Gestalt therapy is a type of humanistic therapy that employs experiential and creative techniques in order to enhance self-awareness, which can powerfully facilitate the ability to achieve one’s full potential. “Gestalt” refers to the essence or character of something, and this therapy views each individual as a whole unit that encompasses the body, mind and soul.
It acknowledges the effect of context on experience, with the view that no one cannot truly be understood, without also understanding his or her context. The primary focus is on the here and now. Problems are seen to arise when negative thought patterns or difficult feelings, prevent a person from achieving true self-awareness. Therefore, helping people become aware of their current thoughts, actions and feelings is a powerful way to shed light upon difficulties, identify solutions and enable personal growth. Change occurs as the individual learns to understand and positively utilize feelings and experiences.
A number of concepts are drawn upon and woven together in the process of the therapeutic work with clients. These concepts offer an insight into what may occur during therapy sessions.
Relationship: The ability to maintain good relationships is viewed as central to our sense of wellbeing and happiness in the world. Therefore, it follows, that the relationship between client and therapist is acknowledged as a central base for learning and growth in this form of therapy. Exploring this is a regular part of the therapy and it provides a useful platform for enabling clients to understand the dynamics of their wider relationships outside therapy.
Respect: The psychotherapist views the client with the utmost respect and aims to balance challenge with support, thus aiming to facilitate an environment where people can learn and self-actualize in a safe and constructive manner.
Person-centred awareness: This entails focusing mostly on the present issues and experiences which impact the client in the here and now. It does not mean the past or future is not acknowledged. Both past and future are attended to in terms of their impact on the here and now. The present is viewed as a place where awareness and growth can be powerfully accessed.
Creative discovery: Creative exploration is a cornerstone of gestalt therapy. The view is that creative exploration can give rise to broader realizations and growth. A whole range of techniques that are both flexible and creative are used by therapists to increase client awareness. These can include anything from drawing and role playing to playful exploration with paints or objects.
Social responsibility: The responsibility we have to ourselves and others is viewed as important and embraces the fact that everyone is different. This therapy supports the position of respect for self and all others.
Maggie Morrow is an award winning psychotherapist, an accomplished life coach and counsellor, and Director of KlearMinds. In 2007 she was awarded the BACP National Award for advancing the quality of therapy service provision to the highest standards in the UK.
Maggie’s experience spans over 20 years helping people overcome problems so they can enjoy more fulfilling and satisfying lives.
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Gestalt psychotherapy can be used as a long-term therapy or as a briefer, more focused approach. Therapists will draw from a range of creative experiments and expressive techniques that are tailored to the problems at hand. Here are a few of the techniques that might be employed:
“Open chair” technique:
- The client is placed opposite an empty chair and is told to imagine a part of himself in it. He must then try to communicate with his imaginary self part before switching chairs and reversing roles. Instead of himself, the client might be asked to imagine someone else in the chair. This technique can help people find a certain side of themselves that they try to ignore or push away, so that they can move toward developing a more compassionate and collaborative internal dialogue which facilitates increased personal happiness and wellbeing.
Body language: If the therapist notices the client is making some sort of movement, such as tapping his leg, the client might be asked to exaggerate this movement in an attempt to intensify the thought or emotion that is causing it and uncover its hidden communication or meaning.
Dream discussion: In this type of therapy, dreams are believed to help people understand the spontaneous or unconscious parts of themselves. Therefore, reliving and play-acting dreams might be used to help heighten a person’s self-awareness.
Who Can Benefit From Gestalt Psychotherapy?
Gestalt psychotherapy can be useful for anyone who wants to increase their self-awareness and understand their motivations and the connection between their physical and emotional needs. In particular, it can be helpful for people who are emotionally guarded or those who are enduring personal difficulty. It can else help with psychological issues such as:
What are the Benefits of Gestalt Psychotherapy