Gestalt Therapy

Recently, some students attended an advanced counselling skills workshop on Gestalt Therapy and found it quite immersive, intense and confrontational; here’s a glimpse into why…

GESTALT is a German word that refers to configuration or pattern, form or shape and may refer to holism.

Holism is the idea that natural systems and their properties should be viewed as wholes, not as collections of parts.
Natural “systems” can be one person within many parts that are in conflict with the part of themselves that wants to achieve.
The family “system” (or constellation), the work or employment “system” and friendship “systems” are all special groups placed here on Earth to help us survive (and are all different).  These will be explored in a future post.

When I work within this frame (Gestalt), I introduce myself as an intuitive mentor and coach.  The main reason is because this experiential, sometimes experimental type of therapy is confrontational and very powerful when facilitated using techniques as well as intuition based on the rapport you have built with the client.

Gestalt therapy is a form of psychotherapy built on the experiential ideal of “here and now” and relationships with others and the world.

Gestalt therapy can also be referred to as psycho drama because this can be play acting; games of dialogue.  More on this soon, within techniques.
A Gestalt is organised by the relationship between a figure and ground.  Laws of grouping have principles that humans naturally perceive things as organised patterns and objects.

Gestalt psychology tries to understand the laws of our ability to acquire and maintain meaningful perceptions in an apparently chaotic world.
The central principle of gestalt psychology is that the mind forms a global whole with self-organising tendencies.
This principle maintains that when the human mind (perceptual system) forms a percept or gestalt, the whole has a reality of its own, independent of the parts.

The original famous phrase of Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, “The whole is other than the sum of the parts” is often incorrectly translated as “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” and thus used when explaining gestalt theory, and further incorrectly applied to systems theory.
Koffka did not like the translation.
He firmly corrected students who replaced “other” with “greater”. “This is not a principle of addition” he said.  The ‘whole’ has an independent existence.
In psychology, Gestaltism is often opposed to structuralism.  Gestalt theory allows for the deconstruction of the whole situation into its elements – what it really is.

Productive thinking is solving a problem with insight.
This is a quick insightful unplanned response to situations and environmental interaction.

Reproductive thinking is solving a problem with previous experiences and what is already known.
This is a very common thinking.

For example, when a person is given several segments of information, he/she deliberately examines the relationships among its parts, analyses their purpose, concept, and totality, he/she reaches the “aha!” moment, using what is already known. Understanding in this case happens intentionally by reproductive thinking.

Gestalt psychology, school of psychology founded in the 20th century, provided the foundation for the modern study of perception.

Gestalt theory emphasises that the whole of anything is greater than its parts.
That is, the attributes of the whole are not deducible from analysis of the parts in isolation.
The word Gestalt is used in modern German to mean the way a thing has been “placed,” or “put together.”  There is no exact equivalent in English.

“Form” and “shape” are the usual translations; in psychology the word is often interpreted as “pattern” or “configuration.”

Gestalt theory originated in Austria and Germany as a reaction against the associationist and structural schools’ atomistic orientation (an approach which fragmented experience into distinct and unrelated elements).

Gestalt studies made use instead of phenomenological focusing and experimentation necessary for maximum growth and healing.

In the counselling world Gestalt covers 2 agendas:  moving the client from environmental support to self-support and reintegrating the disowned parts of one’s personality.

The environment consists of both external and internal worlds.

The quality of contact with aspects of the external world (for example, other people) and the internal world (for example, parts of the self that are disowned) and monitored.

Basic assumption:  Individuals have the capacity to self-regulate when they are aware of what is happening in and around them.  Therapy provides the setting and opportunity for that awareness to be supported and restored.

Organism-Environment Field:  If the therapist is able to stay with the client’s present experience and trust in the process, the client will move toward increased awareness, contact and integration.

SYNCHRONISATION – have the ability to anchor and feel what it is like to be truly in harmony and home with yourself.

IMPASSE – stuck between not being able to go back and afraid they cannot survive if they go forward.

I AND THOU – Based on direct, lively, emotionally engaged contact in which the therapist is both with the client and doing something with the client.

HERE AND NOW – Neither viewed as determined by their past nor reduced to unconsciously repeating prior relationships.

Field Theory – where all factors that have influence are present here and now in the field.                          

Unfinished business (incomplete Gestalts) – focus on mixed messages (incongruences) between the verbal and non-verbal messages.

Body awareness – What and how – What are you feeling right now?  What are you seeing? What are you aware of now?  Are you aware of what you are doing with your hand?  Your foot? Etc.

Top dog/Under dog – Internal Dialogue exercise – boundaries around use of language e.g. aggressive Top dog and passive Underdog.  Which are you more of?

Exaggeration – repeat again and again

Making the rounds – go up to others in a group to speak to or do something.

Reversals – role play both aggressive and passive

Games of Dialogue – experimenting with opposing sides of defended personality to display anger rather than depression (for example).

“I take responsibility” – state “I feel……….eg ‘annoyed’……and take responsibility for it”

Staying with the feeling – frustrate the demands for support

Shuttle Technique – directing attention back/forth from one activity to another

Empty Chair Technique – must have separate empty chair directly in front of client.

Dreamwork – represents an unfinished, unassimilated situation.  The different parts in the dream are different aspects of the self.

Group therapy – Family Dinner Table

As you work through this type of therapy, please remind yourself that we have the ability to heal ourselves from within.  Our bodies have the ability to intuit deeply installed trauma of what is there, and our bodies carry memory of this and the pain some say through our DNA.

If our body has this connection, then why haven’t we?
I encourage you to create an energetic text message to your soul.
Integrating all aspects of self.  Removing all aspects of self that no longer serves.
Once we have the process of release, use the body for learning the ability as the soul vessel to teach people how to release our own (and theirs) and move forward.

Make contact if you have the confidence to pursue this energetic, psychodramatic therapy called GESTALT.


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