So what is Gestalt? It is a German word that does not have a clear translation in English but most closely means form. It is an existential/experiential form of psychotherapy that emphasizes personal responsibility, and that focuses on the individual’s experience in the present moment, the therapist-client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person’s life, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation. Gestalt therapy brings self-realization through here and now experiments in directed awareness.
An organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.
At the core of gestalt therapy is the holistic view that people are intricately linked to and influenced by their environments and that all people strive toward growth and balance. Gestalt therapy is similar to person-centered therapy in this way, as well as in its emphasis on the therapist’s use of empathy, understanding, and unconditional acceptance of the client to enhance therapeutic outcomes.
- Gestalt Therapy is a method of awareness practice (mindfulness) by which perceiving, feeling and acting are understood to be conducive to interpreting, explaining and conceptualizing.
- It is distinct because it moves towards action, away from mere talk therapy thus is an experiential approach. Through experiments, the therapist supports the client’s direct experience of something new, instead of merely talking about the possibility of something new.
Examples of experiments:
- Rather than talk about a critical parent, the therapist may ask the client to imagine the parent is present and to talk to the parent directly.
- The therapist may notice something about the clients non-verbal behavior, or tone of voice and may ask the client to exaggerate the behavior and pay attention to that experience.
- The therapist may have the client focus on their breathing or posture and awareness that might happen when the client talks about different content.
*The therapist is working with process rather than content, the HOW rather than the WHAT.
Tracey incorporates Gestalt experiments in the therapeutic process. It offers clients the potential to find deeper understand of his or her or their own behavior by acting out or trying on a new way of behaving in a safe environment before attempting to do so outside of the therapy room. Gestalt experiments can accelerate the healing process beyond just talking it through.
Satir, V., & Banmen, J. (1991). The Satir model: Family therapy and beyond. Science & Behavior Books.