Gestalt/Experiential Training of Maine

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Gendlin’s Original Six Steps

FocusingBookWhen Gendlin and his colleagues discovered that people who focused had better psychotherapy outcomes than those who didn’t, he set out to come up with a way to turn non-focusers into focusers.

It was with this in mind that he put together the original Six Steps: a set of instructions to locate and make use of the felt sense.

The original steps include instructions not to slavishly follow the six steps if there’s anything about them that makes it more difficult to focus. Since Gendlin first wrote his book Focusing, many others have adapted focusing instructions in ways they felt more more complete or accessible, or worked better for different populations or problems.

Still, you might as well hear it straight from the source.

I don’t know if it goes without saying — Gendlin says it explicitly as he introduces his steps — but it’s much easier to learn focusing with someone that by reading about it by oneself.

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Cornell’s “Three Key Aspects of Focusing”

awcThe GETME training groups are now diving into Focusing. (See What is Focusing.)

Ann Wieser Cornell is probably the best known focusing teacher after Gene Gendlin. In this essay, Cornell talks about what she sees as the key aspects of Focusing, and what makes it different from other personal growth approaches: The Felt Sense, the Focusing Attitude, and Focusing’s Philosophy of Change.

Cornell’s most famous book is The Power of Focusing.

Three Key Aspects of Focusing

What is Focusing?

GeneIn the 1950s, at Carl Rogers’ counseling center at the University of Chicago, researchers were trying to figure out why some people did very well in therapy, and others less well. They listened to thousands of hours of recorded counseling sessions trying to find the factors that might be making a difference. They tested and discarded many, many hypotheses in their search.

Gene Gendlin and others began to notice that certain clients were readily able to make contact with their inward, bodily-felt experience, while others were not. Those clients who, during therapy, would slow down, grow quiet, perhaps close their eyes, and really try to hone in on how their experience feels to them — and then stay with that experience — tended to do much better. These were clients who could and did gradually unfold and make explicit their emotionally-tinged, meaning-laden, physically felt experience in relation to whatever it was they were talking about.

Gendlin eventually named this activity “focusing,” and he called the thing being focused on the “felt-sense.” Gendlin made clear that he did not “invent” the felt sense or focusing, but simply gave names to observed human experience and activity.

The felt sense is often ignored or missed because it’s usually unclear or “murky” when we first become aware of it. Gendlin observed that by paying attention to the felt sense in a welcoming, gentle, respectful and sustained way (i.e., with the “focusing attitude”), we can experience a “felt shift”: a sense of relief, and often a sense of direction. In this way, we “carry forward” our experience, rather than staying stuck.

Given the therapeutic advantage of knowing how to focus, it seemed to the research team that it would be useful to be able to teach non-focusers to engage with themselves in this way. Formal Focusing, as developed by Gendlin, is a six-step, structured procedure for assisting people to locate and make use of their felt sense.

Once you learn focusing, it’s something you can do alone or with a partner, as part of therapy or totally separate from therapy. Many people experience it as a great “discovery” that is terrifically life-enhancing.

Along the way, Gendlin also created an approach to therapy he called “Focusing-Oriented Therapy.” This makes use of what we know about focusing, but does not involve the formal teaching of the six steps. While the client will learn focusing in bits and pieces during the course of a therapy, the therapist makes use of his or her own felt-sense during all sessions.

If you’re interested to learn more about focusing, there’s no better resource than, the website of the The Focusing Institute.

Gene Gendlin Memorial Service

Eugene_GendlinGene Gendlin (1926-2017), one of the true giants of Experiential Therapy, passed away on May 1st of this year. If you are interested, there is going to be a public memorial service for him in NYC on Saturday, August 12th. The event will also be live streamed on youtube if you are unable to attend in person.

Gendlin was studying philosophy (in particular, phenomenology) at the University of Chicago at that same time that Carl Rogers had his counseling research center there. Rogers and his colleagues, Gendlin realized, were doing a kind of applied phenomenology with their clients. Gendlin became part of their group, and Rogers and Gendlin came to deeply influence each other.

Gendlin completed his PhD., taught philosophy for decades, and considered himself primarily a philosopher. But he also trained as a therapist with Rogers’ group, and was an important player in the research and development of Person-Centered Therapy.

I’ll say a little more about Gendlin in my next post.

Experiential Therapy Training Group 2017-2018

GETME is Proud to Announce the 2017-2018 Experiential Therapy Training Group:

Listening11This is a group to introduce clinicians to Person-Centered, Gestalt, and Focusing, giving a thorough grounding in the basics, up to an intermediate level. We will also begin the study of Emotion-Focused Therapy, which is an integration of these approaches. The training will consist of six units, each building on the last, exploring the basic theory and practice of experiential/humanistic and neo-humanistic therapies.

The group will meet approximately twice a month, from September until June. There will be readings assigned for each unit. Each meeting will last two hours, and will include didactic lecture, discussion, and experiential exercises. Members will then have the opportunity to bring the interventions back to their practices, and bring their questions back to the group. In this fashion, over the course of the year, members will gradually integrate the fundamentals of experiential therapy into their personal therapeutic repertoire.

A key element of the training is the experiential exercises, where participants will have the opportunity to observe, receive, perform, and discuss each of the interventions we study.

Topics include:

Experiential Tracking/Following, including:

  • Empathic Attunement
  • Contact & Awareness
  • Projections, Introjections, Retroflections, Deflections, and Confluence
  • Depth of Experiencing
  • Emotional Process Diagnosis

Experiential Exploration, Including:

  • Exploratory Questions
  • Evocative Reflections
  • Empathic Conjectures
  • Refocusing
  • Process Observations

Initial Process-Guiding Interventions, Including:

  • Process Suggestions
  • Clearing a Space
  • Experiential Search

Trainer: Tom Kubasik, LCPC

When: Every other Friday Morning, from 10-12, beginning Autumn 2017 (Wednesday mornings may also be an option, if that works better for participants.)

Where: 131 Spring Street, Portland, Maine


  • Fully Licensed: $40/meeting
  • Conditionally Licensed: $30/meeting
  • Graduate Students: $20/meeting

Certificate of Contact Hours available.

Minimum of 3, Maximum of 6 participants


For more information, call Tom Kubasik, LCPC: (207) 699-4979