Best Gestalt Therapy Techniques

By Joy Youell|Updated August 3, 2022

Interested in therapeutic mental wellness that helps people resolve past conflicts and become more present in the moment? When you move beyond the past, you can find peace in the present and enrich your interactions in the world around you. Read on to learn about the benefits of Gestalt Therapy, what Gestalt Therapy means and how Gestalt Therapy techniques and other therapies, including online therapy, can help people address symptoms of mental health conditions.

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Are You Stuck In The Past And Ready To Come Into The Present?

What To Know

Gestalt therapy and its theoretical orientation centers around the present. Participants of Gestalt Therapy learn to tune into their inner selves, release the past, and engage with the present. Instead of worrying about the past or the future, Gestalt Therapy focuses on the here and now. Gestalt therapy is a client centered therapy approach, focusing on self awareness and eliminating one's own negative thought patterns. 

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 Gestalt therapists who practice these methods will spend a lot of time discussing and analyzing things that happened in the past. When working with a Gestalt therapist, however, the goal is for clients to increase self-awareness and personal growth. 

A Brief History Of Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt Therapy was founded by Laura Perls, Paul Goodman, and Fritz Perls as a part of the behavioral sciences. They developed the process in the 1940s. Then, Fritz Perls, Laura Perls, and Paul Goodman released a book that outlined this approach to wellness in the 1950s. Gestalt therapy and Gestalt psychology were the result of research into a variety of systems, including Eastern religions, physics of the world, and systems theory. As a result, aspects of this approach are 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 with Gestalt institutes in almost every major city.

The word gestalt is a German word that means “shape/form” or “whole.” In other words, the word gestalt explains that the gestalt approach focuses on the entirety of a person. Laura Perls, Paul Goodman, and Fritz Perls, the founders of Gestalt Therapy, believed that we must look at humans as a whole, not just in segmented parts. Therefore, the Gestalt therapy emphasizes how the whole person feels at any given moment, so they can relieve internal issues or unresolved tension. It teaches therapists and patients the phenomenological method of awareness and argues that the paradoxical theory of change applies to society as a whole rather than just the individuals within it. 

According to the founders of Gestalt Therapy, Laura Perls, Paul Goodman, and Fritz Perls, 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 and a better understanding of one's emotional and physical selves. 

Conditions That May Benefit From Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy can help people with a variety of mental health challenges, and it's best to discuss the Gestalt technique with your therapist to see if it would be effective for you. The Gestalt therapy approach is not for everyone, but it may be very effective for you to see a Gestalt therapist. The therapeutic relationship between the Gestalt therapist and the patient can truly help one find their sense of self and help overcome a number of mental health conditions. Below are some of the mental health conditions, examples, and situations that seeing a Gestalt therapist can be beneficial for.

Anxiety and Depression

Gestalt Therapy may be a helpful treatment for conquering feelings of anxiety and depression. When historical issues are resolved and released, peace and healing 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, Gestalt therapy 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 because they lack the tools of actual self awareness. Gestalt Therapy promotes acceptance, which can be a powerful tool to increase self-esteem and provide the individual accurate self awareness. Sitting in the empty chair in a Gestalt therapist’s office to get Gestalt Therapy resources can improve your self-esteem greatly.

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Relationship Troubles

Gestalt Therapy is a good way for people to navigate relationship challenges or differences a couple may be facing. Together or individually, couples can heal their relationship by accepting and releasing the past, and staying in the present moment. By staying in the present moment with the Gestalt therapist, the couple can move forward with their relationship in a healthy and positive way and benefit from personal growth as well.  

Headaches

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

In addition, Gestalt Therapy 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 Gestalt Therapy may help establish new ways of thinking that genuinely enhance inner peace and nature. Finally, the Gestalt method is considered unconventional and may appeal to people who place an an importance in exploring alternative therapies. It can also be used in the context of art therapy.

Techniques of Gestalt Therapy

  1. Asking Questions. The 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 a person's current experiences is an integral emphasis of Gestalt Therapy.
  2. Role Playing. Gestalt Therapy values empathy as a way to understand the interactions between people. When you role play and embody someone else through experiments like enactment, homework, or role play, you may learn to feel more empathy toward them.
  3. Confrontation. Similar to role playing, this practice guides you to confront someone in a hypothetical scenario. Gestalt Therapy values self-expression and doing internal work because they bear fruit in external relationships.
  4. Body Work. When it comes to Gestalt Therapy, your therapist may have you engage in body work. The 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 the balance and the wholeness to grow.
  5. Dream Working. Dreams have long been an enigma in the psychological world, and every practice approaches them differently. A Gestalt view believes that dreams can provide important information about one’s internal life.

Note that all Gestalt therapists have different approaches, and the practice is likely to be customized for each participant, based on their personality and goals. Depending on your needs, you may want to find some support groups, other therapies, or other changes in this field. Gestalt therapists should work with you on these things, so you see the best results possible.

Other GT Concepts

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

Wholeness

Gestalt Therapy looks at the whole person. This method believes that unhappiness occurs when a person’s mind and body are disconnected, so a goal of Gestalt Therapy is to unify and increase awareness of these disparate elements. Being whole allows people to increase their self awareness. 

Awareness

Gestalt Therapy 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 introduced by the Gestalt therapist are important elements of greater awareness. Overall, Gestalt Therapy helps people conclude past business, so they can turn their gaze toward the present.

Effectiveness

Are You Stuck In The Past And Ready To Come Into The Present?

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

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

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, practicing Gestalt techniques wherever you choose. Reach out to learn about our matching process and start online therapy today. Read the reviews below to learn more about BetterHelp counselors.

Therapist Reviews

“Dr. Tassava is the best counselor I’ve ever had. She offers me the 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 or learn more about this type of therapy through books from the Gestalt Journal Press. 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.

Therapy Is Personal

Therapy is unique to you — and not everyone will go into it seeking the same things. Keeping this in mind to ensure that you will get the most out of online therapy, regardless of what your specific goals are. If you’re still wondering if therapy is right for you, and how much it costs, please contact us at contact@betterhelp.com. BetterHelp specializes in online therapy to help address all types of mental health concerns. If you’re interested in individual therapy, please reach out to contact@betterhelp.com. For more information about BetterHelp as a company, please find us on:

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is an example of gestalt therapy?

Gestalt therapy is a form of psychotherapy based on the present and the promotion of awareness of what is occurring in this exact moment. An example of a gestalt therapy practice is the empty chair technique. This technique involves a client imagining and participating in a conversation with another person or a different part of themselves. The client sits across from an empty chair and participates in a dialogue as if the other person or other part of themselves is sitting in the chair participating as well. 

What are the 2 techniques of gestalt therapy?

The two techniques of gestalt therapy methodology are the empty chair technique and the exaggeration exercise. The empty chair technique involves the client sitting across from an empty chair and participating in a dialogue as if another person or another part of themselves is sitting in the chair. The exaggeration exercise involves the client repeating or exaggerating a particular movement or expression, which in effect, intensifies the feelings attached to the behavior and explains the root of the behavior. Both of these techniques enhance therapeutic outcomes and lead to an improved sense of self and personal awareness as a client can truly look into how their emotional and physical selves play into one another. 

What are the key concepts of gestalt therapy?

Gestalt therapy focuses on a number of concepts including asking questions, role playing, confrontation, body work, and dream working. Gestalt therapy helps clients improve their self-awareness and identify root causes of various habits, including our own negative thought patterns. 

What are the 5 gestalt principles?

Gestalt therapy emphasizes 5 main principles: proximity, similarity, continuity, closure, and connectedness. Gestalt therapy effectiveness comes from understanding these five principles within oneself and how to navigate them throughout one’s life. 

How is gestalt theory used today?

Gestalt theory is used today as a cognitive theory, looking at concepts and how they relate to one another as a whole. Gestalt therapy theory can be used in a similar manner as cognitive therapy, in individual or group settings, helping individuals with behavioral conditions. It provides individuals with an emotional understanding of how one’s immediate thoughts, feelings, or behavior lead to them feeling a certain way. 

What does gestalt mean in psychology?

Gestalt psychology is a school of thought that provides a framework for the study of perception, stating that the whole of anything is greater than the sum of its parts. Gestalt psychologists leverage gestalt therapy integrated with emotional understanding of this framework. This theory is learned and practiced in over 62 Gestalt Institutes across the world. While the therapy has helped millions of individuals, it is always important to take personal responsibility and seek out professional medical advice for any serious issues that may be occurring to you.

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