Gestalt Therapy is a powerful experiential psychotherapy focusing
on contact and awareness in the here and now. By following their
client's ongoing process, with special attention to both the therapeutic
relationship and the client's style of interrupting that process,
the Gestalt Therapist can help their client to both work through
and move beyond their painful emotional blocks. This frees them
to begin to explore new behavior, first in the "safe emergency"
of the therapeutic relationship and/or group and then, as appropriate,
in the outside world. The emphasis of the therapy is not on talking
about what has happened but on fully experiencing both what is,
and what can be.
Unlike psychoanalysis, Gestalt therapy does not focus on talking
about the client's past. The past is not neglected, but its importance,
including that of one's childhood, is not in what happened then,
but in how it affects now. What we experienced as we developed,
and how we adapted to that experience, come into the present as
both our "unfinished business" and our character styles,
or ways of being in the world. Gestalt therapists deal directly
with these elements in the "here and now", working with
contact styles and focused awareness to help their clients complete
and work through unfinished business and learn to experience and
appreciate their full beingness. By learning to follow their own
ongoing process, and to fully experience, accept, and appreciate
their complete selves, Gestalt Therapy clients can free themselves
to move past pain, fear, anxiety, depression or low self-esteem.
They can then discover who they really are, and allow themselves
to develop in the ways appropriate for them.
The origins of Gestalt Therapy derive from several sources, including
psychoanalysis (by way of Wilhelm Reich), field theorists (such
as Lewin), experimental Gestalt psychologists (studying the nature
of visual perception), and the Humanist-Existential movement.
Each has made its own unique contribution to Gestalt Therapy.
From the work of Reich, we get an awareness of the impact of our
early development on our current being, the tendency to hold our
feelings in our bodies through tightening our muscles and constricting
our energy flow, and the formation of character structure. The
field theorists have helped us to see our interconnectedness,
that we exist as part of our environmental field, and can only
be understood in relation to that field. The Gestalt psychologists
have demonstrated the holistic nature of our relationship with
the world, "Gestalt" referring to the whole form or configuration which is greater than the sum of its parts. Psychodrama brought the use of role play and active experiential techniques. In the late 1940's, Fritz and Laura Perls guided the integration of these and other elements into a powerful and effective therapeutic model.
The existential roots of Gestalt Therapy come especially through
the work of the philosopher Martin Buber and his emphasis on the
"I-Thou" relationship. According to this view, often
now referred to as the "Dialogic" or "Relational" approach, it is within
the context of the healing relationship, in which the therapist
practices "presence", "inclusion" and the
"I-Thou attitude" that true healing takes place.
Gestalt Therapy has in recent years been moving strongly in the
direction of emphasizing this powerful therapeutic dialogue, as
well as the importance of providing support for the client during
the therapeutic process. Combining the power of the healing dialogue,
in which the client can experience understanding and validation,
with directed awareness and appropriately designed "Gestalt
experiments", has enabled Gestalt Therapy to prove a highly
effective approach to psychotherapy.
This is a brief and simple introduction into some of the rich and complex ideas behind the practice of Gestalt Therapy. For more information on Gestalt theory and the process of therapy, explore some of the links listed below. To return to the Gestalt Therapy Center home page at a later time, type in the URL "www.gestaltcenter.net".