What is Gestalt Psychotherapy? „ The entire life provides the background for the present moment“. Gestalt Therapy was developed and formulated in the 1950’s by Laura and Fritz Perls together with Paul Goodman and has since the 70’s spread across Europe and today Gestalt Psychotherapy is taught and practiced on all 6 continents.
The theoretical origins of Gestalt Therapy are Psychoanalysis, Gestalt Psychology, Field Theory, Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy. Theory and practice are developed further on an ongoing basis. Gestalt Therapy is a scientifically based approach to psychotherapy, with its roots in the humanistic psychology tradition. In addition to psychotherapy it provides an entry into many professional fields (consulting, counselling, teaching, organizational consulting and development, pastoral care) so liberating its efficiency and emancipatory potential.
Gestalt therapy is an experiential and experience oriented psychotherapeutic approach, which can be applied to working with individuals, as well as couples, groups, children, youth and families. The basic assumption of Gestalt therapy is as is the case with humanistic psychology, that the person is embedded in a social and ecological field. It is only in contact with his environment that growth, development and finding meaning occurs.
Background to experiences
Individuals as well as organisations are motivated and have the potential for finding creative solutions and for growth. These vital contact processes are experienced as dynamic units or “gestalts”. Comprehensive ongoing contact processes lead to assimilation and integration. Together with the social field in which the individual is located, they form the background for experiencing the actual situation and shape the individual’s life style. Contact processes can be disrupted by remarks/utterances that are experienced as humiliating or even traumatic and in addition there are also inner influencing factors. These incomplete gestalts, unresolved situations hamper the lively intelligent and realistic exchange with the actual environment.
During therapy the experience is more important than interpretation. Central is the contact between therapist and client, so that support, trust and space are established, in order to perceive what currently exists in the actual life situation, to perceive, experience, to research and to express the feelings which are related thereto and thereby close the incomplete gestalts.
Encouraging Creative Competence
Mimic, gesture, posture, speech and tone of voice all express perceptions, thoughts and feelings as well as the impact of the social interactions and therefore in the context of therapy receive as much attention as the verbal expression. That forms the basis for integrating the various life experiences and encouraging the creative competencies in order to meet life’ s challenges with increasing consciousness and so giving one’s own life direction.
The text is with the support of Verena Stauffacher (2005) on the homepage of the Swiss Association for Gestalt Therapy and Integrated Therapy (SVG): www.gestalttherapie.ch)
- Staemmler, Frank-M (2009): Was ist eigentlich Gestalttherapie? Eine Einführung für Neugierige. Bergisch Gladbach: EHP
- Boeckh, Albrecht (2006): Die Gestalttherapie. Eine praktische Orientierungshilfe. Stuttgart: Kreuz
- Bongers, Dieter; Schulthess, Peter; Strüempfel, Uwe; Leuenberger, Andreas (2005): Gestalttherapie und Integrative Therapie: Eine Einführung. Bergisch Gladbach: EHP
- Perls, Fritz (1976/1999): Grundlagen der Gestalttherapie. Einführung und Sitzungsprotokolle. Stuttgart: Pfeiffer/Klett-Cotta
- Strümpfel, Uwe (2006): Therapie der Gefühle. Forschungsbefunde zur Gestalttherapie. Bergisch Gladbach: EHP