About Gestalt Psychotherapy
Gestalt Psychotherapy was founded in the 1950’s by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman, who captured their ideas in their seminal work Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality. It was in part a reaction to the issues they identified in Freudian psychotherapy. Gestalt is a humanistic approach, meaning that the experience of the client (or individual) is at its core, rather than labeling and categorising a person according to external measures.
Below are a few key aspects of Gestalt Psychotherapy.
Gestalt aims to help people to increase their self awareness, moment by moment, and to be fully present. When we are self aware we are better able to recognise our needs, whether that means something needs to change or we allow ourselves to enjoy a moment.
In order to adapt to the circumstances of our lives we creatively adjust in the best way that we can manage with the resources we have at the time. For instance, a child with an angry parent may creatively adjust by keeping quiet about their needs, or another child with a depressed parent may learn to hide their own worries and be strong for their parent. At the time these might be the most creative and effective choices they can make but if they continue to ignore their own needs as adults, they are likely to encounter problems in relationships and other areas of life.
In Gestalt therapy we try to identify the ways in which we have learned to creatively adjust, check out whether they help us or not, and seek to find more authentic and liberating ways of relating in the present.
This is the belief that the mind and the body work together. Sometimes our body tells us things that we can't yet mentally process or are unwilling to admit to - think of the person who says they are fine through clenched teeth, or another who develops a headache each time they have to meet with a difficult manager. By paying attention to our bodies we receive vital information about ourselves.
Holistic also means that to understand ourselves fully we need to bring our curiosity to the full context of our lives. This includes our personal circumstances, relationships, cultural influences, social systems, habitat and ways of being. Work is grounded in the therapist / client relationship which offers opportunities for authentic and meaningful meeting and healing.
If you would like to know more about Gestalt Psychotherapy a great introduction is the book Gestalt Counselling in Action by Petruska Clarkson and Simon Cavicchia.