More on Gestalt Therapy
Gestalt is a relational, client-centered, experiential, and phenomenological therapy in which therapists help clients to focus on the here-and-now and on their innate and unique wholeness, excitement, and potential for growth. A Gestalt therapist is trained not to analyze, judge or otherwise get in the way of the client's own natural and embodied processes. In Gestalt it is deeply believed that the client is the expert on themselves.
Relational and Client-Centered
The relationship between therapist and client is central and their interaction contributes to the nature of the work. The therapist does not assume a distancing role or persona with the client, but they know to step out of the process when that is needed. Gestalt therapists help facilitate growth processes and authentic relating. Their training has taught them to explore and experiment with the natural processes of expression and healing so that they can guide their clients to do the same. The therapist attends to their own presence in the room and assists the client to do the same. The client is the center of the work and directs the healing as much as possible, while the therapist encourages dialogue and the recognition of the mutual impact they each have on each other.
Gestalt therapists look for what in you is excitable and ready to grow. They look for unresolved or unfinished business: areas in the client's life where it is evident that events in the past or formative interactions within relationships were not resolved and for which experiential therapeutic work can be set up for as much resolution, fulfillment, and growth as possible. In this way Gestalt actively works in the present to deal with the past, and helps allow clients to move forward. The therapist's expertise is gradually taught to the client, and over time the client will see how this expertise is actually innate wisdom that has been covered up by familial, social, cultural, political, and global norms and conditioning.
Phenomenology is the study of subjective experience, or the study of consciousness from the first person point of view. The therapist directs the client's attention to their phenomenology, and through a focusing on information and objects perceived in the moment through all of the senses, awareness is increased. When individuals have more awareness, they can start to drop their habits and conditioning and begin to access and operate from deeper needs, impulses, and truths. The client's phenomenology, what and how they perceive and sense and how the body responds, can be used to shape self-led experiments in and outside of the therapy room.
A Little History and Gestalt's Place in the Big Picture
Fritz and Laura Perls and Paul Goodman were the most influential contributors to Gestalt therapy, beginning in the 1940s. Fritz Perls is thought of as the founder of Gestalt therapy, and his influences included traditional Psychoanalysis (particularly psychodrama), Reichian character analysis, Existential philosophy, Eastern religion, and earlier Gestalt psychology. Gestalt in turn has had a major impact on the field of psychotherapy. Many Gestalt practices have become so well integrated into the field that contemporary practitioners aren't always aware of the Gestalt roots of what has been taught to them in other newer modalities of therapy.
Gestalt psychotherapy is just one aspect of Gestalt. The word is loosely translated from the German as "a unique whole" (or "the whole that is not the sum of its parts). In its most expansive definition Gestalt is a philosophy promoting the full living of life.