Focusing for Parents

by Scott Noelle

I often recommend a self-awareness and emotional healing technique called Focusing. This article provides an overview of Focusing and links to further resources...

What is Focusing?

When you have a “gut feeling” or an unclear sense of “something in me trying to tell me something,” Focusing helps you transform that fuzzy “felt sense” into clear understanding. This makes it an excellent technique for enhancing your skill at receiving Inner Guidance and knowing what’s truly authentic for you.

Focusing is a formal way to do something that actually comes naturally to all human beings, but it’s largely trained out of us by a culture that tends to devalue the feeling/emotional aspect of our humanity, substituting Emotional Guidance with rules, roles, and “shoulds.” Learning the Focusing technique begins with a more structured format and, over time, evolves into a general way of being — both in relation to yourself and to the world around you.

My partner Beth does Focusing in a somewhat formal way and finds it especially helpful for getting to the bottom of unresolved emotional issues, often transforming major upsets into major breakthoughs.

I tend to use Focusing less formally, as a kind of ongoing background process. It especially helps me express my thoughts more clearly when I’m writing and coaching, both of which require me to put into words concepts that I at first only feel intuitively.

Focusing especially helps us connect with Inner Guidance and creativity in stressful parenting situations.

Focusing can be done with a partner, where one person is the focuser and the other plays the role of “guide” or “companion.” Sometimes I take that role when I’m coaching parents. You can also do solo Focusing — either as a formal practice or “on the fly”: whenever some emotionally charged issue or a need for clarity arises.

Learning Focusing

The formal Focusing technique was first devised by the philosopher and psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin back in the 1960s and ’70s. His classic text on the subject is called, aptly, Focusing. This relatively short book includes step-by-step instructions for Focusing, as well as a section on active listening skills that enhance Focusing with a partner (and communication in general). The Focusing Institute, has a website with resources for learning both traditional and alternative Focusing techniques. (See below.)

My favorite Focusing teacher is Ann Weiser Cornell, who was a student of Gendlin and is now one of the leading authorities on Focusing. Her approach, called “Inner Relationship Focusing,” is even simpler and more intuitive than traditional Focusing, in my opinion. Ann has taught me Focusing through her books and in private Focusing sessions where she served as my Focusing guide/teacher, both in person and by telephone. I heartily recommend her.

Focusing Links

If you want to learn focusing from a book, I recommend Ann’s primer:
Ann also has some excellent articles online. If you only have time to read one more article about Focusing it should be this one:
Karyn Greenstreet’s excellent interview about Focusing:
Ann’s website has much more:
And here’s a link to the Focusing Institute’s concise description:

Updated: October 2023