Gestalt therapy is a therapeutic technique that often focuses on the individual in the present moment and may aid in various mental health concerns. The gestalt therapy process typically incorporates a person centered form of guidance and other therapeutic techniques such as dream work and creative expression. By engaging in self-reflection and other experiential exercises, the person can accept responsibility for their current circumstances and move forward in an empowered way. When we move beyond the past, we may be able to find peace in the present and enrich our interactions in the world around us.
What Is Gestalt Therapy?
Gestalt therapy and its theoretical orientation center around the present moment. Participants of this therapy may learn to tune into their own self, release the past, and engage with each moment as it comes. Instead of focusing on past experiences or the future, this therapy may focus on the here and now.
Approaches in psychology, such as psychoanalysis and other disciplines rooted in Freudianism, may focus on how our past impacts our present state. People working with therapists who practice these methods may spend a lot of time discussing and analyzing things that happened in the past.
However, when working with a Gestalt therapist, the goal may be to reflect on the person's present life to increase personal awareness and personal growth.
A Brief History Of This Therapy
Gestalt therapy was developed by Laura Perls, Paul Goodman, and Fritz Perls as a part of the behavioral sciences in the 1940s. In the 1950s, the team released a book outlining this wellness approach.
Gestalt therapy and Gestalt psychology were the results of research into various systems, including Eastern religions, the physics of the world, and systems theory. As a result, aspects of present Gestalt therapy may be unique.
Since its inception, the Gestalt approach has become increasingly popular, spreading among multiple demographics across the globe. Now, it's an effective form of therapy with Gestalt institutes situated in many major cities.
The word "gestalt" is a German word that means "shape/form" or "whole." In other words, the gestalt approach focuses on the entirety of a person. The founders believed we must look at humans as a whole, not as segmented parts, and that experience influences perception.
Gestalt therapy emphasizes how the whole person feels at any given moment so that they can relieve internal issues unresolved tension, and unfinished business. It may teach therapists and patients the phenomenological method of awareness and argues that the paradoxical theory of change applies to society as a whole rather than the individuals within it.
According to Perls, Goodman, and Perls, emotions can only be resolved if they are discussed in the present. The release of emotions, internally and externally, is one way participants might heal with this type of therapy.
Instead of focusing on achievement and meeting expectations, we may learn to understand ourselves and our desires. This understanding can build confidence and alleviate stress, which may lead to improved mental health and a better understanding of our emotional and physical selves.
This therapy may benefit individuals with a variety of mental health challenges. Connecting with a therapist to discuss Gestalt techniques may help you explore whether this method of therapeutic care would be effective for you. Gestalt therapy is another form of existential therapy (based on existential theory); both focus on self-awareness. The approach is not for everyone, but it can be an effective option for working on self-awareness.
The therapeutic relationship between the Gestalt therapist and the client can help patients find their sense of self and deal with various mental health conditions. Below are some mental health challenges, examples, and situations that may benefit from Gestalt therapy.
Anxiety and Depression
Gestalt therapy may be a beneficial approach for conquering anxiety and depression. When historical issues are acknowledged and released, peace and healing may be found in the present. According to a 2019 study, Gestalt therapy can be a "useful treatment" for anxiety disorders and indicated "turning points during therapy."
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may also see significant benefits from Gestalt therapy. The American Psychological Association states that this therapy can help us focus on the "here and now" and how we "make contact with the world."
PTSD may cause you to focus on the past and cause you to experience flashbacks, potentially leading to panic attacks or other distressing symptoms. In this case, a Gestalt therapist may help you ground yourself in the here and now or work on mindfulness practices to manage traumatic stress and assist in the healing process.
When you experience low self-esteem, it may lead you to lack confidence, and you may find it difficult to acknowledge your self-worth. In some cases, you may lack the tools of self-awareness to do so. Therapists will observe a client's body language, verbal expressions, and behavior to help them identify the core issues causing low self-esteem. Gestalt therapy can promote acceptance, which may be a powerful tool for boosting self-esteem and increasing self-awareness.
Gestalt therapy may be an efficient way for individuals to navigate relationship challenges. Together or individually, couples may heal their relationship by accepting and releasing the past and staying in the present moment.
By staying in the present, with the help of a Gestalt therapist, a couple may move forward with their relationship healthily and positively and benefit from personal growth in the process.
The Techniques Of This Therapy
There are a few standard techniques that your Gestalt therapist may utilize during treatment.
In Gestalt therapy, the therapist may ask the client questions, especially about the present. You might hear the therapist ask, "What's going on right now?" or "How do you feel about this issue right now?"
These questions encourage the client to accept personal responsibility and become aware of their feelings and emotions attached to the experience.
Establishing the habit of tuning in and being conscious of a person's current experiences is often an integral emphasis of this therapy.
Gestalt therapy often values empathy as a way to understand the interactions between people. When we role-play and embody someone else through experiments like enactment, we may learn to feel more empathy toward them.
Like role-playing, this practice may guide you to confront someone in a hypothetical scenario. It values self-expression and internal work because those traits may benefit external relationships.
In Gestalt therapy, a therapist may have you engage in bodywork. The therapist may recommend that you become physically active, dance, or do another form of movement in addition to their therapy sessions with you. Movement may be effective in helping patients find the balance and the wholeness to grow.
Dreams have long been an enigma in the psychological world, and every practice may approach them differently. A Gestalt view believes dreams can provide important information about our inner life.
Gestalt therapists may have different approaches, and the practice might be customized for each participant based on their personality and goals. Depending on your needs, you may want to find a support group, different therapies, or research on these subjects alongside therapy.
Other Gestalt Therapy Concepts
Gestalt therapy often utilizes the principles of wholeness and awareness to promote well-being. It can be a client-centered therapy, which may be highly effective for multiple mental health issues.
Additionally, this practice focuses on the concepts of wholeness and awareness so the client can feel more "complete" in their day-to-day life.
Gestalt therapy looks at an individual as a whole person. A Gestalt therapist may believe that unhappiness occurs when your mind and body are disconnected. Hence, it aims to unify and increase awareness of these disparate elements. Being whole may allow you to increase your self-awareness.
Gestalt therapy practitioners often believe that awareness fails when we're preoccupied with the past or have low self-esteem. These concerns might be addressed through observation and learning to tune in to the environment.
Listening and concentration exercises introduced by a Gestalt therapist can be essential elements of greater awareness. Overall, this practice may help you conclude past business so that you can turn your gaze toward the present.
Regarding various therapeutic approaches, some therapists may have a more rigid scientific view, while others may be more mindful. This practice is often a psychological and emotional practice that has been effective for many clients, including children. Mindfulness and self-actualization are considered principles of mental health through this therapy.
Gestalt techniques can be a highly subjective experience, so discussing this technique with a therapist may be a beneficial place to start. This type of therapy is a form of mental health therapy that can be offered through an in-person or online counselor. Some individuals feel the safest speaking to a professional from home, as Gestalt therapy sessions can be an emotional experience.
Internet-based therapy is often a convenient method for approaching mental health challenges. A study from the World Psychiatry Association (WAP) found that is typically more affordable than in-person therapy as clients don't need to travel for appointments.
Overall, Gestalt therapy can be wonderfully effective in alleviating stress or various mental health problems while teaching participants how to live contentedly in the present.
Empirical evidence supports the efficacy of this practice, particularly when it comes to treating anxiety, depression, and stress-related disorders. Studies have also shown that Gestalt therapy can help improve women's self efficacy, increase their self-awareness and understanding of themselves and others.
If you're ready to focus more on the present moment and start seeing yourself in a new light, consider reaching out to your primary care doctor for a referral or use an online search. It is important to do your research and find someone you trust and feel comfortable with. If you experience mental distress, anxiety, or another condition, you may choose to sign up for an online platform such as BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
This practice 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.
The two gestalt therapy techniques 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 therapy 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.
There are other gestalt therapy techniques that may be used. The exact strategies utilized typically depend on the people seeking care, the mental health professionals, and the concerns being addressed. Gestalt therapy may also take different forms, such as individual therapy, couples therapy, or family 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.
Gestalt therapy emphasizes five main principles: proximity, similarity, continuity, closure, and connectedness. The therapy's effectiveness comes from understanding these five principles within oneself and how to navigate them throughout one’s life. These principles are what Paul Goodman—along with Fritz Perls and his wife, Laura Perls—built upon when developing gestalt psychotherapy.
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 can lead to them feeling a certain way.
Gestalt therapy is a form of psychotherapy originally developed by Laura Perls, Fritz Perls, and Paul Goodman. 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. Fostering a greater awareness of the present—as opposed to focusing on past experiences—is often a primary goal for gestalt therapists. Gestalt psychology also emphasizes the importance of freedom and personal responsibility. 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.
The goal of this practice is to overcome how you feel about the past and future by focusing on the present and experience the current moment during the therapy session. Additionally, a Gestalt approach will want to focus on your current feelings about the past and take responsibility for them. We should be able to take how we’re feeling now and manage those feelings with therapy. Furthermore, a Gestalt approach aims to alleviate any unresolved emotions, heartache, anxiety, or stress about a past situation with therapy.
This therapy is client-centered counseling in which the client focuses on the now. The Gestalt therapist may direct us to think about our current feelings, rather than the past. This Gestalt principle aims to refocus the mind to be on the present moment, so you don’t harp on past experiences. These incidents may be trigger stress, anxiety, or depression. So, focusing on the present can be seen as very effective when trying to heal mentally and make strides in therapy.
According to the Gestalt Theory website, the key concepts are phenomenological exploration (awareness and insight), field theory perspective (the event needed to happen to affect the future), existentialism (acknowledgment of how the world works), and dialogue (perspectives of relationships). Overall, a Gestalt therapist's main gist is the focus on gaining a deeper understanding of situations during each therapy session. A Gestalt therapist aims to gain insight into why things happen and how to approach the experiences.
We can use Gestalt therapy for a wide variety of reasons. Any uncomfortable feelings toward the past or present is a great reason to see a Gestalt therapist. If we just want to feel more whole or aware, a Gestalt approach can be an excellent form of client-centered therapy or person-centered therapy.
Gestalt therapy can be effective for those of us experiencing anxiety disorder, depression, or relationship issues. Additionally, Gestalt therapy can be beneficial for resolving stress and even trauma, making the Gestalt method a productive therapy approach.
What are the key features of gestalt therapy?
What are the 4 pillars of gestalt therapy?
What are gestalt exercises?
What is the main goal of gestalt therapy?
- Previous Article
- Next Article