‘felt-sense’
Focusing is the name that Gendlin gives to the process of paying attention to the felt sense and describing it. As we find words, sounds and movements that resonate, the felt-sense gains substance and becomes more concrete and clear. It can hold a wealth of information. Often new understandings and insights emerge.
When something is experienced as a felt-sense and is not clear enough to be put into words it is implicit and at the edge of our awareness. Once it has been described and articulated it is explicit and available to us.
When I notice that very vague feeling inside, I know that something is going on. I can let it float by, or I can stay with the feeling. Whilst counselling this can simply be a matter of noticing where and how I feel it in my body. I might keep returning to the feeling, adding descriptions and noticing any changes.
The felt sense gives me access to my inner experiencing. I am more likely to to notice something that is affecting my empathy, acceptance and congruence. I may become aware of fresh insights and can share these with clients when appropriate.