Gestalt therapy was originated about fifty years ago by Frederick ‘Fritz’ Perls (1893-1970) in collaboration with Paul Goodman. A German word, “Gestalt,” points to a main theme of the therapy. It describes the unified nature of a pattern of elements and, in Gestalt therapy practice, refers to our tendency to see and act in unified wholes, instead of parts. Thus, the mind, body, and spirit act as one and are not treated as separate functions. The main limit to Gestalt counselling is the counsellor himself and his or her lack of imagination. The overall aim is, by bringing elements into the open, people are able to identify and integrate the various diverse parts of themselves and thereby achieve an individual gestalt.
The Gestalt Therapy approach encourages individual personal growth through the development of self-awareness and self support to enable creative and spontaneous contact with people and the environment we live in. This process does not conform to preset rules or expectations. A Gestalt therapist encourages clients to explore and find ways to live life in a meaningful way. The learning and application of Gestalt therapy is always experiential with clients being encouraged to experiment between client and therapist as the vehicle for healing. Gestalt Therapy works through the interconnection of concepts. Here are a few that are key:-
- Present-centered awareness
- Profound respect
- Social responsibility
- Emphasis on experience
- Creative experiment and discovery
Preparation of Gestalt Therapy
Gestalt therapy begins with the first contact. There is no separate diagnostic or assessment period. Instead, assessment and screening are done as part of the ongoing relationship between patient and therapist. This assessment includes determining the patient’s willingness and support for work using Gestalt methods, as well as determining the compatibility between the patient and the therapist. Unfortunately, some “encounter groups” led by poorly trained individuals do not provide adequate pre-therapy screening and assessment.
Gestalt therapy is often criticized as being too technique orientated with little research into what actually works. In fact some say no matter what the style or technique used it is the actual counsellor who is the biggest factor as to whether the client moves on or not. Perls himself was in his later years says this about therapists, One of the objections I have against anyone calling himself a Gestalt Therapist is that he uses a technique. A technique is a gimmick. A gimmick should only be used in the extreme case.