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Frequently Asked Questions about Focusing Partnerships

Definitions

•    What is a Focusing partnership?
•    What is a Focusing turn?
•    Does the Focuser always Focus in their turn?
•    What is a Listening turn?
•    Does the Companion always Listen during the Focuser's turn?
•    Are there rules or guidelines that help a Focusing partnership feel safe for both parties?

Logistics

•    Do the two people always take turns?
•    How long is each session?
•    Who goes first?
•    How does a session start?
•    How do we keep time?  

Interpersonal

•    Is it OK to be Focusing partners with a friend?
•    What about being Focusing partners with an intimate partner?
•    I'm not sure that my partner is really Focusing. What can I do about it?
•    I'm nervous because my partner is more experienced in Focusing and Listening than I am. 
•    I don't feel safe working on certain issues with my partner. She's not a professional.
•    My partner doesn't listen the way I need her to. 
•    What if I'm the Companion and the Focuser asks me to do something that I'm uncomfortable doing or unable to do?
•    What is the best way to end a Focusing partnership?

Definitions

 What is a Focusing partnership?
A Focusing partnership is an agreement between two people to meet (in person, by phone or online) to exchange Focusing and Listening turns.

What is a Focusing turn?
 When it's your turn to Focus, you bring your awareness inward and begin sensing what wants your attention. You follow your own Focusing process, speaking out loud if and when you want to. The person who is doing this is called "The Focuser."

Does the Focuser always Focus in their turn?
The Focuser's turn belongs to the Focuser and they can use it whatever way they want. This might be a non-focusing time that includes talking about the problem, asking for advice, having a cup of coffee. Usually, they will use it for Focusing. But there is no requirement to do so.

What is a Listening turn?
While one person is Focusing, the other person (the Companion, also called the Listener) is Listening. This kind of listening is more than just hearing; it is really being present for the other person's process. Usually you say back ("reflect") all or some of what the Focuser is saying. This kind of Listening seems simple, like you aren't really "doing" anything - yet it can be powerful and helpful, and there is a subtle art to it that can be developed with practice.

Does the Companion always Listen during the Focuser's turn?
The Companion gives whatever support the Focuser asks for. Listening (reflecting, saying back) is standard; it's what we do unless we're asked for something else. But the Focuser may also ask the Companion for silence, for input (advice, reactions), for guiding. The rule is that the Focuser can ask the Companion for what kind of presence they need.

Are there rules or guidelines that help a Focusing partnership feel safe for both parties?
Safety Rule Number One: Unless the Focuser brings up the content of the Focusing session, Listener should not bring it up even after the session is over. This includes not chatting about similar things that happened to you, and not giving advice about what the Focuser can do about their "problem." This is important, because just after a session has ended is a particularly vulnerable time, and needs to be treated with the same sensitivity as the Focusing time.

Safety Rule Number Two: Privacy. It's important that the Focuser feels that they have the right to be as private or as open as they want to be. They are in charge of revealing or keeping private the content of their Focusing. Sometimes they need to be kept private. It is not necessary for the Companion to know what the Focuser is Focusing on. If you're Focusing, you can say to the Companion "I can sense what this is connected to," or "I can sense what this is about," without revealing the details.

Safety Rule Number Three: Confidentiality. Unless you have specific permission, never share anything from your partner's Focusing session with another person. No exceptions.

Logistics

Do the two people always take turns?
It's important that the partnership be equal. So taking turns is basic. Equal turns can be equal in time, or simply equal in opportunity. For example, if two people make an agreement that they will each Focus as long as they want to, that's equal, even if one session is forty minutes and the other ten. Also, the turns don't have to be at the same time: some partnerships have a deal where one week is one person's turn, and the next week is the other person's turn. That's OK. It's even OK if one of you always wants to go first and the other one always wants to go second. Those arrangements are up to you.
 
How long is each session?
That's completely up to you. Some partnerships take as little as twenty minutes each, others take as much as an hour each. Even shorter or longer times are possible. What matters is what works for you.

Who goes first?
Either of you could go first, it doesn't matter.

How does a session start?
After you've decided who will be the first Focuser, the other person (now the Companion) asks three questions:
1.    [in person] where would you like to sit and where (how far from you) would you like me to sit?
[on the phone or online] Are you sitting comfortably and can you hear me OK?
2.    How many minutes would you like to know before the end?
3.    What would you like from me as your Companion?
After the Focuser has answered these three questions, she or he begins the session in whatever way feels right.

How do we keep time?
When the Companion ask the Focuser, before the session starts, "How many minutes would you like to know before the end?", the Focuser tells the Companion the amount of time you need to end your session fully and comfortably. Examples: "Three minutes." "Five and then two, please."

The Companion gives the time alert in a clear audible voice, like: "There are about three minutes left." If the time to alert the Focuser comes while they are speaking, best to say back what they said first, then give the time alert. Give the time alert they asked for even if you lost track of time; if they asked for three minutes, but there is only one minute left, say "Three minutes."

If they go over time, *don't* say "Time's up" or anything like that. If they go five minutes past the agreed time, you might say something like, "You might see if there is a stopping place soon."

It seems like the best parts of my Focusing session come at the end. I'd prefer my partner to be flexible about time and let me go on longer if I want to.

Unless you are really sure that the other person feels relaxed about time, as you do, better to respect time boundaries as agreed. One thing you *can* do, is ask for a longer time alert. Of course we are not machines and it should always be possible to renegotiate time agreements if needed. 

Interpersonal

Is it OK to be Focusing partners with a friend? Many friends have become Focusing partners, and many Focusing partners have become friends. There is no problem with this. (And it is also OK to be just Focusing partners, and not also become friends.)<br /> <br /> The key to remember is to keep the Focusing space separate from the friendship space. For example, if you like to chat and catch up on your week, do it before the session starts. Once you begin Focusing, keep the friendship type of chat totally out of it. 

What about being Focusing partners with an intimate partner?
Focusing can profoundly deepen your relationship. It can also intensify any areas between you that are troublesome. It can be done; the rewards are great. Consciousness and care are also required. 

I'm not sure that my partner is really Focusing. What can I do about it?
Fortunately, nothing! Remember that it is the Focuser's session, and it is not your responsibility as Listener/Companion to make something good happen in their Focusing, or even to make sure they're Focusing at all.

I'm nervous because my partner is more experienced in Focusing and Listening than I am.
A Focusing partnership is a peer relationship; mutuality rules. Even if one of you is much more experienced than the other, the underlying basis of the partnership needs to be one of equality. All Focusers are equal, in that all Focusers have an inner knowing that can be trusted.

If you are Focusing, it is always fine to tell your Companion what you want from them, even if they are the most experienced Focusing Companion in the world.

If you are the Companion, let the Focuser tell you what they need from you, and follow their lead. The news is good: the more experienced a Focuser is, the more they are able to use the Listening of a novice Companion. So relax, and you'll learn quickly!

I don't feel safe working on certain issues with my partner. She's not a professional.
There are two things to say here. One is to encourage you to trust your inner sense of rightness about what feels OK to bring to your Focusing partnership. Never push past your own inner safety warnings. They are there for a reason.

However, it's possible that you may have misunderstood the nature of Focusing partnership. Your partner isn't a therapist or counselor for you. It isn't their responsibility to.

One thing to try if you're not sure that your Companion would be comfortable with the content of your issues is to Focus without saying what it's about.

My partner doesn't listen the way I need her to.
It's built into the Focusing partnership process that the Focuser gets to ask for what she needs from her Companion. At the beginning of the session, the Companion asks: "What would you like from me as your Companion?" That is your opportunity to say what you would like. You can also say what you would like at any point in the session. You can ask for silence, or you can ask your partner to repeat what you said again... and again. It's *your* session. Have it your way. Sensing for what your process needs from your Companion is part of Focusing.

What if I'm the Companion and the Focuser asks me to do something that I'm uncomfortable doing or unable to do?
Just say so. You have rights too! Probably there's something similar that you would be willing or able to do, and the two of you can negotiate until you find something that works.

What is the best way to end a Focusing partnership?
Not everyone can work well together. It's probably not anyone's fault; you may be incompatible in style or you may have grown out of the arrangement. It is really helpful to end a partnership cleanly and amicably if possible. Sometimes it just may mean having a special session to honor and thank each other for what you did have. 

These FAQs are excerpted from an earlier version written by Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin.