Focusing Self-Help Manual Excerpt


  1. What is Focused Listening?   


…Focused Listening is based on a philosophy which says that, when a person is being unclear on what to do next, or needing help, the best possible thing you can do is to help her find words for the “intuitive feel” of the issue—that being able to symbolize The Creative Edge of confusion or trouble leads to change in that trouble and the possibility for new actions and decisions.  Once the person has been able to symbolize in words what is going on inside, solutions and next steps will come from within the person herself.  So Focused Listening is used to help the person to find words.  The best way to do this is mainly by (see the multimedia examples in the Self-Help Package):

  1. Helping the person to talk and saying back, either in her own words or in a paraphrase of your own, what you have heard her say.
  2. Then she can check these words against the feelings inside, and
  3. Try talking again, trying to find better words for those feelings.

Again, you help just by saying back what you have heard her say. It is the process of saying back, and not any advice or opinions or suggestions of your own, which is most powerful as a way of helping the person to find her own words for the experience she is having ( see DVD: Listening/Focusing Demonstrations in Self-Help Package for many examples).   

When Listening is successful in helping a person to get words connected with “felt meanings,” the person being listened to has the experience of getting “unstuck”, releasing tension (often tears or anger), and forming some concept for the situations, past and present, which are involved in this feeling in her.  She also has the experience of saying feelings which she has been taught to be ashamed of or to fear and of having them received with warm understanding by another person.  The Listener has the experience of seeing and understanding the other person without distortion and sharing intimately in his or her inner world.  This “seeing” can be a powerful almost magical experience which may bring tears of recognition, or empathy.

Listening is best done as a sharing between equals, an exchange of Listening/Focusing turns.  Each person has a chance at helping and a chance at finding words for her own troubled place.  Two people set aside some time (usually from twenty minutes to an hour for each of them), and sit facing each other and close enough to touch if that kind of support arises in the interaction. First, one person talks while the other listens.  Then, for the second hour, it’s done the other way around.  Listening turns should feel, not like a dreaded “psychotherapy hour”, but a looked-forward-to chance to get some time for yourself, to go inside and get in touch with yourself. END OF SAMPLE EXCERPT


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These materials are offered purely as self-help skills. In providing them, Dr. McGuire is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.