What Is Inner Relationship Focusing Therapy (IRFT)?
Have you ever felt frustrated that no matter how much work you’ve done on yourself, you still find yourself doing things you know you really don’t want to do, and not doing the things you believe you want to do?
Probably everyone has had this feeling. We keep trying harder and harder to change our “negative behavior patterns” and our “negative” thoughts and feelings. We deride ourselves for our lack of “discipline,” “willpower” or “self-control.” In the end we may throw up our hands and decide we have a “saboteur” inside us that we can’t get rid of.
What if you could get below all that? What if you could get to your subconscious feelings and the subconscious reasons for the emotions and behaviors that “don’t make sense” to you?
And what if understanding these reasons and feelings, and giving them a specific kind of attention, made it a whole lot easier to change in the ways you want?
Gene Gendlin and the Discovery of Focusing
Focusing therapy, also known as Focusing-Oriented Therapy or FOT, is based on the pioneering work of psychologist Dr. Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago. [read]
More than five decades ago, while conducting research into why some people got more out of therapy than others, Dr. Gendlin discovered that people who paid attention to subtle feelings within their bodies, which he called “felt senses,” changed most rapidly and effectively in therapy.
Trusting these inner senses, listening to them and understanding them, led people to reach a greater level of internal integration, a different state of inner harmony. From this discovery, Dr. Gendlin developed the mind-body self-awareness process that he called “Focusing,” to help people bring these deep inner feelings to the fore.[/read]
Inner Relationship Focusing (IRF)
Dr. Gendlin trained many people to take Focusing into the world. Probably no one has taken it further, or developed the theory and practice of Focusing more, than Ann Weiser Cornell. Ann calls her refinement of Gendlin’s method Inner Relationship Focusing or IRF. My way of practicing Focusing therapy has been greatly influenced by her brilliant work.
IRF involves a very special way of listening to all the different aspects of your inner self. [read]Instead of judging or correcting those inner feelings, you listen to them from a place of self-acceptance and compassion, until they are fully heard.
This leads to dramatic changes in how you feel inside and how you act outside, not by trying to change or “improve” yourself, but by spending time “being with” your inner self and listening to the story of why it feels what it feels and does what it does. Paradoxically, when we together fully give it this kind of radical acceptance and compassionate attention, it no longer stays “stuck,” and is free to change and grow.[/read]
An Emotion-Focused Individual Therapy
Inner Relationship Focusing Therapy, or IRFT, focuses on emotions to achieve deep inner change, but not in the way we normally think of emotions.
Below our surface-level thoughts and emotions are the deep bodily-felt feelings and sensations with meaning that Gendlin called “the felt sense.” Many leading-edge therapy approaches, like Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) and Somatic Experiencing (SE), have appropriated the term “felt sense,” but don’t use it in the way Gendlin truly intended.
Inner Relationship Focusing Therapy takes you below what you normally think and feel and connects you to the deeper feelings held in your body and your subconscious mind.[read] That may sound scary — what are you going to find there? But far more often than not, those deeper feelings are no worse and often a whole lot less distressing than the surface emotions we normally feel. In fact, getting in touch with them usually brings a feeling of relief. Bringing these buried and disconnected feelings into the conscious mind in the safe space of IRFT allows the healing powers of our mind and body to work the way they’re intended. [/read]
Can Self-Empathy Lead to Change?
But Inner Relationship Focusing Therapy is not only a way to work on problems; it’s a way but to reach an almost unimaginable level of self-acceptance, self empathy and self compassion. In IRFT, you experience, palpably and viscerally, the fact that there is nothing inside you that you need to reject or fear. [read]All of your inner thoughts and feelings, even the ones you least like, can be heard, understood, embraced and brought out of exile into the family of the self, where they can become transformed into sources of positive energy and growth.
Imagine discovering that you have no “bad” feelings or parts of yourself that must be permanently repressed, argued with or ignored — just parts that need to be deeply heard and understood by you. With IRFT, your inner relationship — your relationship with yourself and all the different parts of your self — is changed forever for the better.[/read]
Focusing Therapy Supervision
Inner Relationship Focusing supervision and training can deepen and enrich your work in whatever other therapeutic modalities you have training, including Somatic Experiencing, Internal Family Systems and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. As a Focusing-Oriented Therapist and clinical supervisor for more than 30 years, it would be my honor and pleasure to help you help your clients develop greater access to and trust in the transformative power of their own inner experience – and to help you in all ways to help your clients live better, happier and more fulfilling lives.
At this time, my practice is completely virtual, seeing clients through Zoom.
I am a licensed psychologist in Maryland, and also hold the PSYPACT license, which grants me the ability to practice Teletherapy in Washington DC, Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Washington state, Minnesota and 26 other states.