Sunflower Mind: The embodied & relational edge of Focusing-oriented therapy

Focusing is based on our ability to experience and process a bodily felt sense. This course describes what makes this possible, how it relates to fostering therapeutic change, and how to apply it effectively in therapy. 

The Sunflower Mind metaphor reflects the focus on interaction, as opposed to one-person psychology. It is consistent with the neuroscience conception of the mind as an embodied relational process.

The course is a highly experiential integration of clinical practice with neuroscience and somatic psychology, especially the Polyvagal Theory and an embodied approach to trauma. 

We will explore the physicality of our relational patterns, and how to harness the transformative power of creatively working with embodied experience. 

This course is suitable for experienced Focusers as well as beginners. If you don’t know Focusing, you will get a short introduction to Focusing (self-learning).

In addition to our sessions together as a group, you will be assigned to ongoing Focusing partnerships between sessions. 

Before each class, you will receive study material (video lecture and/or PDF) to prepare for the session.

See below: Why this course? | Why this instructor? | Curriculum | Practical details.

Why this course?

Focusing is based on our ability to experience and process a bodily felt sense. This course provides an in-depth understanding of the underlying process. 

Much of our functioning happens at an implicit rather than explicit level. We cannot force change from a cognitive, top-down perspective. It is much more effective to be in touch with our bottom-up processes. We do this through embodied mindfulness, i.e., the ability to sense into our bodily experience and make sense of it experientially.

The phrase “embodied mindfulness” emphasizes the role of bodily experience. A felt sense is not a disembodied experience. It literally involves sensing into something that is happening in the body. Something physical.

When you notice a felt sense, something is happening in your body. The felt sense is how you experience that something is happening in your body in response to your situation, i.e., how your organism implicitly reorganizes.

Being aware of the deep connection between what we experience and the underlying embodied processes gives new depth to felt sense experience and to Focusing. It opens ways to work more intimately, more deeply, and more effectively, with our clients to co-create lasting change. 

Why this instructor?

Serge Prengel is a Focusing-oriented therapist. In addition to Focusing, he is also trained in Core Energetics and Somatic Experiencing.

Over the years, he has been exploring the similarities and differences between different approaches to better understand how change happens. He has conducted over 200 interviews with therapists, Focusers, researchers, and mindfulness practitioners.

He has led workshops in a variety of venues and conferences, such as Focusing, Somatic Experiencing, USABP, etc. He is known for his ability to foster a safe and stimulating space for groups to creatively explore embodied process.

See more about Serge Prengel


1. Embodied relationality

Conceptual learning: The physicality of felt experience, Reichian character styles, Polyvagal Theory, neuroception, and felt sense.

Clinical skills: Paying attention to the biological energy that emerges from interaction. Inhabiting the polyvagal self-states.

2. Two modes of attention: Focused and unfocused attention

Conceptual learning: Iain McGilchrist work on the Divided Brain.

Clinical skills: Inhabiting the state of focused attention, and the state of unfocused attention.

3. Relational implicit & embodied object relations

Conceptual learning: The conceptual layers that affect felt experience

Clinical skills: Literally “touching” the relational implicit (a protocol to direct the client’s attention away from purely conceptual and onto embodied experience) 

4. Seeing embodied patterns 

Conceptual learning: How the embodied patterns become visible.

Clinical skills: Recognize and embody patterns to help clients see them.

5. From oppression to liberation

Conceptual learning: Working with the energy embedded in embodied patterns to allow them to carry forward.

Clinical skills: Embodying the future self that is implicit in the present moment.

6. The orienting response to threat

Conceptual learning: The phases of the threat response, the context of bottom-up processes.

Clinical skills: Deconstructing what created the patterns. 

Practical details

You can take this course on its own, or as a part of the Integrative Focusing Therapy training program.

The live part of this course consists of 6 monthly online 2-hour sessions. Each live session includes a Q&A on the topic of the session, an experiential exploration of what it means to you, and an experiential application to therapy. We may use demos, as well as creative forms such as role-playing a client’s situation, or rotating therapists within the same session with a “client.”

Before each session, you have a video and/or reading about the Focusing theme of the session (plan on 30 to 60 minutes of study per session for the required material, more for optional material).

Between sessions, you have at least 2 study groups per month (preferably 3 if you can), where you practice the skills discussed at the previous session. You will be assigned to a small group in the first session of the course.

In addition to the 6 full-class sessions, each trainee will participate in a 90-minute small group session with Serge for feedback on their individual skills and how to improve them.

Of course, in this course as in all others, we pay utmost attention to fostering a sense of safety and connection.

This is a highly experiential course. It is expected that you will attend every session of the course. We understand that life can be unpredictable, and we allow for one missed session (which you must make up with class recordings).

The cost of this course is US $1,035 if you pay in 2 installments, or US $990 if you pay in full.

The next cohort will start in the Spring of 2024. It will be on a Wednesday or a Saturday, at a time convenient for people in many time zones (1 to 3 pm New York time).

If you are interested, please use the application form. Please tell me whether Wednesdays or Saturdays or both work for you.