Chasing a link from NancyLebovitz on LW, I've spent a few hours this week reading Focusing, by Eugene Gendlin, which reads like a New Age-y self-help manual, providing instructions on how to focus on a 'felt sense' and attain a 'body shift', or 'felt response' including some troubleshooting for the various steps, and then cramming in a whole new manual in the last chapter or two called The Listening Manual, which provides explicit instruction on total listening, active listening, and listening in a group. Despite the weird (to me) language, I saw enough similarities between focusing and techniques that have worked for me to suspect that at least parts of it are quite useful for teaching techniques that I mostly stumbled on, and possibly the whole thing really is as good as Gendlin thinks it is.
A very quick summary, with excerpts from the notes I took.( Summary )
And a random quote from the troubleshooting section, quoted for truth: "Most people treat themselves less like a friend than like a roommate they don't like"
And now for how this relates to the 'best' known therapy out there, CBT. In short: it doesn't. Most of the techniques I was taught that are explicitly part of CBT seem to be the complete opposite of focusing. For example, let's say I have a party to go to, and I feel scared/anxious/reluctant about going. If i was CBTing, I would list out all the things I was afraid of with regards to the party, recognise them for the exaggerated/distorted ideas they were, and come up with more realistic/balanced alternatives for those thoughts, combined with a hefty dose of "and what's so bad about that?" directed at those fears. If I was focusing, I would tell myself "ok, I think I'm afraid of specific things X,Y,Z about the party, but I'll put those aside for now and see what my fear says if I listen to it directly", and then do so. So one involves enlisting your rational side, both to come up with reasons for your emotions and then to counter those reasons, while the other is more of a Zen thing of approaching the problem holistically and not analysing any of it. I was originally going to then draw some similarities between the steps of CBT and focusing, but the more I think about it the more it seems like there aren't any, and that a lot of the techniques that I've gotten reasonable mileage from have come from reading elsewhere or suggestions from my therapist that weren't directly related to the CBT framework.
I suspect that CBT is more popular partly because it's much easier to teach and apply, and because it looks and feels a lot more 'sciencey'. Also because I can't find any papers or studies anywhere about whether focusing actually gets better results than regular talk therapy, let alone the CBT branch.