Sunday, November 11, 2007

Focusing and PE-EFT

Entry for 8 November 2007:

For several reasons, I haven’t really covered Focusing in my EFT courses here in Scotland. For one thing, there seem to be plenty of other people teaching Focusing in Scotland, even on our diploma course. I hate boring people by going over old stuff, and when I ask, it’s usually fairly far down people’s list of topics they want to hear about. So I haven’t been confident that I had anything distinctive to say about Focusing.

I do, however, like to cover either Focusing or Clearing a Space, and last summer in EFT we did the latter, so I thought I’d give Focusing a try in EFT-2 this time around. In addition, I’d picked up what looked to be a very nice video of Ann Weiser Cornell at the APA Humanistic Therapy conference last August. I really enjoy watching Ann work, and am intrigued by her radical approach to Focusing.

I had shown the first part of Ann’s DVD the previous night in EFT-3, and we really enjoyed what we’d seen. However, it felt very unstructured compared to the Process-Experiential version of Focusing, which is fairly close to classical Gendlinian Focusing. Drawing on Mia Leijssen’s writings on Focusing, it was an easy matter in 1991 for me to frame Focusing as a PE task. Ann’s Focusing, in contrast, feels more free flowing and elegant, with fewer different bits; for example, she doesn’t do clearing a space and doesn’t seem to do much with symbolizing and checking for fit. It is lovely to watch her radically accepting manner, but I wondered if it would prove to be confusing for my learners if I showed the DVD as an example of Focusing work while at the same encouraging them to practice the PE-EFT version. I decided to go for it, anyway.

Ann titles the video “Focusing with a Story-telling Client”, but in PE-EFT terms, the client expresses a mixture of externalizing, purely conceptual, and attending modes of engagement, and presents emotion-processing difficulties around secondary reactive (with some primary maladaptive) anger. He offers several markers: Narrative Pressure, Conflict Split, Unfinished Business.

Instead of following these other possibilities, we were struck by how Ann takes the client’s initial statement of problematic anger as a Focusing marker, and tracks this at least as far as the first 20 minutes of the sessions (as far as we’ve seen so far), even when the client goes off into narrative and abstraction. This generates a gradual deepening process, and results in kinds of therapeutic work which probably would not have occurred if one of the other tasks had been followed instead. It’s always fun to watch a master work with such familiar material in a different way!

Moreover, on this second viewing of the first part of the video, it because clear that Ann’s practice is not that far from classical (or even PE-EFT) Focusing work. There is a clear therapeutic task focus; Marker (Step 1) and Attending (Step 2) phases to the work also occur; she doesn’t do much explicit symbolizing or checking, but around minute 20, she begins to move to Asking (Step 4). That was good enough for me!

It became clear over the course of the rest of the training session that PE-EFT has a particular and useful take on Focusing:

1. PE-EFT articulates a clear set of markers for when to use Focusing in a systematic way, and when other tasks make more sense to implement.

2. Focusing micro-processes (articulated by Leijssen) -- such as checking, finding a working distance, and receiving -- support other PE-EFT tasks, especially Chairwork.

3. The Emotion-Focused Therapy perspective suggests the importance of an additional exploratory question in the Asking phase (Step 4): “What does it need?” This question produced several Felt Shifts last night.

4. The framework of multiple modes of engagement provides a useful way of looking at the different steps of Focusing:
-Step 2, Asking: Mindful Attending
-Step 3, Labelling/checking: Experiential Search
-Step 4, Asking: Experiential Search
-Step 5, Receiving: Appreciating
-Step 6, Carrying Forward: Action Planning

Note: Ann’s use of “something…” to point toward the unclear felt sense (or emotion scheme) is an excellent example of a response that supports client Experiential Search of the unclear edges of experience.

5. Self-soothing processes can be accessed using Focusing, and provide an alternative or complement to using a chair process for this.

6. Emotion scheme exploration could also be done using Focusing to help the client access the different elements of a felt sense: Perceptual-situational; Conceptual-verbal; bodily-expressive; experienced emotion; and action tendency.

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