Gestalt therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses mostly on the personal experience of both the client and the therapist and what they create together. The word “Gestalt” (of German origin) refers to a “whole, configuration, integration, pattern or form”. Gestalt therapy was developed in the 1940s by Fritz Perls who brought forth the relational theory principle. This theory explains how every individual is seen as a whole and is not seen as being made up of separate components (meaning that the mind, body and soul help a person to function as a whole and thus, cannot be separated). Seeing an individual as a whole also means that the individual is not seen in insolation; the way a person chooses to respond to interactions with others is also very important.
Gestalt theory is founded on a positive view of human nature. Perls believed that when an individual develops an awareness of their own feelings, reactions, and thoughts, the individual is then able to find ways to resolve their personal difficulties. Gestalt therapists believe that people have the ability to solve their own problems and that every individual is able to take charge of their actions when they are then aware of what is happening.
Through Gestalt therapy individuals can learn to discover feelings that may have been suppressed or masked by other feelings. Once they are acknowledged, the individual together with the therapist, can work on accepting and trusting their emotions. The individual’s personal needs which might have previously been unacknowledged in their life are also given importance during therapy. The therapist would encourage the client to explore how these needs can be met and fulfilled. Through this process, the client gains a new sense of self.
The focus in Gestalt therapy is what is happening in the client’s present life (in the here and now). This does not mean that past events or future possibilities are negated. The idea however, is to avoid dwelling on the past or anxiously anticipating the future. Past experiences are addressed in therapy, but the therapist and the client would focus mostly on exploring what issues have elicited a specific memory to come up now or how the present moment is being impacted by past experiences.
The way Gestalt therapy is practiced in the present day is very integrative. Research data, ideas and interventions from different sources are used together with original Gestalt therapy techniques to support a client in their difficulties. Gestalt therapy techniques are exercises and interventions that are co-created between the therapist and the client which assist the client to be able to take the next step in their personal growth and development.
Claire Borg is a gestalt psychotherapist at Willingness. She works with adolescents and adults. She has a special interest in mental health. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.