If you’ve ever wondered, “what makes therapy work?” you’re not alone. Eugene Gendlin asked that same question back in the 1960’s when he was working alongside Carl Rogers, the father of humanistic therapy. Together they examined recordings of people doing therapy, comparing the people who got better with the people who didn’t. They noticed that the people who got better were doing something that could be identified reliably, and even taught. This became a practice called focusing.
When we bring that practice into the structured therapeutic relationship, it is called focusing oriented therapy (FOT). Focusing oriented therapy is effective, gentle, and helps people begin to relate to the many layers of personal experience that are often out of reach. When we begin to connect with ourselves in this way, we can begin to have a more positive relationship with ourselves, engage in a process of self-discovery and find greater emotional well-being.
A core belief underlying focusing oriented therapy, and all humanistic approaches, is that each person has within them what they need to transform and grow. It’s important to acknowledge the things outside our control that impact us, like other people’s actions and systemic forces of oppression, and the very real ways these create suffering and disadvantages for both individuals and whole groups of people. And yet, no matter what hardship we are facing, there is always the potential to relate to ourselves in a new way. This approach can be profoundly empowering and honours each person’s strengths and resources.
If you’ve been doing talk therapy for years and not noticing the changes you want to be seeing, focusing may be the missing ingredient that can help bring some fresh air and healing to what has been stuck and stagnant.