Focusing-Oriented Therapy Training

What sets our training apart?

Our training includes a large component of hands-on, small-group practice of focusing sessions. Break-out groups are facilitated by experienced focusing-oriented therapists, so you receive immediate feedback and supervision. In addition, your direct experience of focusing-oriented therapy (FOT) will inform your work with clients.  When you experience the benefits of focusing yourself, you will be more motivated and confident about incorporating this method in your own practice.

Our courses teach the basics of focusing and move on to more advanced methods for working with trauma, addictions, and dreamwork. But from the beginning, we have woven in safety measures for victims of trauma, especially important when asking clients to turn their attention inward, and into their bodies. FOT will teach you how to tread safely and gently, and to access implicit memories and associations not available with more cognitive avenues of therapeutic exploration.

The courses are open to all practitioners and graduate students in the mental health professions, including psychology, psychiatry, counseling and social work. Those interested in becoming certified focusing-oriented therapists need to be certified in their own profession, and to have taken 16 training days including Focusing I and Trauma I and II (or equivalent).

Our focusing courses are designed to be flexible, practical and affordable. Periodically, we will offer one-day workshops on a specific focusing skill such as asking in, or working with the inner critic, and will choose the topics based on the needs and interests of the students. Cost for 2-day workshops is $399 ($273 for students), and $200 per one-day workshop.

Who should attend?

These focusing courses are aimed at psychotherapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and other practitioners and students in the mental health professions who want to bring a body-oriented, experiential focus to their psychotherapy practice. Both new and continuing students of focusing-oriented therapy are welcome. The courses lead to certification with The International Focusing Institute (

About focusing-oriented therapy

Why doesn’t psychotherapy succeed more often? And when it does, what is it that sets that therapy apart? Focusing was developed by Eugene Gendlin in response to these questions. What Gendlin found was that the clients who naturally sensed inside in a particular way got the most from therapy. Focusing was developed as a methodical way to teach this inner sensing, and it can help your clients get the most from their therapy with you.

Focusing can be applied to virtually any methodology to deepen and enrich the process, and research has shown it to lead to better therapy outcomes and increased session effectiveness. It has been found to be helpful in working safely with trauma and PTSD,  depression, anxiety, grief, body image issues and to enhance self awareness, self esteem and creativity.


The next Introduction to Focusing-Oriented Therapy:

We typically offer weekend-long introduction to FOT twice a year. There are no dates set yet for 2019. The best way to keep informed of upcoming courses is to join our email list, which is used mainly for course notifications. We promise not to inundate you with emails!

Focusing Certification Program, 2018-2020 – a two-year seminar program leading to certification with The International Focusing Institute is now under way.  See dedicated certification web page (under Focusing tab) for details.

This program is FULL.

Online Dream Study group. This program, beginning in mid-2019, will be aimed a therapists who want to learn and practice a simple, reliable way to constructively work with dreams in your practice. Join this small group as  together we learn to understand the unique language of dreams. Right now we are seeking expressions of interest. Contact lae(at) to be put on the wait list. The course will follow the book: The Clinician’s Guide to Dream Therapy (working title) forthcoming from Routledge, summer 2019.

Registration links will be posted about two months prior to each course. Sign up for our newsletter to be informed of future course dates.

Dr. Leslie Ellis is also available on a contract basis to provide advanced trauma training to therapists, workshops on focusing, and for dream study groups to teach and inform therapists interesting in doing dreamwork.

Detailed Course Descriptions

Focusing I: Finding the Way In – Introduction to Focusing Oriented Therapy

Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy is one of the most effective and respectful ways to bring your clients into their felt experience and their bodies. It begins with mindfulness, but takes it several steps further, facilitating right brain communication and providing practical techniques that are supported by the latest research in the neurobiology of emotion and attachment.

You will leave this workshop ready to try using focusing in your therapy practice. The course provides an overview of focusing methods, including Eugene Gendlin’s ‘discovery’ of focusing and a walk through the focusing steps, as well as an overview of how current focusing experts have adapted these methods. There will be lots of experiential practice focusing and leading sessions.

This is course is designed as a stand-alone course, as well as the first step in the process of becoming certified as a focusing-oriented therapist.

Focusing II: Finding the Way Forward – Intermediate Focusing Skills

Now that you have the basics of focusing and a clear sense of how to work with trauma memory and vicarious trauma in the body, this is a chance to deepen your focusing skills.

This workshop will focus on deep listening, therapist-client attunement and other skills that facilitate the ‘Asking In’ stage of focusing. Included will be ways to feel and interpret your body sense of the interaction with your client. Gendlin believes that focusing works because your body both picks up and sends out more information than you are aware of, and this interaction is what enables therapy to move forward.

The workshop will also deepen the trauma and focusing skills you have learned. You will enhance your understanding of how to move in a sure-footed way from the past to present-moment processing. While the past affects us all, it is always  implicit in the present moment. According to Gendlin, good therapy involves more than simply helping our clients understand and come to terms with the past; it also brings something new and forward-moving to the current life situation.

This two-day session will also be an opportunity for discussion of questions that have come up for students as you begin to use focusing more in your practice. Some of the common obstacles or challenges of using FOT will be addressed.

Focusing III  Finding the Way Home – Advanced Focusing Skills.

While in the Intermediate course, we focused on the therapeutic relationship, reading one’s own body and the ‘field’ between client and therapist, this session will focus on what brings lasting change within the client and how best to support this process through focusing. Special attention will be paid to working with difficult clients and navigating complex sessions. There will be a review of trauma-informed focusing-oriented therapy. In addition, there will be a review of Gendlin’s relevant theory on personality change, what brings in the ‘new’ and how to help in-session changes last. Participants are encouraged to bring their most challenging case examples.

Trauma I: Working Safely with Embodied Trauma Memory

In  this course, you will learn how to begin to notice, unearth and safely work with traumatic memories stored in the body. For many who have suffered from trauma, especially very early in life, the key to healing is through the somatic messages the body sends, if one knows how to listen. This course will look at nature of trauma memory to gain an understanding of how these memories are stored and why a mind-body approach is called for. There will be discussion of the current trend towards body-oriented therapies to treat trauma, and details about how focusing-oriented therapy fits into the clinical picture. Practical safety techniques, including how to close sessions safely and stay within the therapeutic window will be introduced, and there will be experiential and hands-on practice.

Trauma II: Working with Vicarious and Intergenerational Trauma

This course will review the basics of trauma treatment and then focus on inter-generational trauma. It will provide a deep understanding of how trauma gets passed down through families and the ways this can show up in a focusing session. The neurobiology of a vicarious trauma, and how mirror neurons work will be part of the discussion.

Wherever possible, the workshop will present concepts in an experiential and hands-on way. Participants will learn to listen to the bodies of their clients for things that they may not be saying out loud. They will learn to work with implicit memories, silent states and places of trauma that occurred very early in life. There will also be a discussion of vicarious trauma for therapists, and self-protection and self-care.

Focusing-Oriented Dreamwork

This course, which is open to all levels of focusing experience, combines the power of focusing-oriented therapy with experiential dream work techniques to deepen and accelerate the process of therapy. Research has shown that most therapists are not comfortable or well versed in dream work, yet working with dreams is effective and truly engages the client in therapy. Dreamwork is more accessible than you think. The key is understanding how the client’s felt sense is always an accurate interpreter of dreams, so you don’t need a lot of theory or specialized knowledge… more a sense of the language of dreams, and some tools to help clients find their own ‘aha’ moments.

The best way to learn the language of dreaming is through experience. For this reason, there will be lots of experiential practice in this workshop, with time for both group and personal dream exploration. Gendlin and most prominent dream theorists believe that dreams always brings something new and ‘life-forward’ and that working with them is one of the best ways to access our deep, implicit knowledge. Discover pathways through the body and the imagination that you can use with clients, and with your own dreams.

To ground dream experience in clinical practice, Leslie Ellis will present current research into the therapeutic use of dreams, offer a distillation of some of the current thinking about dreamwork and point students to further resources if they are interested. She will also present her research and method for using FOD to work with PTSD nightmares. However, most of the learning will be experiential, and participants will leave with a greater appreciation for the wisdom of dreams and how to work with them.

Focusing work with addictions

Do you find working with clients who are struggling with addiction issues challenging – or simply want to learn more about this resilient population?  This course, led by two Focusing-Oriented therapists who have extensive experience in the addiction field, provides information and powerful tools to aid your work.

We will begin by outlining the basics of working with clients who have addiction issues, including current addiction treatment theories and models, community resources, and family dynamics. We will then, through the use of experiential exercises and case examples, explore ways in which the use of a Focusing Oriented approach benefits both client and therapist. Focusing can support clients’ unique and varied needs while also providing therapists with simple, highly effective resources for self-care.

This course is facilitated by Judy Lyon, former Aurora Centre Lead Addictions Counsellor and Focusing Institute Certifying Coordinator; and by Donna Steadman, Focusing Institute Coordinator-In-Training and former Langley Family Services Addiction Counsellor.

Focusing, Attachment and Neuroscience

This workshop will provide participants with:

– an overview of current affective neuroscience research with an emphasis on how it  supports the use of focusing-oriented therapy.

– the four key ingredients, informed by neuroscience, that make therapy work

– include relevant ideas from Eugene Gendlin’s philosophy

– ground these ideas with clinical examples informed by ‘modern attachment theory’ and knowledge of how trauma affects the brain

– provide experiential learning wherever possible

Current findings in interpersonal neurobiology are providing scientific support for more emphasis on whole-brain approaches in clinical practice that use empathy, emotion, attachment theory and other relational approaches to psychotherapy. These ‘softer’ approaches have previously been largely ignored as brain researchers favored study of the more cognitive aspects of the brain functioning in isolation. However, there is currently a flood of research calling for psychotherapy to improve its use and understanding of non-verbal, right-brain, attuned communication within therapy, and focusing offers a ready-made protocol which does just that.

This lecture will help FOTs understand the science behind why focusing works, provide new language for introducing clients to focusing, and help FOTs to concentrate on skills specific to client neural integration.

Trauma Treatment: An Introduction to the basics of current mind/body approaches

This two-day course will provide the very basics of approaching the treatment of trauma, with a focus on where to begin with new clients, and how and why it is critical to promote a sense of safety. Dr. Leslie Ellis will provide participants with an overview of current concepts based on the latest interdisciplinary research that is transforming how we treat trauma.

Topics covered include:

Types of trauma and how to tailor treatment:

  • slow going: how to assess for trauma in a therapeutic way
  • single-incident vs. complex trauma: how treatment progression differs
  • the basics of understanding and treating PTSD

Trauma in the body:

  • the basics of the body’s response to trauma (polyvagal theory)
  • how trauma changes the brain, and implications for treatment

Stages of trauma treatment

  • creating a sense of safety, a therapeutic alliance
  • resourcing, addressing current crises and the clients’ life situation
  • working with the trauma itself, staying in the ‘window of tolerance’
  • understanding attachment patterns and changing self states in trauma work

Vicarious and intergenerational trauma

  • how trauma is passed on through generations (an interpersonal neurobiology lens)
  • how to prevent vicarious traumatization and burnout

Supervision for Advanced FOT candidates (by invitation)

Those pursuing FOT certification with the international Focusing Institute must log 50 supervision hours, but there is an opportunity to do so efficiently and affordably in our supervision group. (All of the regular coursework also has a supervision component, so by the time you have taken all the courses, you will have logged about half your supervision hours. You can ask us for details on how to log hours.)

Supervision dates, generally the first Sunday of the month, $80 per 3-hour session, 9:30 am to 12:30 pm.


Leslie Ellis, Ph.D, RCC, has been practicing and teaching FOT for more than a decade. She is Vice President and a certifying coordinator with The International Focusing Institute. She has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology with a specialty in Somatic Psychology. She received her MA in Counselling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. She is a psychotherapist in private practice in both North Vancouver and Vancouver with areas of specialty that include complex trauma, depression and anxiety. She has written book chapters on focusing and dreams in a two-volume textbook on focusing and another on clinical approaches to dreams and PTSD nightmares. She has founded a Vancouver-based FOT training program for therapists, and offers continuing training and supervision for those interested in learning and practicing FOT.

Additional instructors and facilitators include Donna Steadman, Shaun Phillips, Judy Lyon, Jack Wong, Mary Ann Pelzer, Karen Coulombe, Dean Diamond, Shaila Patel and Priscilla Coleff.


All two-day workshops run  from 9:30 to 3:30 and cost $399 (includes GST). Student rates are available. One-day workshops are $200. Registration will be available on-line at this page for all workshops (you can pay by visa, paypal or cheque).  You can reserve your spot by phone or email:  contact Leslie Ellis at (604) 787-6430 or email  If you are planning to attend a workshop, please let us know as early as possible. Cancellations: 50% refund within one week or more prior to the event, no refund within 48 hours of event date.

(Read more about our Focusing-Oriented Therapist training.)



I can say without hesitation that the FOT program is the best training I have ever had! I get so much out of every session; I highly recommend Leslie Ellis’ courses. I have been working in the addictions field for almost six years, with a clientele who often use drugs or alcohol to manage painful feelings brought on by childhood trauma. Through Leslie’s workshops, I have been learning how to use Gendlin’s “Focusing” approach, which is proving to be an invaluable therapeutic tool. Leslie combines her experience as a therapist and gentle teaching style, to create interesting and challenging experiential workshops. I find them helpful and enjoyable, and I have no doubt that once I have completed her certification program, I will be well-grounded in this wonderful modality.

Donna Steadman, RCC, Langley, BC

I am truly amazed at the power of focusing as I work with my clients. It is so profound!

Marianna Terrett, MA, PhD, RCC

I have appreciated Leslie’s thoughtful approach to teaching, your support and patience as I learned FOT.  Learning FOT has made such a difference in my practice! So many of my clients have come to love doing Focusing because they experience such positive shifts.

Nadine Hope, MA, RCC

I’ve been loving the course. I have to say that since starting this program I have improved so much in my counselling skills.  I feel so much more confident.
Angela Caruk, RCC

Leslie is a master in the field of Focusing Oriented Therapy and Trauma. Her work has touched the lives of many for more than a decade. Her professional skills, ethics and compassion make her highly sought out by many organizations and individuals. Leslie is excellent at facilitation and collaborating with communities and organizations. She is especially gifted at developing and delivering meaningful cross cultural therapy programs that bring relevant and current practical skills to therapists working with complex trauma. What I personally love most about Leslie is her willingness to not only teach what she has learned, but her vision to research, expand and grow what is already there, for the service of others. She comes from the heart and uses her head in all the right ways.

Shirley Turcotte, RCC, SFTT, Vancouver, BC

Leslie Ellis does an excellent job of presenting the concepts and process of using Focusing as a therapeutic technique. She not only explains the process in a clear way, she organizes her course so that we can learn about focusing by experiencing it through safe and insightful exercises and by watching videos of actual sessions using Focusing in therapy. When I left I felt like I had a clear understanding of the process, the differences in various approaches to Focusing and could begin immediately and safely applying what I learned with my clients. I look forward to further developing my understanding and skills in the advanced courses she will be offering.

Charlotte Underwood, M.A., L.M.H.C., La Conner, Washington

I took the Introduction to Focusing-Oriented Therapy workshop and felt that Leslie was a brilliant, supportive and encouraging instructor. She was able to create a safe and comfortable environment able to meet a wide range of learning needs. Her interest, passion, professional experience and skillset for focusing-oriented therapy were evident throughout the workshop as she was able to create and foster a solid foundation for learning for her participants. Furthermore, she effectively facilitated a group energy that was conducive for the generation of my own interest in focusing necessary to incorporate it into my professional practice as a social worker.

Ryna Olonan, Vancouver, BC