Gestalt Therapy in Integrative Humanistic Psychotherapy
Gestalt therapy is a popular form of humanistic psychotherapy, coming largely out of the work of Fritz and Laura Perls, from around the 1940’s, but which like most psychological therapy models has developed and adapted since it’s beginnings. Fritz Perls was psycho-dynamically trained under Freud, but disagreed with aspects of psychoanalysis, and sought to improve on these with his form of psychotherapy.
Unless stated otherwise therapy is provided under the accreditation of the NACHP.
What is Gestalt therapy?
Gestalt psychotherapy is a humanistic based method which draws heavily on other models such as psychoanalysis and eastern psychologies including mindfulness. These is a lot of cross over with other therapy methods, although this is partly because many contemporary therapy methods have grown together and exchanged ideas.
Key ideas in Gestalt include:
- Experimental model: Clients do not “just talk”. They are expected to try things in and out of sessions.
- Phenomenological model: Clients are challenged to not assume past explanations, but to consider rich present experience and draw awareness from the now.
- Mindful presence: Just as in the original eastern model, mindful presence in the here and now is emphasised.
- Taking responsibility: by modifying language and behaviour, and by verbalising clients take responsibility and accept their parts and perceived weaker spots.
- Relationships: as in Lacanian psychoanalysis, there is an emphasis on only knowing yourself when communicating or interacting with others.
- People need self awareness as a skill: people are forever changing so a snap shot divined by the therapist is not that helpful, people need to have their own ongoing self awareness.
- Dialog: the conversation between therapist and client is active and part of the learning process about relationships.
- Authenticity: the therapist where possible turns up as an authentic whole person “warts and all” (within professional boundaries) and this leads to natural and constructing dialog.
- Emotional and physical selves are not separate.
- We all have our “field” of influence and environment and this interacts with other fields having a knock on and cascade effect.
- Clients work on gaining real time self awareness – much as in active mindfulness.
- Clients use suppression: this is natural (as in defence mechanisms in psychodynamic theory) but becomes negative if left in place longer term.
What methods are common in Gestalt psychotherapy?
- Dream work: in Gestalt dream analysis the client has many parts and all the parts of the dream story are parts of them.
- Identification of unfinished business or incomplete gestalt: where things from the past are nagging away at you now emotionally, you have no closure.
- Imagery and fantasy: using imagination and fantasy in a healing and creative way (a little like phantasy in Kleinian psychoanalysis).
- Personal psychotherapy: interactive and focused sessions between therapist and client are analytic and experiential, not just talking.
- Couples therapy
- Group therapy and encounter groups
Does Gestalt psychotherapy work?
The UK Gestalt psychotherapy CORE research project has completed an extensive research project which shows positive results for Gestalt, and indicates that Gestalt is as effective as any other clinical intervention. You can read the research and results HERE.
Who provides Gestalt at your psychotherapy clinics
Stuart trained in Gestalt and other humanistic psychotherapies in his initial training (1993-6) and submitted evidence of practice in both this first accreditation process and his later NACHP accreditation process. He has completed Continuous Professional Development training in a range of therapies including Gestalt, including in a University CPD module on Humanistic Counselling, a Level 4 diploma in Integrative Therapeutic Counselling, and a CPD award in Gestalt Therapy. His core professional competences are in Psychodynamic psychoanalysis, Clinical hypnotherapy, clinical psychotherapy and Humanistic psychology.
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