Teaching Focusing by Instancing the Felt-Sensing and Direct Referent Formation Already Occurring



Eugene Gendlin’s first insight around therapy patients and successful outcomes was that successful patients were doing something different. Even before he was able to fully articulate the process that they were doing, before it was called “Focusing”, this process was already happening for many people.


This processes of pausing, sensing into, and allowing a certain feel-quality to occur into our experiencing, then fine-tuning what comes by resonating with it and checking for right fit – these are not limited to therapy settings. They are common aspects of many creative endeavors, and for many who have a mastery of their craft. The instancing approach helps people identify and expand where they are already using this natural process.


This approach to teaching Focusing via instances is very similar to what Rachel Naomi Remen calls “The Discovery Model”.  It works primarily with the wisdom that dwells within the participants, more than that which is outside of them. Curiosity and attention are directed towards our own, and towards others’ experiencing. From this, many of the important aspects of the Focusing process can be found within oneself already, in some context.


This minimizes the tendency of participants to ask or wonder “if they are doing it properly”, or thinking of Focusing as something outside of their experience that needs to be learned. Instead, this helps them connect with their sense of grounded knowing in one area of their lives, and encourages it to generalize into other areas of their lives.


Another benefit here is that participants discover the numerous ways that Focusing is already happening in different areas of people’s lives, expanding the limiting belief that Focusing is only a self-help or therapy-type process.


The process of curiously inquiring into one’s own and others’ inner processes can build excitement, and sets a wonderful tone for continuous learning and growing.


There is a second, more advanced, form of instancing, where the teacher, guide, or coach learns to identify and then reflect back the individual micro-movements of Focusing. This can also be adapted for coaching and counseling.




a)      This method honors the reality that Focusing is a process that occurs naturally in many people.

b)      This minimizes a sense of student ignorance, of feeling “no good at it”, or that Focusing is something separate from their present living. One finds it first in themselves, so one has an anchor upon which to build additional learning.

c)       Once this base of experiential grounding of Focusing as a natural process (rather than something added) has occurred, then all of the traditional forms of teaching Focusing can be used in addition, with less confusion and sense of inadequacy early on.

d)      The Discovery Model is a wonderful process to participate in, with everyone’s experience being respected and low in judgmental feedback. This shifts the learning context away from Focusing as “something external to get”, and into an ongoing process of discovery

e)      This helps to frame Focusing as something that can occur or be done intentionally in the context of one’s living, rather than as something separate that is invoked while quiet. It encourages “mini-Focusing moments”

f)       In the Advanced Instancing, the more one can perceive the full process and its individual sub-movements of Focusing that are occurring, the more skillfully one can use that understanding to reflect, facilitate, support, and teach others.




a)      This is a different type of teaching process from the “expert” or “teacher  paradigm. It may be anxiety-provoking or feel unusual at first for the teacher, until one builds experience with it.

b)      The more natural the Focusing process seems, the less some may “get” the crucial distinction between being IN feelings, and the pausing and sensing-into of Focusing.

c)       They also may not appreciate how much formal Focusing training has to offer them in terms of expansion and refinements of their natural capacities. There are many rich and powerful subtleties of Focusing that may be missed if one relies ONLY on the instancing process for learning Focusing.



See http://www.serviceoflife.info/focusing/instances1.html  for  Perceiving Focusing Instances – an appreciative approach to teaching Focusing, which contains information and suggestions on this process.  


See http://www.serviceoflife.info/focusing/instances2.html  for some notes from a several week class that Bruce Gibbs gave using the instancing process as the primary way to introduce and teach Focusing


See http://www.serviceoflife.info/focusing/instances3.html  for a description of how perceiving (and, at times)  reflecting each of the steps of Focusing can be helpful in teaching and learning Focusing



Focusing Shareware - We offer this material for you to use freely in leading workshops, teaching Focusing, or working with clients. Please contact us with regard to any other uses of this material.