Skip to main content

The World of Focusing

Gene

HISTORY

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.

 

TIMELINE

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.
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.
1995 The Thinking At the Edge (TAE) method is developed by Eugene Gendlin to make the Philosophy of the Implicit operational.
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.
1997 An international Focusing e-mail discussion list is implemented. This list is open to anyone. To subscribe, please click here.
2000 Focusing partnerships become accessible via the International Focusing Institute website, making it easy and accessible to connect and share information.
2005 The first "Focusing Institute Summer School" takes place in Garrison, New York.
2007 Melinda Darer becomes Managing Director of The Focusing Institute.
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.
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.

 

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

 

FOCUSING ORGANIZATIONS

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  www.ibfocusing.com.br

British Focusing Association (BFA – United Kingdom) www.focusing.org.uk

Continental Focusing School (Chile) www.facebook.com/ecfe.cl

Diffusion-Focusing Québec (Canada) www.diffusion-focusing.org/wp/

Deutsche Focusing Gesellschaft-Stiftung (DFG - Germany)  www.dfg-focusing.de

European Focusing Association (EFA) www.focusing.org.uk

Focusing Argentina   www.focusingargentina.com.ar

Focusing El Salvador (Nuevos Rumbos) www.focusingelsalvador.org

Focusing Initiatives (USA) www.focusinginternational.org

Focusing Institute Mexico www.focusinginstitutemexico.com

Focusing Ireland [email protected]

Focusing Resources (USA) www.focusingresources.com

Focusing Netzwerk (Switzerland, Germany, Austria) www.focusing-netzwerk.de

Focusing Zentrum Karlsruhe (FZK – Germany) www.focusing.de

Hellenic Focusing Center (Greece) www.focusing.gr

Hong Kong Focusing Institute www.focusing.hk/en/

Institut de Focusing d'Europe Francophone (France) www.ifef.org

Japan Focusing Association www.focusing.jp

New York Metro Focusing (USA) www.nymetrofocusing.org  

Northwest Focusers (USA) www.northwestfocusers.org

Spanish Focusing Institute (Spain) www.focusing.es

The Bio-Spiritual Institute (USA) www.biospiritual.org

Whole Body Focusing (USA) www.wholebodyfocusing.com

 

STYLES AND APPLICATIONS OF FOCUSING

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.

THIS ESSAY BY MARCELLA CALABI COVERS IN DETAIL THE MANY STYLES AND APPLICATIONS OF FOCUSING AND THEIR DEVELOPMENT (PDF)

Work of Eugene Gendlin:

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

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)

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
Trauma
Addiction
Bodywork
Coaching
(Also coaching using TAE)
Interaction 
Community
Creativity and Arts 
(also Creativity using TAE)
Business

 

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
Cross-lingual Partnership
Empathic Opportunity Coupling


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


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