Rachael Kellett 

MSc. Psychotherapy, Bsc. (Hons) Psychology

 

Counselling and Psychotherapy

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Welders  Lane

Beaconsfield

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Gestalt therapy  

 
This approach focuses on the "here and now" of the whole of the individual's experience.  Developing their self awareness of moment to moment feelings, thoughts and behaviour, incorporating mind, body and soul.  Other areas considered important to Gestalt therapists are having an authentic relationship which both offers support and encourages self support.
 
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Gestalt therapy is a form of psychotherapy. It is a way of treating people who feel ill at ease. It is based on the idea that it is best to experience what we feel "here and now" and not keep thinking about the past or worry about the future. The goal is to help clients become aware of his or her thoughts, behaviours, experiences, and feelings and to "own" or take responsibility for them.

It forms part of what is called humanistic psychotherapy and was co-founded by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940s-1950s.

At the center of Gestalt therapy is the idea of "awareness" (knowing). The person being helped is encouraged to know his or her own feelings and behaviour, and the effect they have upon the world around them.

With Gestalt therapy, the patient is helped to see that they are trying to avoid feeling emotions from the present. Once the patient realizes this, he or she can begin to get better.

 
The History of Gestalt
 
The word “Gestalt” first appeared in 1523 in Germany vaguely meaning “put before the eyes, exposed to the looks” but it was Kurt Koffka, Wolfgang Kohler and Max Wertheimer and Christian Von Ehrenfels who turned it into a theory of perception based on the idea that “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”
 
Then inspired by Edmund Husserl's “phenomenology” of describing rather than explaining phenomena, Gestalt Psychology was developed and in turn the idea that phenomena can only be studied if it is seen as part of a complex whole which is both interrelated and interdependent. Over time Gestaltists were influenced by Freud, Freidlander's Expressionism, Korzybski's Semantics, Emerson's transendentalism, Moreno's psychodrama, alongside Judaism, Zen Buddhism and Taoism. From this medley of ideas came a coherent original synthesis.
 
The main founder of Gestalt therapy was Fritz Perls trained as a Doctor then psychoanalyst (richly influenced by his therapists, Karen Horney a creative and profound personality and Wilhelm Reich who believed in active analysis, touching his patients and working with muscular tension and armouring, Kurt Goldstein a Gestalt Psychologist working with brain lesions (who Perls worked as an assistant to). He moved to South Africa and his first contribution to Psychoanaysis was the paper “Oral Resistence” but it was too revolutionary and was rejected by everyone including Freud. He realised then that his ideas did not fit with psychoanalysis so he began formulating hiown theory and in 1940 wrote the book “Ego, Hunger and Agression” with his wife Laura Perls (who interestingly was the first therapist to ever sit face to face with her clients). The ideas in this book would later emerge as Gestalt Therapy and were:
1)      The importance of the present
2)      The importance of the body and the sensations
3)      The importance of direct and genuine contact between the therapist and the patient
4)      Paying attention to incomplete emotions
5)      Taking an holistic approach to the organism and its medium
 
He also rejected the psychoanalytic focus on the subconscious, it's priority of infant sexuality and libido and transference as a basis of treatment.
 
In 1946 he moved to the States and joined with Laura, an anarchist and poet Paul Goodman, philosopher Isadore From, Paul Weisz (who introduced him to Zen), Elliot Shapiro, Sylveste Gestalt Eastmen and Ralph Hefferline to create the collective book “Gestalt Therapy” (1951). Perls called this working method “therapy of concentration” because it involved the patient having to concentrate on his here and now feelings and physical sensations instead of psychoanalysis's free association of ideas.
 
Gestalt has an integrating holistic vision of being human, it values the affective, emotional,  intellectual, physiological, sensory, social, and spiritual parts of the person. It basically feeds on phenomenology and existentialism. It also borrows many Taoist ideas:
1)      Emphasising spontaneity, what comes up
2)      Appreciating the body as the house of the spirit
3)      Eliminating pseudo moral interjections such as “you must/should”
4)      Concentrating on the here and now
5)      The belief that all change starts by accepting what you are
6)      Emphasising the continuity of conscience or cycle of experience (Gestalts constantly open and close)
 
 
From Zen
“There are no rules, no intentions in Nature, whatever is, is, whatever comes, comes” that is, detachment or the cycle of contact and withdrawal. “Don't push the river. Let it run” B. Stevens
 
Gestalt doesn't deny the unconscious it is just approached through the emotions and body sensations. Neurosis arises due to a series of interrupted or unsatisfied needs (or unfinished gestalts)
 
The methods/ techniques
1)      Awareness the “how” not the “why”
2)      The “empty chair” to help resolve unfinished situations, also “top dog (desires,needs, potential), under dog”(excuses or obstacles put in the way)
3)      the monodrama (the client plays the part of different characters in an unfinished situation, or different parts of themselves “bossy side” “lazy side”
4)      Amplication or exaggeration based on the ideas that repetitive gestures may block sensations and feelings
5)      Talking “to” the other eg discouraging sentences that may be projections on to others and encouraging honesty
6)      Talking in the first person (to encourage responsibility)
7)      Dreams (every aspect of a dream is an aspect of the dreamer's self)
8)      Working with the body (move the body and talk about and to it). We are a body rather than we have a body.
9)      Resistences (introjection, projection, confluence, retroflection, deflection, proflection(doing to others what we would like done to us) are all avoidance of contact
   
 
                                                        The Gestalt prayer
                                                        “ I do what I do,
                                                        you do what you do.
                            I did not come to this world to fulfil your expectations.
                                          You did not come to fulfil mine.
                                                                      I am I.
                                                               You are you.
                                           If by chance we meet ourselves
                                                        it will be wonderful.
                                                If not, there is no remedy.”
 
 
 
How does Gestalt work?
The Gestalt approach sees the client as having a problem continuing in the here and now. The objective is to develop the client's awareness about their interruptions to contact with their environment. The “because” of why something happens is of less importance than the  “how”  it is causing difficulties today. To do this, the therapist helps the client to increase their self­support. The first step is to achieve acceptance of who we really are by integration of our conflicting parts eg the bit that wants to change versus the bit that does not. Gestaltists believe that only when you become aware of what you do, of what happens to you, of how you do or do not, are you able to realise what you are and how you are in the world. This is the paradoxical theory of change:
“Change comes about when you become what you are, not when you try to become what you are not.” Arnold R. Beisser.
 
The role of the therapist is to accompany the client in a non­directive way and ensure the client doesn't feel obliged to act, but that they stay present, active and in contact with the client. The client is encouraged to speak in the first person and the therapist stays in contact with their own sensations, thoughts and feelings and may deliberately share them if they feel it is in the service of the client. Interpretations are avoided and replaced by questions that develop the clients own awareness.
 
"Gestalt has been described as a “therapy centred in the therapist” (Levitzky). The therapeutic relationship is established on three levels: the therapist in empathy with the client, the therapist in congruence with himself, and both in sympathy with the “between” the I/you relationship”
 
"Gestalt Therapy is a permit for being creative, a permit for playing with our most beautiful possibilities during our short life”. Joseph Zinker
 
Gestalt is also a way of life
1.  Live now. Concern yourself with the present before the past or future.
2.  Live here. Devote yourself to what is present before what is absent.
3.  Stop imagining things. Experiment with what is real.
4.  Stop thinking unnecessary things. Instead taste and look.
5.  Express instead of manipulating, explaining, justifying or judging.
6.  Surrender yourself to distress and pain in the same way that you surrender to pleasure. Do not limit your conscience.
7.  Accept no “you must” or “you should” other than the ones you impose on yourself. Do not adore any idol.
8.  Accept being as you are.
9.  (Claudio Naranjo)