What Are Gestalt Therapy Techniques

By: Joy Youell

Updated February 11, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

Gestalt Therapy is an approach to mental wellness that helps people resolve past conflicts and become more present. When you move from beyond the past, you can find peace in the present and enrich your interactions in the world around you. Read on to learn about Gestalt Therapy and what Gestalt means and how it can help people address symptoms of mental health conditions.

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What Is Gestalt Therapy?

Gestalt Therapy (GT) centers around the present. Participants learn to tune into their inner selves, release the past, and engage with the present. Instead of worrying about the past or the future, GT focuses on the here and now.

Some forms of therapy are heavily invested in history. Approaches such as psychoanalysis and other disciplines rooted in Freudianism may focus on the way someone's past impacts their present state. People working with therapists who practice these methods will spend a lot of time discussing and analyzing things that happened in the past. In GT, however, the goal is for clients to become more self-aware.

A Brief History of Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy was founded by Laura Perls, Paul Goodman, and Fritz Perls. They developed the process in the 1940s. Then, they released a book that outlined this approach to wellness in the 1950s. GT was the result of research into a variety of systems, including Eastern religions, physics of the world, and systems theory. As a result, this form of therapy is rather unique. Since its inception, it has become increasingly popular, spreading among multiple demographics across the globe. Now, it's an influential form of therapy.

The word gestalt is a German word that means "shape/form" or "whole." In other words, it focuses on the entirety of a person. The founders of GT believed that we must look at humans as a whole, not just in segmented parts. Therefore, the practice focuses on how the whole person feels at any given moment, so they can relieve internal issues or unresolved tension.

According to Gestalt Therapy, emotions can only be resolved if they are discussed in the present. The release of emotions, both internally and externally, is the primary way that participants heal with this type of therapy. Instead of focusing on achievement and meeting expectations, people learn to understand themselves and their desires. This can build confidence and alleviate stress, which ultimately leads to good mental health.

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Mental Health Conditions That May Benefit from Gestalt Therapy

GT can help people with a variety of mental health conditions. It is best to discuss the Gestalt technique with your therapist to see if it would be effective for you. The Gestalt approach is not for everyone, but it may be very effective for you to see a Gestalt therapist. Below are some of the mental health conditions that seeing a Gestalt therapist can be beneficial for.

Anxiety and Depression. GT may be a helpful approach for conquering feelings of anxiety and depression. When historical issues are resolved and released, peace can be found in the present. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can see great benefits from Gestalt Therapy. As stated by the American Psychological Association, GT helps the client focus on the here and now. Those with PTSD have difficulties focusing on the past and can experience horrible flashbacks, leading to an anxiety attack. Someone with PTSD will likely benefit from seeing a Gestalt therapist.

Self-Esteem. People with low self-esteem often lack confidence and find it difficult to acknowledge their self-worth. GT promotes acceptance, which can be a powerful tool to increase self-esteem. Sitting in the empty chair in a therapist’s office to get Gestalt therapy resources can improve your self-esteem greatly.

Relationship Troubles. GT is a good way for people to navigate relationship challenges. Together or individually, couples can heal their relationship by accepting and releasing the past.

Headaches. GT has been anecdotally reported to address physiological issues, such as pain or digestive concerns, that may be related to psychological conditions.

In addition, GT works well for people who want to improve their self-awareness. It can help identify personal issues or the root causes of various habits. The practice associated with GT may help establish new ways of thinking that genuinely enhance inner peace. Finally, GT is considered unconventional and may appeal to people who want alternative therapies. It can also be used in the context of art therapy.

Techniques of GT

GT uses a handful of techniques to promote interaction. Some of these tools include:

  1. Asking Questions. A therapist may ask the client questions, especially ones pertaining to the present. It's not uncommon to hear the therapist ask, "What's going on right now?" or "How do you feel about this issue right now?" Establishing the habit of tuning in and being conscious of the present moment is an integral aspect of GT.
  1. Role Playing. GT values empathy as a way to understand the interactions between people. When you role play and embody someone else, you may learn to feel more empathy toward them.
  1. Confrontation. Similar to role playing, this practice guides you to confront someone in a hypothetical scenario. GT values self-expression and doing internal work because they bear fruit in external relationships.
  2. Body Work. When it comes to Gestalt Therapy, your therapist may have you engage in body work. Your therapist may recommend you get physically active, dance, or do another form of movement in addition to their therapy sessions with you. This has been very effective in helping patients find balance and wholeness.

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  1. Dream Working. Dreams have long been an enigma in the psychological world, and every practice approaches them differently. GT believes that dreams can provide important information about one's internal life.

Note that all GT therapists have different approaches, and the practice may be customized for each participant. Depending on your needs, you may want to find some support groups, other forms of therapy resources, or other changes. Your therapist should work with you on these things, so you see the best results possible.

Other Gestalt Therapy Concepts

Gestalt Therapy utilizes the principles of wholeness and awareness to promote wellbeing. It is a client-centered form of therapy, which can be highly effective across multiple mental health issues. Additionally, Gestalt Therapy focuses on the concepts of wholeness and awareness so the client can feel more “complete” in their day-to-day life.


GT looks at the whole person. This type of therapy believes that unhappiness occurs when a person's mind and body are disconnected, so a goal of GT is unifying these disparate elements. Being whole allows people to become self-aware.


GT practitioners believe that awareness fails when we're preoccupied with the past or when we have low self-esteem. These concerns are addressed through observation and learning to tune in to the environment. As such, listening and concentration exercises are important elements of growing awareness. Overall, GT helps people conclude past business, so they can turn their gaze toward the present.

Effectiveness of Gestalt Therapy

When it comes to various therapeutic approaches, some have a more rigid scientific view, and others are more sensual or mystical. GT is a more psychological and emotional practice that has been effective for many clients. Mindfulness and self-actualization are sound principles of mental health.

That said, GT can be highly subjective and should be considered carefully if a GT practitioner ever offers medical advice or recommends drug therapies. GT is primarily a form of mental health counseling offered through an in-person or online counselor and is not a medical practice. Overall, it can be wonderfully effective in alleviating stress and teaching participants how to live contentedly in the present.

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If you experience mental distress, anxiety, or another condition, BetterHelp's qualified and professional counselors can guide you to a better state of mind using an approach like Gestalt Therapy. You can meet with a counselor at a time that’s most convenient for you and in the comfort of your home, using a tablet, phone, or laptop. Reach out to learn about our matching process and start online therapy today. Read the reviews below to learn more about BetterHelp counselors.

Counselor Reviews

"Dr. Tassava is the best counselor I've ever had. She offers me real-life techniques and tools to handle my anxiety and stress. She has never once judged me for any of my issues and has honestly supported me through the most difficult time in my life. Over the past few months, with her support and guidance, I have been able to change my thinking, reacting and how I handle major anxiety and stress. I am so thankful for her. Not only has she changed my life for the better... honestly, she's saved my life."

"Tara is an amazing counselor. I feel like she helped me solve my personal issues in a timely and efficient manner and helped me learn how to tackle the problem head on which is not something I had before. I would strongly recommend her to anyone looking into therapy for personal growth goals."

In Conclusion

There are many ways to work with a therapist. You can find practitioners of Gestalt Therapy and other modalities on BetterHelp. If you're feeling depressed, anxious, or generally need support, talking to a therapist can help you get things back on track. You can move forward to a truly fulfilling life-all you need are the right tools. Take the first step.


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