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Lieneke Hewlett Counselling Services

What is Focusing-Oriented Therapy?

Focusing-oriented therapy is a therapeutic approach that allows us to access the whole of an experience, rather than just the known pieces we are already mentally aware of. Including the whole 'felt sense' of an experience is essential to bringing forth lasting change because our issues are not just thoughts and emotions, but also patterns, habits, bodily responses and experiences. Rather than trying to affect change from intellectual insight alone, focusing-oriented therapy promotes a shift in the body and in the 'felt sense' of an experience, transforming patterns of thought, body phenomena and habitual feelings. Focusing-oriented therapy gently and profoundly gets to the root of an issue, bringing about comprehensive and lasting change.

The type of focusing-oriented therapy I practice (Focusing-Oriented Therapy and complex trauma, also Indigenous Psychotherapy) comes from working with the internationally recognized Canadian therapist and teacher, Shirley Turcotte. This approach was developed through years of her work with survivors of complex trauma, who experienced many types of issues. It addresses anxiety, depression, PTSD symptoms, stress, and many other issues implicitly in a client-centered, holistic, multicultural context. Focusing-oriented therapy is highly effective with many issues because it creates change at the source. What we find is that all our clients benefit from this approach, regardless of whether trauma is an issue or not.

Much recent brain and memory research supports this work; showing how the brain sorts memory, prioritizes experiences, and stores information.

Focusing-oriented therapy works so well for most issues (anxiety, depression, stress, addictions, parenting/children) and is so client-centered and culturally-inclusive that it is growing very quickly worldwide. Counsellors, psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, and many others are requesting our Indigenous Focusing-Oriented Therapy and complex trauma training programs. We find that other therapists are often amazed when they experience this therapeutic approach and almost always want to learn more. Deepening and enriching any treatment modality, focusing-oriented therapy provides the bodily-felt, experiential piece to therapy that is often critical for real and lasting change.

We try to explain  'focusing-oriented therapy' in words, but words can't convey it; ultimately, it is best understood experientially.

Couples Counselling and Focusing-Oriented Therapy

My couples work incorporates a variety of approaches (such as Focusing-Oriented Therapy, Bader-Pearson Developmental model, Brent Atkinson's model, Gottman's Method, Imago), and is guided by recent research. Extensive brain and couples research has led to a vastly improved outcome for relationship therapy. I use techniques that not only change awareness and thought, but facilitate transformation at the source of an issue.

To start, we often look at what needs are not being met and look at what changes we can make right away. There may be some small new habits that will help the process, or some changes in how time is spent. Part of this is looking at what's in the way of these positive changes and moving forward.

Long-term research studies have identified exactly what successful couples do differently than couples whose relationships eventually fail. There are fundamental habits that are so beneficial that relationships can last 90% of the time if these behaviors are used (Gottman, 1999).

However, the difficulty comes not so much in learning these successful behavior habits, but in switching to a state of mind calm and caring enough to use them! Brain research has helped us to understand why people repeatedly act in ways that undermine their relationships; our brains are hard-wired to produce negative emotional states when threats are perceived, either withdrawing or attacking. This of course makes it hard for us to think rationally and to behave in pro-social ways when we perceive a threat. In the end, getting into the right frame of mind becomes very important in allowing us to use the behaviors that work best. This is where focusing-oriented therapy and EFT can be very beneficial for couples, as they help to shift your state of mind. These processes can be learned so that you can shift your state of mind out of the fight/flight reaction to a more friendly attachment state. Shifting from a defensive state to a connective state allows partners to use new behaviors and to form new habits.

We may also chose to take a look at how core differences are affecting a couple and how these differences are perceived. Often, the content of a conflict revolves around a core difference, but it is not actually the main problem. Often, it is the use of certain behaviors/attitudes that are known to cause trouble in relationships that are causing the most problems.

My work is client centered, non-judgmental and multiculturally sensitive. I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you if you have any questions or concerns.