Eugene Gendlin is from Vienna, Asutria. He was born in 1926, and was later brought to the United States when his family fled the Nazis. He studied under Carl Rogers during the 1950, while attending the University of Chicago. His theories impacted Rogers’ own beliefs and his “experiencing” played a role in Rogers’ modern view of psychotherapy. Gendlin graduated from the University of Chicago and became part of the faculty there as a professor of philosophy and psychology.
Contribution to Psychology
Gendlin is known as the founder of Focusing. Throughout his time at the University of Chicago, Gendlin conducted many studies regarding counseling and psychotherapy. He was interested in determining what factors caused one particular therapy to be effective and another to be ineffective. Gendlin realized that the successful outcome of therapy was not solely the result of the technique being used, but the actions of the client as well. He recognized that most of the clients who achieved positive outcomes from therapy engaged in an internal focus of their own self-awareness, both physically and mentally. Gendlin referred to this awareness as a “felt-sense.”
Felt sense is what Gendlin called the perceived, non-verbal awareness of an experience occurring in the body. Felt sense is very different than a feeling or emotion. Gendlin stressed that a felt sense is not a clarity of any kind, but rather a sense that something, vague and unclear, is coming, whether an idea, a sentence, or an awareness of some particular event, trauma, or wound that occurred previously. The felt sense always captures the essence of the experience in a way that cannot be communicated verbally.
Through Focusing, a client attempts to verbalize, or form a description of the felt sense. When the right words are identified, they will fit and the focuser will usually experience an emotional reaction to the recognition and validation of the felt sense. As Gendlin observed people in general, and clients, he noticed that when people recognized the felt sense, those who would focus would pause and wait for the right description or words to accompany the felt sense. By doing so, the focuser would gain insight into the circumstances and would make progress away from the situation, through a felt movement (felt shift) and would effectively be able to move forward with better clarity and awareness, perhaps even developing new ideas and actions to facilitate growth.
Gendlin developed a six step process to Focusing, but it is often taught with four steps. Focusing is used throughout the world, and is can be performed between friends, not only in a clinical setting. Many people find the use of a journal or drawing tablet especially useful while Focusing, and this technique is extremely helpful to aid children in the process of focusing. Focusing can take several minutes or last much longer. Listeners are taught the art of Focusing and many listeners are licensed Focusing therapists, Focusing trainers, or Focusing-oriented life-coaches.