What Are Gestalt Therapy Techniques

By Julia Thomas

Updated June 12, 2019

Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

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There are many approaches to therapy, and there's one system that can benefit you. One that's worth looking at is Gestalt Therapy (GT.)

What Is Gestalt Therapy?

GT centers around the present. The client focuses on the here and now instead of worrying about the past or the future.

This is quite an interesting turn for therapy. Most therapies tend to focus on someone's past. The past impacts how the client feels today, after all. So it's an intriguing approach. Any mentions of the past tend to be re-enacted and re-experienced in the present day.

The goal is for clients to be more self-aware. To learn what negative thoughts are preventing them from living a productive life.


Gestalt therapy is the product of three founders: Laura Perls, Paul Goodman, and Fritz Perls. They developed the process in the 1940s through the 1950s, releasing a titular book about GT in 1951. The therapy took a long time develop because it was a product of different experienced the founders had. They traveled the world, looking at Eastern religions, the physics of the world, systems theory, psychoanalysis, and so much more, creating a therapy system they thought was foolproof.

In the next couple of decades, GT began spreading. It became popular enough to have centers all across the globe. It's been quite an influential form of therapy, and for a good reason.

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 humans are creatures who should be looked at fully and not just by certain parts of them. They're focused on how the whole person is feeling in the present day, and this can hopefully help relieve internal issues that are unresolved.

These emotions are believed only to be relieved if the person can discuss them in the present day. They're not going to be settled if the person just talks about them through old-school therapy. If the person doesn't let out their emotions, they may suffer consequences both internal and external.

The idea is that we shouldn't live up to all our expectations, but instead learn to understand ourselves and what we want. This can help people to be more confident about themselves and build themselves up to be people who can make it work.

Who It Can Help

GT can help quite a few contenders who need therapy. Here is a list of a few who have seen benefits.

Anxiety and depression: GT is a good way to help people realize just what it is in the present that's causing their anxiety or depression to flare up.

Self-Esteem: Those with low self-esteem seem to benefit from some GT. It allows them to overcome the issues that make them feel bad about themselves, whether it's internally influenced, like bad thoughts, or externally, such as jealousy of someone.

Relationship troubles: GT is a good way for people who are having relationship difficulties to work out their differences. The individual may benefit from some solo therapy too, as they deal with their insecurities about the relationship.

Headaches: Those who have migraines seem to have good results from a bit of GT.

Other physical ailments like back problems and ulcerative colitis.

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Besides those, GT works well for people who want to improve their self-awareness. We all would like to think we're self-aware people, and yet many don't know why they do the things they do. GT can help you figure that out, making you more aware of your actions and helping you conquer your self-issues.

They also help people who don't quite understand how they are a part of their negative emotions. Sure, unhappiness can be caused by other people, but the self can also be to blame.

GT is good for the artist as well and works wonders with art therapy.

Techniques of GT

GT uses a handful of techniques to get their clients talking. A few examples include:

Asking Questions

A therapist may ask the client questions, especially ones pertaining to the present. It's not uncommon to hear the therapist ask you, "What's going on right now?" or "How do you feel about this issue right now?" Questions about the present are what GT is all about, but that's not the only tricks they have up their sleeves.

Role Playing

You may have to play someone else in order to get your feelings across. As mentioned earlier, GT is great for those who are art-minded, so it works in harmony with those who are aspiring actors or involved with theatre.

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You may find yourself playing the role of your spouse, your boss, or anyone else who you have a problem with. This can allow you to get your frustrations out and also see the other side, adding nuance and self-awareness to your arsenal.


This works similar to role-playing, where you must confront whoever it is that's been bothering you. Getting your emotions off your chest can help you to move on from whoever it is that's been bothering you.

Dream Working

This therapy involves, of course, your dreams. Dreams are something that's been an enigma to the psychological world for ages. Sometimes, dreams are just random movies playing in your mind. Other times, they can be the key to whatever it is you have on your mind.

They'll also use quite a few other techniques as well. All GT therapists work differently, and they'll gladly help you find the therapy that's right for you.

Other Gestalt Therapy Concepts

Gestalt Therapy also has a few other concepts, including


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With GT, it's all about the whole person. GT believes that the person's mind and body are not together, and GT is all about helping to reunite them. Being whole allows you to be more self-aware, and that's the next concept.


We talked about self-awareness before, and being aware lets, clients deal with their environment.

Awareness tends to fall due to being preoccupied with the past or having low self-esteem.

However, you can be able to fix your awareness through a few ways, such as environmental contact. The person must observe the world around them. We all are present in the world, but have we sat down and observed what the world has to offer? From listening to all the small noises to smelling something you normally wouldn't have noticed, GT helps with becoming more aware of the here and now.

GT can also help you with taking responsibility. Sometimes, you're to blame for your problems, or at least partially. GT can help you to realize this and can help you critique yourself fairly.

GT also deals with the idea of unfinished business. We all have something we regret not finishing, or we all have an event that didn't have a proper conclusion. This is a big obstacle when it comes from moving on with the past, and GT is there to help those who want to move on. This can mean helping people to finish their business, or instead worry about the business of the present.

Effectiveness Of Gestalt Therapy

When it comes to therapies, some are backed up by science, while others seem to border on mysticism. How does GT stack up when under scientific scrutiny?

As it turns out, GT has been quite effective for many clients. There is truth to the idea of focusing on the here and now rather than the past. This goes by many names and has different ways of achieving it, but the basic idea is still the same, in that you have to be more mindful of yourself, your surroundings, and be aware of the thoughts that are swimming in your head.

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Of course, there isn't one therapy that works for everyone. If you don't see results right away, you can try another GT technique. Everyone has positive results from something different, and because of this, there is no therapy right for everyone.

What Makes A Good Gestalt Therapist?

If you want to find a Gestalt therapist near you, you want to find one who is experienced and is compassionate. The idea of role-playing can be a little hectic, so find one who can ease you into it and back away if things get too bad.

Look up some therapist near you and see what others are saying. Give GT a try, and if it's for you, then you're on your way to improving yourself.

Seek Help

There are many ways to go about finding therapy, and it doesn't have to be Gestalt Therapy. From online resources to brick and mortar offices, you can find a therapist that works best for you.

If you're feeling depressed, anxious, or have any other internal issue about yourself, talking to a therapist can give you the results you need. They're here to make sure you improve yourself and be more self-aware.

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