Gendlin Focusing (A brief guide)

In this article, we will be discussing the topic: Gendlin Focusing. We will be looking at the definition and nature of focusing, which is a psychotherapeutic process in the field of psychology, introduced by Eugene Gendlin. Towards the end, we will be answering questions related to the technique of focusing

Gendlin Focusing

Focusing is used as an approach or technique in psychotherapy, as part of the treatment plan. It is a type of treatment that the therapist or the psychologist uses to help those seeking treatment to focus their attention on their bodily sensations. These sensations are termed “felt senses”. 

Gendlin focusing is one of the best treatment techniques that can be administered for those who find it difficult to put their thoughts and emotion into concrete terms. Certain clients face difficulties in expressing their emotions and thought process in words. They find the articulation phase challenging and uncomfortable. Gendlin focusing works best for such clients.

The bodily sensations or the so-called “felt senses” helps in providing accurate information about the sensations felt by the client in their body concerning particular thoughts or emotions. This is extremely important to the smooth working of focusing therapy, as its goal is to help the client be completely aware and move along with the pace of these sensations for their complete understanding.

Initiation of Gendlin focusing therapy

The therapeutic and unique technique of focusing was developed and is the brainchild of Eugene Gendlin. Gendlin, being a student of Carl Rogers, received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and interestingly, his theories and viewpoints on psychotherapy managed to influence the beliefs about psychotherapy, at large. Gendlin holds the position of a contemporary psychotherapist and a philosopher. 

The idea of the development of the focusing technique came into being when Gendlin began wondering why therapy worked for some, and not others. He eventually gained insight into the matter, when he noticed how some individuals expressed a tendency to focus on vague feelings and experiences they endured, which they could not put into words. 

Gendlin observed and noted the skills different clients demonstrated, while in therapy and deconstructed these skills into a step-based process which he called “focusing”. He even wrote a book, outlining the nature and relevance of this technique in the year 1981 that goes by the name, “focusing”. 

Things were taken to a notch higher when the Focusing Institue was opened in New York, in the year 1986. The institute comprises professionals from all over the world, certified in the approach of focusing, newsletters, offer conferences, and an online library with research-related content and other relevant articles.

The theory of focusing

The theory of focusing holds a high level of similarity to the person-centered approach developed by Rogers. It works under the presumption that people have an innate ability to know themselves, explore and learn about their true selves, and possess the answers in themselves, that they are seeking. Gendin focusing is built on the concept that any client knows themselves the best than the therapist can ever hope to. 

However, the “knowing” here refers to the awareness of the body and its different forms of sensations. In focusing, the client and the therapist work together to figure out the bodily sensations of the client accurately and maneuver them for future situations. 

Besides, the therapeutic technique of focusing operates on the belief that change is more than a mere verbal process. When people express their emotions and feelings through words, they can gain a surface level and will be able to process their emotions. However, focusing therapy aims to help the clients earn a deeper knowledge of their felt senses. Therapists and professionals believe that gaining a better knowledge of these felt senses helps them to flourish in therapy, work their way through their core problems, and get rid of chronic anxiety and tension from the body through bodily changes. 

Sub techniques

Focusing therapy has been described as multi-dimensional and one that is characterized by specificity. It differs from person to person and from one situation to another. Therefore, focusing therapy is not used with a specific agenda or procedure in line. It depends upon the type of client and their needs. There exists no particular format for any of the sessions involved in this therapy. 

There are certain techniques therapists use to facilitate Gendlin Focusing. They are as follows:


Dis-identification, as the term suggests, aims to separate the client from their unknown feelings and emotions. fo r instance, when a client expresses uncertainty or hesitance concerning a particular emotion or thought, the therapist, using the technique of dis-identification, helps the client to separate the “I’ factor from the unknown feeling, emotion, or thought. 

Further, the client is encouraged to pay attention to the bodily sensations they experience when the unknown emotion or thought emerges. Decoding these bodily reactions and sensations helps the client to gain some level of awareness of their issues and blockages. 

The joker question

Sometimes, the therapist attempts to employ the joker question. Joker questions attempt to revert the lead to the client when the client tends to lose focus on their bodily sensations and their current state of affairs. The question can look something like this; “what would you want to do at this moment?”, or “how would you like me to help you out in this situation?”. 


The technique of bodywork focus on the posture and gestures employed by the client, during therapy sessions. The therapist will proceed by asking the client about their gestures and meanings attached to those gestures by the client. Then, the therapist communicates with the client using the client’s style of communication and processing of information, about the various body sensations they experience for each gesture and posture. 

Benefits of Gendlin focusing

Gendlin focusing, when used in combination with other therapeutic approaches can deliver excellent results and scope for further exploration in the field of therapy. This therapeutic technique can also be applied to education and medicine. The benefits of Gendlin focusing are as given below:

  • Help the clients gain a better awareness of their innermost emotions, core beliefs, and thought process which in turn, helps them to immediately address the issues without any delay.
  • Helps the clients to detach themselves from belied systems and opinions about themselves and others that no longer serve the client in any way. It helps them cultivate healthy independence and increases their self-esteem. 
  • Helps the clients improve their decision-making skills, enhance their attentiveness and mindful responsiveness, and reduced tension and chronic anxiety. 
  • Helps in the enhancement of relationships and social skills. 


  • Focusing is difficult to be put into use with clients who suffer from multiple mental symptoms and disorders such as psychosis, schizophrenia, and personality disorders. 
  • Focusing therapy will be difficult for those who find it hard to be mindful and to put in efforts for developing the kind of insight required for this therapy
  • There is a lack of proper standardized training available or its requirement for the implementation of this approach. This raises questions on the validity of the approach. 
  • Focusing therapy is not recommended or encouraged for people who have undergone any kind of trauma. This is because, when they focus on the body sensations and try to be aware of them, it could trigger certain responses in them and cause panic in the client. This can be especially dangerous if the client is not ready for the experience. 

BetterHelp: A Better Alternative

Those who are seeking therapy online may also be interested in BetterHelp. BetterHelp offers plenty of formats of therapy, ranging from live chats, live audio sessions and live video sessions. In addition, unlimited messaging through texting, audio messages and even video messages are available here.

BetterHelp also offers couples therapy and therapy for teenagers in its platform. Furthermore, group sessions can also be found in this platform, covering more than twenty different topics related to mental health and mental illness. The pricing of BetterHelp is also pretty cost-effective, especially considering the fact that the platform offers financial aid to most users.


In this article, we discussed the topic: Gendlin focusing. We explored the nature and definition of focusing therapeutic technique, its origin and development, the theory of focusing, the various techniques used by therapists while using the focusing approach, and the benefits and limitations of Gendlin focusing.  

FAQs: Gendlin focusing

What is focusing in counseling?

Focusing in counseling refers to actively paying attention to what the client has to say and choosing a particular issue among the many presented, as the area of focus. It requires the therapist to provide undivided attention to the words, posture, gesture, and tone of voice of the client, without being clouded by one’s judgments, assumptions, or conclusions. 

The therapist/counselor must be able to catch up on the details of the client’s words and help the clients to feel comfortable and free to communicate openly and fearlessly. Focusing,  in counseling is similar to zooming in on a photo to view the details. In counseling, the counselor/therapist must be able to zoom in on the emotions and thought process of the client. 

What are the five stages of counseling?

The five stages that are prominent in the process of counseling are the building of a safe and trustful counseling relationship, the setting of short-term and long-term goals of counseling, planning and charting out the appropriate implementation of intervention techniques, and the terms and conditions of termination of the counseling process. These steps apply to all forms of therapy, irrespective of the type of therapeutic technique administered. 

How do you focus?

You can improve your ability to focus, by the application of the following methods:

Be aware of the existence and effects of distractions on your ability to focus. Once that is done, try to eliminate the distractions, one by one with willingness and sincere efforts.
Try to cut down your time spent on social media. Keep a tab on the amount of time you use for scrolling through various social media platforms and consciously place a limit on the same. 
Invest in protein-rich and food rich in the essential vitamins. Control your intake of processed food items and other forms of junk food. Fuel your body with the right kind of fuel.
Sleep. Sleep. And sleep enough. Make sure you get good quality, sufficient amount o sleep to restore your body’s lost energy and to keep you rejuvenated and mentally active.
Be mindful of the present moment. Catch yourself zoning out while working or doing something. Keep away from unnecessary loop of thoughts and try to keep your mind on what you’re involved in, at the moment. 
Indulge in smart work instead of mindless hard work. Make sure you possess the right kind of resources to achieve your goals and dreams. Work on learning more and gaining knowledge about your inner-self. 

How do you know if a counselor is right for you?

You need to ask certain questions to yourself and your intended counselor before you officially begin counseling/therapy. These questions will help you gain insight into your true needs and goals out of counseling and whether the current counselor is right for you. The questions are as follows:

Do you feel comfortable around your therapist?
Do you feel heard and understood by your counselor?
Do you feel that your counselor sincerely respects your boundaries?
Do you feel sidelined or encouraged by your therapist to learn and grow from your sessions?
Are you being challenged and made to be aware of your emotions and thoughts by your counselor?
Do you feel your therapist is being affected by your concerns and issues on an extreme level?


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