Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Gestalt Therapy: “Sensing the Here and Now”

During the seminars I have attended in my training in Gestalt therapy, very often I would receive the same question from friends but also from colleagues: "What exactly is Gestalt?". So I will try to give some descriptions and not an interpretation, because Gestalt approach views interpretations as fantasies, and fantasies are often dysfunctional for communication.

The reason that it is almost impossible to define a Gestalt therapy is because Gestalt has a way to reinvent itself every second and transform according to the wisdom of every given moment in the here and now, like a living organism.

Gestalt is highly influenced by phenomenology,existentialism, eastern philosophy, somatic psychotherapy and theater. 
It is more an attitude and a philosophy of life than a psychotherapeutic approach.

The name comes from the German verb gestalten, which means "to give form". Gestalt is particularly concerned with the contact of the person with himself, with others and with the environment, and the limits of this contact. It deals with the "process" and the continuous adaptation of the organism in the environment, which is a process of perpetual change.

Phenomenology offered to Gestalt the concept of subjective reality and as an approach not only deals with personal insight of the individual but also with insight as a process, using small experiments.

For Gestalt a very important element is the authentic presence, because without it one cannot be approached. The Gestalt therapist often expresses personal experience, feelings and thoughts to the client. The observation expressed by the therapist has to do with posture or facial expressions of the client in the here and now, without interpretation. The Freudian theory has taught us that many times an interpretation can destroy the “real” meaning and disrupt the relational process.

A very important quality for the Gestalt therapist is to be able to "contain" the client. Being able as a therapist to feel the client, without criticism, analysis or interpretation, while maintaining a separate and independent presence/existence. This is an existential and interpersonal trust in the practice of direct experience. The ability of the therapist to “contain” the client creates a secure environment which helps the client to increase his awareness.

Essential to the Gestalt approach is personal responsibility. Everyone has the responsibility to realize that no one else can change anything in his life except him. Gestalt distinguishes between responsibility and blame. Blame always includes a "should" and for the Gestalt “should” contains danger that can lead to manipulation which is the opposite of authentic experience.

Very important also is the commitment to dialogue. Because from the Gestalt point of view, therapy is not simply something that one "does" to the other. Change is affected from contact, and contact is something that happens between people and emerges from interactivity between them. Change is a dynamic process. 

The Gestalt therapist surrenders to the process, and provides the "space" for contact to happen without manipulating communication in order to create the proper result as an expert. The most difficult thing for a therapist is to remain authentic and for this to occur he must abandon the mask of authority.

“It is very easy for therapists to hide behind the mask of an expert in order to disguise their real face and cover their inability to be authentic”

Parvy Palmou
Gestaltist to Be!

Original Text in Greek:

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