AskDefine | Define focusing

Dictionary Definition



1 the concentration of attention or energy on something; "the focus of activity shifted to molecular biology"; "he had no direction in his life" [syn: focus, focussing, direction, centering]
2 the act of bringing into focus [syn: focalization, focalisation]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  1. See British spelling focussing


  1. See British spelling focussing


  1. See British spelling focussing

Extensive Definition

Focusing is a naturally occurring human process carefully observed and made teachable by philosopher and psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin. Through his work, Gendlin brought the concepts of Focusing to the attention of psychotherapists and developed a technique that can be successfully used in any kind of therapeutic situation, including peer-to-peer sessions.

Origins of the concept

During his 15 years of research, beginning in 1953 at the University of Chicago, Gendlin analyzed what made psychotherapy either successful or unsuccessful. He found that it is not the therapist's technique that determines the success of psychotherapy, but something the patient (usually referred to as the client) does during therapy sessions. Though this 'something' is an inner act, it is one which is consistently marked by an observable set of behaviors, so that it was possible for Gendlin to see in his research when this inner act was happening, and when it wasn't. Gendlin found that successful clients intuitively focused on a very subtle and vague internal bodily awareness, which he termed a "felt sense."

What is a "felt sense"?

Much of what a person knows has never been consciously thought and verbalized. Felt sense is the name Gendlin gave to the brief (rarely more than one- or two-word) description the focuser makes as s/he pays attention to "What is 'all that' about ....?". Most practitioners of the skill find it easiest to Focus in the presence of a "listener" who has been trained in the kind of listening which best supports the Focusing process. Focusing and listening sessions take place in professional settings with focusing trainers, focusing-oriented therapists or coaches, and also informally between laypeople. A focusing session can last from approximately 30 minutes to an hour, on average — with the "focuser" being listened to, and his verbalized thoughts and feelings being reflected back, by the "listener."

Gendlin the philosopher

Gendlin's training as a philosopher before he became a psychotherapist and researcher is relevant to the history of Focusing. His philosophical investigations, which concerned themselves with the nature of 'the implicit', made it easy for him to notice that there was something being attended to by successful clients which was not yet explicit. His later philosophical work also builds on what he learned as a psychotherapist and researcher. The whole of Gendlin's philosophical work forms a framework for understanding what the felt sense 'is', and what makes Focusing possible.

Other applications of focusing

Focusing happens in other domains besides therapy. Attention to the felt sense naturally takes place in all manner of processes where something new is being formed: for example in creative process, learning, thinking, and decision making.



  • E. T. Gendlin. Focusing. Second edition, Bantam Books, 1982. ISBN 0-553-27833-9.
  • John J. Shea. Religious Experiencing: William James and Eugene Gendlin. Rowman and Littlefield, 1987. ISBN 0-8191-6136-5.
  • E. T. Gendlin. Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy: A Manual of the Experiential Method. Guilford Publications, 1996. ISBN 0-89862-479-7.
  • E. T. Gendlin. What happens when Wittgenstein asks “What happens when...?”. The Philosophical Forum Volume XXVIII. No. 3, 1997.
  • E. T. Gendlin. A Process model. Unpublished manuscript, 1997.
  • Ann Weiser Cornell. The Power of Focusing New Harbinger Publications, 1996.
  • Helene Brenner: I know I'm in there somewhere. Gotham Books; Reprint edition (May 2004)ISBN 1-59240-060-4
focusing in German: Focusing
focusing in French: Focusing
focusing in Japanese: フォーカシング
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