• Joanne Bergmann-Goodhall

Modern therapy types - 2 of 3, Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt - or 'ge·​stalt' - Something that is made up many parts, yet it is somehow more than or different than just the sum of these parts.

Fritz Perls developed Gestalt therapy in the 1940's, guided by the theory that every person is a whole that is best understood in relation to the current position that they are currently experiencing.

This approach combines the relational theory with the actual present time state - you focus on the 'here and now'. This is a core component of Gestalt and it recognises that this self awareness can sometimes become blocked by thought patterns or negative behaviour, which can result in people feeling unhappy or dissatisfied.

The main aim is to provide non-judgemental self awareness to the client, which will result in an increased awareness of how they think, feel and act in the present moment.

There are 5 key elements to Gestalt Therapy:

* Person Centered awareness

We focus on the present, staying with the clients immediate experience of what they are currently being aware of

* Respect

Provide a balance of support and challenge as appropriate. The Gestalt approach will involve the therapist being more involved in the sessions rather than, for example, person centred

* Experience

The clients current experiences will be brought to focus - this can be emotions, perceptions, behaviours or body sensations

* Creativity and discovery

Gestalt is considered to be experimental in nature - you could be doing anything from drawing in sand to talking to your personal issues as they sit in the chair and you walk about in front of them!

* Responsibility

Humans have a social responsibioltiy to themselves and others. This approach encourages people to adopt an egalitarian (all humans are equal) approach to social life

* Relationship

Gestalt considers people as a whole when they have complete and good relationships with themselves and other people around them.

The main Gestalt methods that can be used are:


The therapist will engage with authentic and meaningful dialogue with the client, so that the client can be guided to a particular way of thinking or behaving.

Role Play

Gestalt will get you really involved! You can be asked to re-enact scenes from your past or future. Most commonly is the 'open or empty chair' technique, where the client role plays that they are talking to an imaginary figure from their life that is sitting in the empty chair in front of them. Then they switch roles, speaking on behalf of the imagined part of their own problem in response.

Body Language

The theapist will concentrate a lot on body language, which is considered to be a key indicator of emotions or behavour. You may even be asked to exaggerate the movements shown!

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