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The World of Focusing

Gene Gendlin, circa 1978


The International Focusing Institute was founded in 1985 to develop and disseminate the work of American philosopher and psychologist Eugene T. Gendlin (1926 - 2017). Gendlin was born in Vienna in 1926, living there until the age of 11 when the Nazi takeover of 1938 made it mortally dangerous to be a Jew in Austria. Together with his parents he narrowly escaped, first to Holland and then to the United States. His early experience of Nazi totalitarianism deeply affected his thinking and his unyielding opposition to any form of power over other people. He was also deeply affected by the many decisions his father made on the basis of deep intuitive feelings -- "felt senses," as Gendlin later termed them -- by which he navigated the family's escape amidst the chaos of their extreme circumstances.

Gendlin's work is exceptional in the way it bridges the fields of philosophy and psychology, as well as bridging serious academic work to usable techniques for personal development. While a student of philosophy at the University of Chicago in the 1950s, he became a disciple and then colleague of the great American psychologist Carl Rogers, who was revolutionizing the theory and practice of psychotherapy with his "person-centered" approach. Under Rogers' guidance -- and drawing on his deep grasp of both European Phenomenology and American Pragmatism -- Gendlin demonstrated that the key ingredient necessary for a successful therapy outcome was the client's pre-existing capacity for accessing a bodily-felt experience of the issues they were struggling with.

Some clients entered into psychotherapy with this innate capacity, while others did not. The breakthrough came when Gendlin realized that this ability to locate a pre-conceptual, somatic kind of knowing was a trainable skill. He developed a simple six-step practice for finding "felt senses" and drawing on them for deep intuitive insights and fresh, life-affirming action steps. In 1978 Gendlin published this new approach to personal growth in his book Focusing, which went on to sell more than half a million copies in 18 languages.  Since then, Focusing is taught in many ways, rarely now conforming strictly to the original six steps laid out in his original book.



The International Focusing Institute and the network of Focusing teachers have worked for many years to develop Focusing to the point where the public can access information and connect with other individuals who use Focusing in their personal and professional lives. Today, Focusing is applied in many areas and taught around the world in workshops, clinical programs, and at national and international conferences. Focusing has become part of the fabric of our society.

1952 Focusing begins with the philosophical work of Eugene Gendlin, University of Chicago. He teamed up with psychologist Carl Rogers and later developed Focusing and Experiential/Focusing Oriented Psychotherapy.
1957 The first research on Focusing begins. Eventually, over 100 research studies show Focusing to be a success variable in psychotherapy, and to correlate with personality and physiological measures.
1970 Gene receives the first "Distinguished Professional Award in Psychology and Psychotherapy", from Division 29 of the American Psychological Association (Division of Psychotherapy)
1978 The popular book, Focusing, is written to make Focusing accessible to the public.
1979 The Focusing Institute is established, run by Doralee Katonah Grindler out of the University of Chicago office of Eugene Gendlin, to gather and create resources, and to develop a worldwide teacher training network. The first "Weeklong" teacher training takes place on the university campus.
1981 The journal, The Folio, is started to communicate developments in Focusing.
1982 Mary McGuire becomes the Director of The Focusing Institute
1985 The Focusing Institute begins offering workshops and publicizing Focusing. This leads to numerous reprints of the book. Over 500,000 copies of Focusing have been printed to date, and the book has been translated into 17 other languages.
1985 The Focusing Institute becomes legally incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in the state of Illinois. The compilation of research and writings about Focusing applications in medicine, child care, business, writing, the arts, architecture, environmental management, psychotherapy, and child care is undertaken.
1986 Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams published.
1987 The certification of an international network of Focusing teachers begins.
1988 Annual "Internationals" begin to bring together Focusers from all over the world to share developments in Focusing.
1992 Janet Klein becomes Director of The Focusing Institute.
1995 A structure of Certifying Coordinators is developed. Certifying Coordinators create their own training opportunities, which de-centralized certification and thereby protects diverse ways of teaching.
1995 An international website is created which includes an online bookstore, in-depth publications, related links and referrals to Focusing teachers, therapists, and partners.
1996 Mary Hendricks Gendlin becomes Executive Director of The Focusing Institute.
1996 Focusing Oriented Therapy is published.
1997 A Process Model is published.
1997 Eugene Gendlin and Richard Shweder organize the After Postmodernism Conference at the University of Chicago.
1998 The Thinking At the Edge (TAE) method is developed by Eugene Gendlin and his wife and collaborator, Mary Hendricks-Gendlin, to make the Philosophy of the Implicit operational.
2000 The "Charlotte and Karl Bühler Award" is given jointly to Gendlin and The Focusing Institute, from Division 32 of the American Psychological Association (the Society for Humanistic Psychology)
2000 Focusing partnerships take on new prominence with the creation of the Partnership Pool, now known as the Partnership Network.
2006 The first "Focusing Institute Summer School (FISS)" takes place in Garrison, New York.
2007 Gene receives the "Viktor Frankl Award of the City of Vienna for outstanding achievements in the field of meaning-oriented humanistic psychotherapy", from the Viktor Frankl Foundation
2007 Melinda Darer becomes Managing Director of The Focusing Institute.
2011 Gene receives the "Distinguished Theoretical and Philosophical Contributions to Psychology" award from Division 24 of the American Psychological Association (The Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology)
2011 Kye Nelson becomes co-Executive Director of The Focusing Institute.
2013 Eugene Gendlin and Mary Hendricks Gendlin resign from the Board of The Focusing Institute.  Kye Nelson and Melinda Darer also resign.
2014 Catherine Torpey becomes Executive Director of The Focusing Institute. A new Board and an International Leadership Council are formed by means of a nominating process where the whole international Focusing community is invited to submit names.
2016 Gene receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Association for Person Centered and Experiential Psychotherapy and Counseling.
2016 Gene receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the US Association for Body Psychotherapy.


CONVERSATIONS SERIES (audio interviews)

Focusing keeps getting “carried forward” in rich and vibrant ways, to new endeavors, new fields, new areas. One of the goals of this website is to convey the many ways this is happening… as an invitation to be open to new uses of Focusing for further personal or professional development.

See conversations



The Membership Committee of The International Focusing Institute compiled this list in spring 2020 of some of the many international organizations and businesses which are dedicated to Focusing:

Brazil Focusing Institute

British Focusing Association (BFA – United Kingdom)

Continental Focusing School (Chile)

Diffusion-Focusing Québec (Canada)

Deutsche Focusing Gesellschaft-Stiftung (DFG - Germany)

European Focusing Association (EFA)

Focusing and Expressive Arts Institute

Focusing Argentina

Focusing El Salvador (Nuevos Rumbos)

Focusing Initiatives (USA)

Focusing Italia

Focusing Institute Mexico

Focusing Ireland [email protected]

Focusing Mexico

Focusing Resources (USA)

Focusing Netzwerk (Switzerland, Germany, Austria)

Focusing Zentrum Karlsruhe (FZK – Germany)

Hellenic Focusing Center (Greece)

Hong Kong Focusing Institute

Institut de Focusing d'Europe Francophone (France)

International Association of Focusing Oriented Therapists

Japan Focusing Association

London Focusing

New York Metro Focusing (USA)  

Northwest Focusers (USA)

Spanish Focusing Institute (Spain)

The Bio-Spiritual Institute (USA)

Whole Body Focusing (USA)



Over the years, many styles of Focusing have developed.  We have compiled a miscellany of styles and applications below.  Where possible, websites or names of individuals are provided to allow you to explore further.  This list is not intended to be exhaustive.


Work of Eugene Gendlin:

Gene Quotes For Politically Responsible Focusing 
Assembled by Dave Young & Gisela Uhl (PDF)

Classic 6 Steps Focusing as articulated by Eugene Gendlin in his first book, Focusing

Classic Fourteen Steps of TAE - Thinking at the Edge (TAE) as initially developed by Eugene Gendlin, with colleagues especially (and not necessarily in this order) Mary Hendricks, Kye Nelson, Theresa Dawson and Nada Lou


Building Forward with Thinking At the Edge (TAE)

Think Different - TAE in 14 Steps Experiential Method
Applied TAE
Experiential Critical Thinking (ECT)
TAE and Qualitative Research


Building Forward with Focusing…..

Inner Relationship Focusing
Domain Focusing, Macroshifting
Wholebody Focusing
Bio-Spiritual Focusing
The Pause

Focusing and...

There are many applications of Focusing, such as:

Therapy = FOT = Focusing-Oriented Therapy
(Also coaching using TAE)
Creativity and Arts 
(also Creativity using TAE)


Some other types of Focusing and its applications are listed here with examples of individuals who have worked in these areas:

Changes Groups
Community Wellness Focusing
Community Empowerment Focusing
Focusing and Empathic Communication
Relational Wholebody Focusing
Interactive Focusing
Relational Psychotherapy
Experiential-Existential Therapy
Cross-lingual Partnership
Empathic Opportunity Coupling

Person-Centered Therapy with Focusing
Indigenous (formerly Aboriginal) FOT
Recovery Focusing
Art Therapy
Focusing and Expressive Arts Therapy
Background Feeling Work
Children Focusing
Positive Psychology
Mindful Focusing
Active Pause

Police training
Highly Sensitive People (Sensory Processing Sensitivity)
Business Development
Landscape Architecture
The Felt Sense/Polyvagal Model