The GESTALT APPROACH:  Basic Gestalt Therapy Theory

"Change occurs when one becomes what one is, not when one tries to become what one is not."  ~ Arnold R. Beisser

C     O     N    T     E     N     T     S
Process Person-in-Environment
Contact:  Good & Ill-health Awareness & Attention
Figure & Ground Emergent Needs & Curiosities
Gestalt Formation & Completion Top dog /Underdog
Self & Self-Concept "Radical Respect"
Creativity Philosophical Assumptions
Frequently Asked Questions Dialogic /Middleground /Between
B i b l i o g r a p h y

Although there are ways in which persons are similar, in the Gestalt approach each person is distinct, significantly different from all others, and perceives the world in unique ways.  Each person is valued and respected as is;  and any changes for that person are dictated and limited by what that person knows and wants.  The theory and practice of Gestalt therapy is adaptable as a way of life, since it describes basic processes that are suitable for any person to live by.  It offers a set of constructs that are useful but not prescriptive.

      So, what are we talking about as Gestalt persons and practitioners?   Awareness!  And along with awareness, habits that facilitate the paying of attention, habits that enable clear communication and interaction with one's environment and with one's self in the Now, the present moment.  This therapeutic approach does not include imperatives other than:   BE AWARE;  PAY ATTENTION.  It rests on the belief that each unique person has an inner urge toward survival and toward wholeness that each person has an inner wisdom that may be heard through the voice of personal truth.  Thus, there is a spiritual foundation for living and for practice, a "numinous ground" in which loving energy is available (in both client and therapist) to support change and growth.

      And what is the therapeutic goal?  Fredrick "Fritz" Perls (et al) calls this "maturation," the movement from ill-health (that is, child-like dependence upon, or neorotic manipulation of, the environment for necessary support) toward health (that is, self-support independent of, and interactive with, the environment in healthy ways, with awareness of distinctions and boundaries).  There are no set formulas for that personal state of maturation, nor for the activities of a Gestalt therapist in enabling that movement.  Both the process of living one's life and of doing Gestalt therapy are creative acts.

      Much of the material presented here has been selected or derived from the text, "Theoretical and Practical Foundations of Gestalt Therapy," by Margaret ("Pat") P. Korb, Ph.D.  Here we have endeavored to present a number of the fundamental aspects of Gestalt therapy theory, wherever possible using ordinary (non-clinical) language, and in a manner which might be most easily grasped.  This has included an extensive use of hyperlinks:  there is no prescribed order to the above-listed headings;  in one way or another, each facet of Gestalt therapy theory relates to the others.  The reader will therefore note that, throughout the texts, certain keywords or phrases may be highlighted or underscored, indicating a physical link to another section of related interest.

      Finally, we should reiterate that this is presented as a basic introduction.  Readers are highly encouraged to seek out other sources of information on Gestalt, and some of these may be found in, or by way of, the Bibliography & Bookmarks section (above).  Theory must accompany real life experience, just as the Gestalt experience must be grounded in theory.  Either one, by itself, is not a complete picture.  Here at The Gestalt Center, incorporated into our various groups and program offerings, both merge under the rubric of Gestalt Education.  As we often put it, "Gestalt is an Approach to living one's life, and is a theory of and methodology for therapeutic practice."  Have fun exploring.

Pat Korb, Ph.D., Author
Josie Davenport, L.M.T., L.C.S.W., Co-author
John P. Korb, Co-author, Illustrator and Conceptual design


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