Is Gestalt Therapy What I Need?
The Therapy of Awareness and Self-responsibility in the Now
Gestalt therapy was developed by Fritz Perls, his wife, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940’s. It is an experiential and humanistic form of therapy, originally designed as an alternative to conventional psychoanalysis. The word Gestalt comes from the German and it means shape, form, whole.
It is a person-centered therapy and places emphasis on the therapist’s unconditional acceptance of the client and the use of empathy. It also recognizes there is no one who is 100% objective, not even the therapist, who is also influenced by his/her context and experiences. The context of the person will affect the experience, therefore, understanding the context is vital to understand the client. Gestalt therapy helps the client move from manipulating the environment for support, to self-support. It also helps the client reintegrate all the disowned parts of his personality; all those aspects of oneself which have been projected onto others because we feel they are not part of who we are.
Gestalt therapy is based on three principles: the Here and Now, Awareness and Self-Responsibility. It helps the client gain awareness of his/her feelings, accept and trust in them.The focus on the here and now does not negate or reduce past events or future possibilities; in fact, the past is intricately linked to one’s present experience. The idea is to avoid dwelling on the past or anxiously anticipating the future. Experiences of the past may be addressed in therapy sessions, but the therapist and client will focus on exploring what factors made a particular memory come up in this moment, or how the present moment is impacted by experiences of the past. Paying attention to the body and becoming aware of its subtle shifts in posture also bring the client to the present and help her/him understand the connection between the physical and emotional bodies. Finally, there is the element of self-responsibility, where the client learns to become responsible for his life and stops blaming others or circumstances for his/her distress, thus, regaining power and therefore the possibility to use it at her/his own will.
The Gestalt therapist will use different techniques to help the client become aware of what’s going on. One of these techniques is the empty chair technique, where the client externalizes a part of themselves or places another person and has an imaginary conversation with him/her. This helps the client become aware and verbalize feelings and states which are difficult to see or say in real life. It also gives the client the opportunity to increase his awareness and place him/herself on the other side of the equation. The practice becomes a safe environment where the client can experiment different aspects of himself that will help increase his/her self-support and maturity. As Fritz Perls says, “The basic technique is this: not to explain things to the patient, but to provide the patient with opportunities to understand and to discover himself.” Fritz Perls in action
Is Gestalt therapy for you? Well, that will depend on what you are looking for. If you want someone to sit in front of you and tell you what’s wrong with you, then Gestalt is not for you. If you expect the therapist to tell you what to do and how to do it, then Gestalt is not for you. If you need someone to tell you how terrible your life has been and how sorry s/he feels for you, then Gestalt is not for you. However, if you want to gain awareness of what is happening to you, understand how your mind works and learn to know how you feel, then Gestalt IS for you. If you are ready to look deep into yourself and be responsible for your feelings and actions, then Gestalt IS for you. If you are ready to step up and be the best version of yourself, then Gestalt is a very sound choice. So, are you ready to thrive?