Category: experiential focusing therapy


By , December 6, 2007 3:01 pm

This is my favorite question ever!  What is “right” in terms of a Listening Response, a Reflection? I’d love it if everyone would jump in with their answer to this question, regardless of teaching experience or just experience! 
For me, the only “right” that really matters is when the client/Focuser says, “Yes. That is exactly right. That fits” with sighs, tension release, other signs that this is the body’s response: “Yes. That is right. It captures the ‘feel of it all’ completely.” 
The point or goal of Focusing Turns, or Focusing-Oriented Therapy (FOT) IS to empower the Focuser to gain confidence and skill in allowing answers and next steps to come from within their own experiencing of their own unique situation. 

Carl Rogers was so emphatic about this empowering that he would do NOTHING but reflect, not wanting to give the client any temptation to rely upon him as “expert” rather than their own inner experiencing and problem solving.
So, if a reflection/interpretation/evocative technique does not “fit” in the moment, does not touch the Focuser’s present felt experiencing in a way that allows carrying-forward, new next steps from inside, to unfold, draws the Focuser out into discussion, disagreement, or argument with the Listener — then, it is not “right” in this moment — although it may become “right” at a later point when the Focuser has moved forward to a new felt Edge that can take it in in a resonating way—
Most everything else, I guess, is helpful or unhelpful!  Helpful can be getting it “wrong” in a way that helps the Focuser say more what “it” is like: “No, it’s not that. It’s more like this—” (This can happen even when the Listener says back exactly the Focuser’s words, seemingly perfectly “right”!).
Helpful is always going back, after any intervention, especially one that seemed “wrong” in terms of getting the Focuser off the track of felt-sensing, into confusion or arguing or theorizing with the Listener instead of continuing to pay attention to finding words or images for, the present “felt sense.”
My articles Caring Confrontation and Focusing Inner Child Work With Abused Clients (free PDF downloads from )trace my attempts to grapple with this issue, of how hard to press, how often to come back to, a “felt experiencing” I have in relation to the client which I think is “Correct” in some way but they say is not “Right.”
This is such a great question, I would invite everyone to jump in with their own answer, their own way of saying what is “right” in terms of a Listening Response.

Learn more about Intuitive Focusing and Focused Listening and Experiential Focusing Therapy at Creative Edge Focusing’s website, filled with free downloads on creativity, spirituality, collaborative thinking, parenting, innovation in business, and many other aspects of application of Focusing and Listening skills at home, at work, in your community, and globally.

See actual demonstrations of Listening/Focusing in our Self-Help package, a manual in English or Spanish, four CDs of Focusing Instructions, and a DVD with four demonstrations of actual listening/focusing sessions — everything you need to start your own Listening/Focusing Partnership or Support Group or to incorporate these basic self-help skills into existing support groups.

In the side bar at Creative Edge Focusing, subscribe to our free e-newsletter for weekly reminders to practice Relaxation and Focusing exercises and join our free yahoo group, Creative Edge Practice, for ongoing demonstrations, practice, and support.

Find classes/workshops/phone coaching in our Listings section or Coaching/Classes/Consulting with Dr. McGuire

Dr. Kathy McGuire

Creative Edge Focusing

Sharing Your Day: Instant Intimacy

By , December 2, 2007 2:54 pm

Time = Love

     With your significant other: Every day, and I mean religiously, set aside about 40 minutes to sit down and “share your day.” Get a drink or a snack or go in the hot tub -an uninterrupted space away from other family members.

     At a separate time, you can also do this with your children, each person having an uninterrupted turn.

Just Warm, Silent Attention: No Interruptions, No Criticism

      Each person gets to talk without interruption, refreshing in his/her own mind and describing to the other the events of the day, usually in chronological order, often starting with the night before: anxieties, dreams. The speaker gets to share every event of the day which rises to consciousness, no matter how trivial it seems. This can easily take about twenty minutes

     The other person simply listens quietly, not saying a word (Well, maybe an occasional “Wow!” or “How interesting!” or “Oh, no!” or “Yikes!”).

    Then, when the first speaker is done, it is the other person’s turn – same deal: No interruptions, no opinions, no judgments.

No Problem Solving

     And no problem solving. At least initially, save problem solving for another time, or do it before or after.  Too easily, problem solving can eat up the sharing space, and intimacy is lost. Problem solving can also bring up conflicts, not wanted in this sharing space. And fear of problem solving can make people dread sharing time, instead of looking forward to this peaceful, intimate lull in a busy day.

Intimacy = Sharing

     That’s it!!!  You will thoroughly understand what your significant other does all day, the frustrations, the tedium, the other people in his or her world, the small joys, the conflicts, the stresses, the successes, the low points, the high points.  And each person will feel that their life is valid and valuable, no matter how trivial or repetitious it may seem to be.

     Over time, you will get to know each other intimately, and this intimacy will carry over into other areas of your shared life, including sexuality between partners and children turning to their parents when needing help.

Find this exercise as #8, p. 27, in the Instant “Ahah!” Mini-Manual, (Ajas Instantaneos en espanol) free download at Creative Edge Focusing website. There, in the sidebar, you can subscribe to our e-newsletter, for weekly advice and e-reminders to try out the exercises.

Need more help getting agreement with your significant other to move into more intimate sharing? You can try Interpersonal Focusing phone sessions with Dr. McGuire or find a Focusing-Oriented Therapist  in your area through listings at The Focusing Institute

Find links to free articles, personality tests, multi-media Self-Help training, Classes and workshops

Dr. Kathy McGuire, Director

Creative Edge Focusing (TM)

The site of new insights and creative solutions is at the edge of what is already known. This edge, The Creative Edge, holds implicit within it all past and future knowing about the problem, more than could ever be put into words in a linear way 


By , November 26, 2007 7:13 pm

While Instant “Ahah!” # 4, Five-Minute Grieving,  specifically addresses what to do if a patient, friend, or co-worker begins to cry, the excerpt below shows how using Intuitive Focusing to “sit with” the “intuitive feel” of a physical symptom can allow that symptom to open into an “Ahah!” of deeper meanings, with a sheen of tears in the eye often the body’s signpost of a place to stop and go deeper into “the feel of the whole thing.”
The excerpt is a tiny portion of a Focusing Partnership session. The Focuser is experienced in using Intuitive Focusing. Early on, as the Focuser talks about waking with the beginnings of a migraine headache and related issues, the Listener notices a faint “shimmer of tears.”

She suggests that the Focuser stop and “sense into” the place of tears. By the end of the session, the Focuser has moved through deep sobbing about the heavy burden of depression she has carried “for soooo long” and experiences the liveliness of a “felt shift,” “being lighter, wanting to dance!” She states that the migraine has abated.
The session begins with Focuser and Listener in chairs facing each other. The Focuser, because of her comfort with the Experiential Focusing process from past practice, chose to keep her eyes closed throughout the session, attending to her inner experiencing. The Listener, Dr. McGuire, begins:
Listener: “So, just feel comfortable closing your eyes and going inside, coming in tune with whatever is there—Let me know if you need some help or when you’re ready to begin speaking—
Focuser: (10 second pause)—“—This morning when I awakened, I  had a headache on the left side of my head, and I thought, ‘Oh, it’s  migraine coming on’— so I’m just sensing into what that was  about, um, like, my body was really full of toxins, like I just wanted to kind of shake the toxins out.”
Listener: “So, even on waking, you noticed there was the beginning of a headache on the left side of your head, and you spent some time with it, just sensing into it, and the feeling was of toxins in your body, and you just wanted to shake them out, shake them out.”
Focuser: (30 second pause) ——- “And I notice that my throat is stopped up this morning, and that’s something I’ve been working on, we’ve been working on together—something deep emotional there in my throat, getting kind of choked up.”  
[The Focuser is doing the first step of Experiential Focusing, “clearing a space,” noticing and naming the various issues she is carrying so she can choose one to work on]
Listener: “Yea, so you’re aware of that now, too, your throat getting choked up, and that’s something we’ve worked on before, and it’s connected to deep emotional things—and it seemed like I even saw a shimmer of tears as you described that—maybe just be with that, sit with that ‘choked up.'”
[The Listener notices the beginnings of tears and gives an Experiential Focusing Instruction, suggesting that the Focuser stop talking and pay attention to the “felt sense.”] 
Focuser: (tears visible under closed eyelids, face reddening, voice thickening) “What bothers me about it is I keep trying to clear my throat, and it doesn’t clear. I keep trying to clear it, and it prevents me from speaking the way I want to speak, and it’s annoying to people, I think.”
Listener: “Uhhuh.”
Focuser: “It somehow prevents me from projecting my voice—” 
Listener: “Umhm.”
Focuser: “I keep trying to get it out, and it just stays there, it’s uh—”
Listener: “Umhm—so what bothers you is you keep trying to clear it out, and it won’t go, and you also think it makes it difficult for other people. You want to project your voice and get it out, and that’s hard for the other people, too, you can’t really speak.”
Focuser: “That really prevents communication.”
You can read the entire excerpt, with commentary, and see the “felt shift” for yourself in Medical Change Events Through Experiential Focusing. You can view the entire 12-minute session in the DVD Listening/Focusing Demonstrations, also part of The Self-Help Package. Download “Being Touched and Being Moved: The Spiritual Value of Tears for many examples of how tears and Focusing interrelate.
Download “Finding The Meaning In Tears” for exercises for using Focusing to find the meaning in your tears. Both articles are packed with real-life examples of how tears “touch us” and “move us” in positive ways.

Dr. Kathy McGuire

Creative Edge Focusing (TM)

Five-Minute Grieving: What to do if a patient, friend, coworker starts crying

By , October 29, 2007 4:30 pm

Finding The Meaning Of Tears

“Being Touched” and “Being Moved” : The Spiritual Value of Tears

Download the above articles to learn more about the use of Intuitive Focusing to unravel the meanings signalled by tears.

“Opening Up”, Not “Breaking Down”

Most of the time, we walk around “being” our symptoms instead of “relating” to them. The physician’s office is a place where accidental openings into the “felt senses” underlying symptoms have an increased likelihood of happening. It thus becomes important for physicians, and other health professionals, to capitalize on these moments where the defenses fall, and the preverbal felt experiencing underlying symptoms, becomes available for transformation.

Inter-office conflict or stress at home can also cause a co-worker or employee to “break down” and start crying. Or a friend may become teary while sharing. Instead of being afraid of a “break down,” see it as an “opening up,” an opportunity to unblock and build anew. See Culture of Creativity to understand the Creative Edge Core Principles underlying growth and creativity.

People Are Skilled At “Not Crying”

Five minute grieving is based upon the following premises, drawn from my 25-year experience as a psychotherapist and peer counseling teacher:

  • In general, people do not fall apart and cry and cry without stopping. In general, people do not cry for more than a few minutes at a time.
  • If tears are present, it is healthier for body and mind to allow their expression than to repress them. Tears also are the doorways into The Creative Edge, the possibility for change.
  • In general, people have a life-time of experience in being able to call up their defenses again, and go on as needed after a few moments of crying.
  • In the few cases where crying is uncontrollable, it is better to discover this vulnerability and get help, by referring to a counselor for psychotherapy and/or a psychiatrist for exploration of the appropriateness of anti-depressant medication.
  • In general, spending a few minutes making words for the “intuitive sense” underlying the tears will bring relief to the person, energy to the Listener, and a deep feeling of bonding and care between the two.
  • Allowing the tears also actually releases energy, letting the person go on to next steps of problem solving and action to be taken.

Here follows a first step into the Creative Edge Focusing ™ Core Skills of Intuitive Focusing and Focused Listening which I call “Five Minute Grieving,” especially for health professionals, but also for co-workers and friends in a pinch, if someone tears up or starts crying.  


Example from a physician’s office:

You have just told a patient that tests have shown her to be infertile. Tears well up in her eyes.

  1. Invite her to cry. Say something like the following:
    • “In a minute we can discuss options, but let’s make room for your tears.”
    • “It’s okay with me to let your tears come.”
    • “It’s okay to cry.”
    • “You don’t have to hold back your tears.”
    • “It’s important to let yourself cry.”
    • “Just be gentle with yourself. Put your arms around yourself.”
  2. Empathize with the feeling without trying to “fix” it or take it away:
    • “I know it seems bleak right now.”
    • “I know it’s hard.”
    • “I see your sadness.”
    • “I’m sorry for your sadness.”
  3. Help her to find words or images for the tears. After she has cried for a while or at a natural pause in her tears, say something like:
    • “What are the words for your sadness?”
    • “Are there any words or images with your tears? It helps to get a handle on the feeling.”
    • “Can you say what’s the worst of it?”
    • “Can you say what you’re thinking?”
  4. Just be quiet and give the person some time to grope for words.
    • Empathize again, often by paraphrasing:
    • “So it’s (her words: “the fear that you’ll never be a mother;” “feeling like a dried up stick,” etc.) that’s hard.”
  5. Continue Steps 1-4 as long as makes sense.
    • Establish closure:
    • “We have to stop now.”
    • “We only have a minute before we have to stop.”
    • “I have to go, but you’re welcome to sit here for a minute until you’re ready to go.”
    • Or, if you are now going to continue with other aspects of the visit, “Let’s see if we can put aside the tears for now so that I can give you some more information and we can look for solutions to your situation.”
    • Orient the person, if necessary, by doing a “present time” exercise:
    • “I want to make sure you’re back out in the world before I send you off to drive home (or before we continue talking) . How about if you name all the circular (or orange, or striped, etc.) things in the room?”
    • At the end of the appointment, make a referral to a counselor or support group as appropriate and/or make arrangements for the person to check back with you for a future appointment.

Of course, Five Minute Grieving  is just a first step toward fully incorporating Core Skills of Intuitive Focusing and Focused Listening into your personal and professional life. I hope it will whet your appetite to pursue further training in PRISMS/S and the Creative Edge Pyramid for application of Listening and Focusing at all levels and at home as well as work  at .

You can begin with Free and Purchased resources by clicking on the Icons in the right sidebar on the main page. Helping professionals can order Dr. McGuire’s manual, The Experiential Dimension in Therapy and, in a Free Phone Consult with Dr. McGuire, can explore our Experiential Focusing Professional Training Program.


By , October 27, 2007 5:24 pm

Kathy’s Inner ChildrenKathy’s Favorite Childhood Photo: Undaunted!


Focusing Inner Child Work With Abused Clients 

(download this PDF file to see Dr. McGuire’s approach)

    Yes, if we are to work on healthy sexuality, we will have to look at the wide prevalence of sexual abuse, the wounds of which will crop up all around sexuality.

    What is the statistic? Is it 1 out of 2 women  and 1 out of 3 men report some kind of unwanted touching by age 21? Whatever the factual statistics, the number is huge, huge, enough that everyone needs an awareness of past abuse creeping into present relationships.

   Alice Miller, in her books including For Your Own: Hidden Cruelty In Childhood and the Roots of Violence,, was one of the first to “tear the covers off” the culturally-accepted practices and mythology surrounding the physical and sexual abuse of children.

    I have had women tell me laughingly over lunch, “Oh, I even take my showers with my clothes on!” or “I’ve never had an orgasm. It’s fine with me and fine with my husband.”

    Equally likely, flashbacks to sexual abuse begin when  someone finally finds a loving relationship, enough safety to begin to let down defenses and begin to re-feel — and, bam, memories from the past arise because of this new-found safety.

   In this self-help context, I can only issue a warning to be on the lookout for signs and to seek appropriate help. The official “diagnosis” is often Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the same kind of intense “flashbacks” and other anxiety-related symptoms that Vietnam vets called to our attention.

   One finding about  PTSD from warfare was that soldiers who had already experienced trauma in childhood had an intensified likelihood of PTSD in wartime.

   Much research also substantiates that a huge percentage of those in prison, men and women, were victims of childhood physical and sexual abuse.

   Intellectual understanding is not sufficient for healing. Nor is it necessary or productive to be “re-traumatized” through the unsafe recall of memories. Therapies are body-centered, helping the client to pay attention to  “present bodily experience,” Gendlin”s “felt sensing,” the crux of Focusing. They also use “anchoring” and other techniques to produce a therapeutic setting where memories can be “re-experienced” within a safety that allows for “carrying forward.”

   There are also approaches to treatment which emphasize supporting couples working through sexual abuse issues. One such is Laura Davis, Allies In Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child. Read inspiring reviews of this book and the comfort it brings at

You’ll find more books here:

   Some therapies that are especially useful in helping people to work through flashbacks and other symptoms, with empathy and support are:

Focusing-Oriented Therapy (FOT): read about Focusing and Trauma at and find additional Certified Professionals who do FOT  at

Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing at

Mary Armstrong’s work on Focusing and EMDR at

Hakomi Body-Centered Therapy: description at Hakomi Institute at and  Hakomi Resources at

Find links to free articles, personality tests, multi-media Self-Help training, Classes and workshops

Dr. Kathy McGuire, Director

Creative Edge Focusing (TM)

The site of new insights and creative solutions is at the edge of what is already known. This edge, The Creative Edge, holds implicit within it all past and future knowing about the problem, more than could ever be put into words in a linear way 

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