Identity Restoration, Posttraumatic Growth and Cultural Connectedness
"FOTCT suggests a paradigm shift away from seeing the client as broken. Instead, the client is seen as adaptive, responding to adversity with creativity and courage."
Focusing-Oriented Therapy and Complex Trauma (FOTCT) is a model of training that teaches specialized skills for working with all forms of trauma, past and present. FOTCT refers to complex trauma as trauma that occurred repeatedly and cumulatively, usually over a period of time and within specific relationships and contexts. Trauma can sometimes become “stuck” at earlier developmental stages, interfering with present day functioning. FOTCT is less concerned with the story of what happened to the client, but rather attends to where the client is stuck. This ability to focus on the stuck process, rather than being led astray by the content of the wound allows clients to heal more efficiently and completely. In essence, this process allows clients to access their core self through felt sensing. The skills learned in FOTCT can facilitate the release of body held trauma, helping one’s life to move forward with healing and a greater sense of well-being.
When clients experience complex trauma, they often fragment to survive. These arrested processes remain in their bodies, trying to be acknowledged. They may appear as intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks, devastating inner critics, cutting rituals and other adaptive responses to trauma. Clients often don’t recognize these responses as lost parts of themselves. Instead, clients and often the therapists working with them want to fix or erase these responses (Parker, 2009).
FOTCT emphasizes the development of a strong observer self so that clients can acknowledge both the part of them that is attending and the part that is experiencing or revisiting the piece of history they are working with. Having a strong observer generates healing in and of itself, as it allows clients to acknowledge and go through what they are sensing without fixating upon it as part of their identity. FOTCT aims at increasing the client’s functioning in the present in service of creating a better today and tomorrow. As such, identity restoration is critical.
Helping the clients find themselves in the aftermath of trauma, when they may feel lost and alone struggling to find the way back to themselves is paramount. The body strives for completion and generally knows how to find its way back to wholeness. FOTCT encourages clients to reclaim the self, one’s own authority, and one’s connectedness to and trust in one’s inner wisdom. The ability to survive and even thrive in the face of adversity has been linked with tapping into our own natural, spiritual resilience (Young & Nadeau, 2005).
Honoring the person’s sense of identity challenges the Western model of stigmatizing and labeling which tends to compartmentalize the person into symptoms. As clients find their way through complex trauma, many begin to view the trauma as knowledge and wisdom as evidenced in the following: “The more I’m fed by all the wonderful things that the world has to offer, the more I can reflect on what did happen as just an experience I had and not who I am” (Phillips & Daniluk, 2004, p.180); “I think I would never trade a day of my life ever because I think my history, the sexual abuse included, has totally informed my life and made it an amazing adventure” (Phillips, 2001, p.124).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), like much trauma language, reduces suffering to a condition of medical pathology. The medical model compartmentalizes and stigmatizes traumatic responses and reactions and turns the behaviours into symptoms of a pathological condition. FOTCT suggests a paradigm shift away from seeing the client as broken. Instead, the client is seen as adaptive, responding to adversity with creativity and courage. When viewed through this lens, complex trauma responses are viewed as profound, sacred and transforming teachings. They are also viewed as intergenerational and ancestral wisdom (S. Turcotte, personal communication, June 22, 2012).
FOTCT acknowledges the impact of power differentials, sexual, social, political, organizational and racial impacts, and how these influence trauma recovery. While mainstream treatment often focuses on individuals, FOTCT brings awareness to the whole family and community that surround the client. In FOTCT we begin to repair the fragmentation of the mind-body-spirit caused by multiple violations and recover the mind-body-spirit’s relationship with self, land, and community so that a sense of interconnection can be restored (Young and Deneau, 1995).
The authors have had their own deeply personal connection to this process. As brother and sister, sharing a childhood history of physical and sexual abuse they feel strongly that they would not be as healthy as they are without the FOTCT process. In 1987 at the age of nineteen Shaun was the first to find a Focusing-Oriented Therapist. He later introduced Alexis to an FOTCT therapist.
Continue reading this article on the TFI website
Alexis Phillips and Shaun Phillips are a sister and brother team who have been using Focusing-Oriented Therapy for over 25 years. They are both thrivers of early childhood sexual abuse. This unique and dynamic team have specialized training in working with FOT and Complex Trauma. This sibling team have on-going training for therapists and health professionals in Canada, the United States, Israel, Brazil and South Africa.
Note: Detailed biographies of the authors, FOTCT articles and case studies can be found at fotcomplextrauma.com
Upcoming Conferences, Retreats and Workshops
Pacific Winter Retreat: Stepping Forward Into MY LIFE
February 15-22, 2014 in Chacala, Mexico with Charlotte Howorth, Karen Whalen, and Mónica Gómez Galaz. Space limited to 30 participants - register now!
International Focusing-Oriented Therapy Conference
The Third International Focusing-Oriented Therapy Conference. will take place on May 14-18, 2014 at Stony Point New York, an hour outside of NYC. Workshop and panel information has been added to the website.
The 8th Children Focusing Conference
Portarlington (near Dublin) Ireland from 8th to 12th October 2014. The theme is Éist, the power of listening for our children. Éist is the Irish word for 'listen'. Full details and booking on the website.
November 2013 Focusing conversation: Beatrice Blake
This month's Focusing Conversation features Beatrice Blake, who has been very actively involved in Community Wellness Focusing. In addition to this conversation, Beatrice also shares a short article about "Introducing Focusing in an experiential way" as part of our "Carrying Forward" series. In this section of the website, we are featuring ways to translate our experience of focusing in a way that feels relevant to the people we want to communicate with.
Celebrate Gene Month
During the month of October 2013, Focusing communities around the world sponsored fundraisers for The Focusing Institute (TFI), to promote Gendlin’s Philosophy of the Implicit, practice of Focusing and Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy.
Celebrate Gene Month Event in Tokyo, Japan
At each event, the same compelling video was shown of Gendlin speaking about and demonstrating his essential ideas on how psychotherapy works. In it, he brings us step by step into his experiential thinking about the nature of being human and the wider implicit bodily living that can be accessed and unfolded.
The video called The Theory of Focusing-Oriented Therapy (FOT) was directed to therapists, but all those interested in how Focusing works found it very helpful. After viewing an hour excerpt of the video, participants entered into a guided Focusing process about the ideas he presented followed by an integrative discussion.
Your donation to support this worthwhile project is most appreciated.
Worldwide Celebrate Gene Month events were held in over 20 countries!
Click here to see pictures from the international events
Pacific Winter Retreat: Stepping Forward Into MY LIFE
"Connecting to the Universe of my Whole Living Body"
February 15-22, 2014 ~ Chacala, Mexico
Space limited to 30 participants – Register now!
The Focusing Institute invites you to gather for a week of Focusing and fun by the Pacific Ocean at the beautiful Mar de Jade retreat center. Connect with your mind, body and spirit through a program centered on whole body focusing, spirituality, creativity, and play, with offerings in both English and Spanish.
This is a wonderful opportunity to bring freshness and aliveness to your life, with warmth, sunlight, ocean, and a supportive community of Focusers. In addition to classes, there will be ample time to Focus every day, as well as to rest and play.
This program is suited to both beginners and experienced Focusers.
Click here for more information
or to register!
Click on the links below to see some of the new items that have been added to the TFI website over the past few months.
11/2013 Aider les enfants par le Focusing - Quelques indications pour les
accompagnateurs Kilner, S. (2011) Traduction française faite par Chantal Résibois-Kemp et
révisée par Marine de Fréminville [PDF]
11/2013 Wat gebeurt er in de act van het focussen? (Deel I). Vertaling van hoofdstuk VIII-A,a van ‘A Process Model’. Vertaald door Aukje Strandstra en Frans Depestele (2010). [PDF]
11/2013 イン・フォーカス September 2013 Japanese In Focus Newsletter
11/2013 Pictures from International Celebrate Gene Month Events: October 2013
10/2013 Updated the "Carrying Forward" webpage with a new article by Beatrice Blake, Introducing Focusing in an experiential way [PDF]
10/2013 Follow Gene Gendlin on Facebook and Twitter
10/2013 The Uniting Image and its Contribution to the Therapeutic Process according to the Focusing Approach by Galia Porat and Liora Bar-Natan
10/2013 A perspective on FOT: The theory and practice of how we integrate experience by Serge Prengel
10/2013 September 2013 In Focus Newsletter is now on the website.
9/2013 September 2013: Glenn Fleisch and Serge Prengel talk about resonance. This is part of our
"conversations" series which you can access from the "Felt Community" menu or from www.focusing.org/conversations
9/2013 Focusing - Learn From the Masters - Four Training Manuals by Lucinda Gray, Ph.D. New product in the TFI store.
9/2013 Gendlin, E.T. (2013). The derivation of space. In Cruz-Pierre, A. and D.A. Landes (Eds.), Exploring the work of Edward S. Casey: Giving voice to place, memory, and imagination. Bloomsbury Academic.
8/2013 The Theory of Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy with Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D. 2 DVDs: 90 and 60 minutes. New product in the TFI store.
8/2013 イン・フォーカス June 2013 Japanese In Focus Newsletter
New Folio: MEMOIRS: STORIES OF ONE AHA TRANSFORMATIONAL FOCUSING EXPERIENCE
Featuring 47 written memories-memoirs from members of our Focusing community. The diversity of insight, growth, change, and inspiration is both heartfelt and often astounding. Now available as a free digital eFolio or as a printed version which can be purchased in the TFI store.
Join our Discussion Lists and Forum!
TFI sponsors several email discussion lists devoted to Focusing. All are welcome! Click here to subscribe to our lists.
Where is Focusing needed, and what do you need to take it there? Please go to the Forum for Exploring Our Future and share your answer to this question under the topic 'Hopes, Dreams, and Visions for Focusing In the World.' If you aren't yet signed up for the Forum, you can access it via our website under 'Felt Community', titled 'Forum for Exploring Our Future'. There are detailed instructions there for how to sign up. It's open to all members of the Focusing Institute.
Support Universal Felt Sense Literacy
We need your financial support to keep on making Focusing universally available. Together we can bring Focusing to more people who need it. Focusing belongs to anyone anywhere who is:
- living in poverty,
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