I have seen film footage of Fritz Perls doing
therapy and this has always seemed rather
brusque. In what ways has Gestalt
therapy changed since Perls' day?
premises of Gestalt therapy have not changed
over the years. Some theoretical
and practical concepts are being expanded
and deepened in ways that befit what is being
learned about "the self," about
what is therapeutically viable. Perls' style might have appeared
brusque, in keeping with the time in which
he lived and worked; as well as the fact
that these were demonstrational films, rather than actually doing therapy
as a continuous process. Today
there are as many styles as there are therapists,
just as there were when Perls was alive.
How does Gestalt differ
from other approaches?
Because Gestalt therapy is process-oriented, therapy deals with core issues
in each uniquely whole person. Any aspect of the person may
be appropriate in working through material
that emerges in therapy: behavior,
cognitions, beliefs, body sensations, imagining,
dreams. The creative processes
and style of the therapist are the only limiting
factors in suggesting experiments that may
be helpful toward clarity.
What is meant by "growth"?
This is radically
different from forensic forms of "doctor/patient"
therapy where one might expect to be prescribed-for according to a categorical template of "symptoms".
Functioning from a position of "radical
respect," the Gestalt therapist believes that
persons already possess an innate inclination
and predisposition to health and wholeness.
Therefore, while there are viable interventional
and facilitative tools at the therapist's
disposal, he or she does not presume to "fix"
or "cure" anyone else. The client
is the "expert".
In keeping with the phenomenological base and the focus on "radical
respect," growth is self-determined and self-motivated, arising from
the uniquely experienced needs and curiosities of
each person. Generally the target is labeled as "self
support" rather than the kind of environmental dependency
that neurotic mechanisms focus upon. Therapists have ideas
as to growthful directions; however, the clients themselves
determine the processes that work and the structures that are felt to be
What is "work"?
"Work" is the exploration of one's personal process or "unfinished
business" as it is relevant to the present.
How does Gestalt relate
to my everyday life? (I am not a therapist, or a client.)
The Gestalt Approach is about that which is therapeutic, and this is obviously
not limited to "therapy" per se. Gestalt's foundations
in phenomenology, present-centered awareness, and
"radical respect" translate into communication
processes with one's self and with one's real-life environment that
are lastingly transformational, therapeutic and satisfying.
What is meant by "aggression"
in Gestalt therapy?
therapy, the term "aggression"
does not refer to violent behavior, but rather
to what one might also call "self-assertion"
As the human organism responds to its own
and regulates its responses in order to meet or satisfy
them, it initiates contact with the environment; Perls calls this "aggression."
It is simply that creative energy necessary
for getting from the environment the physical,
emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and social
nourishment required for healthy living.
What is the primary
stance of the Gestalt therapist?
According to Gertrude Krause, "Awareness is the primary
consideration in Gestalt therapy since it seems apparent that genuine change
is difficult to achieve without awareness." And, "I am content
to limit the degree of change I effect in a client to the change in his
level or levels of awareness. Any further change is his choice
and responsibility. If I assume the responsibility or the right
to change anything else about his person, I run the risk of making him
more dependent than when I met him, instead of helping him become more
independent of outside support. Therefore, I consider myself
primarily a clarifying agent, rather than a change agent. My
primary tools are to give attention and respect." (p. 1)
How does "radical respect"
relate to therapy?
The term "radical respect" is used to connote
the attitude that the Gestalt therapist holds toward the client.
The therapist's basic assumption is that the client has within her/himself
everything s/he needs for health and wholeness. To further
that goal, awareness is the primary consideration.
This quality of respect is shown during therapy in the following ways:
Therapists are encouraged
to clear up their own "unfinished business" so that they can clearly
observe the client.
Pay attention to the client's
process as it occurs in the present, through such physical signs as "breathing,
posture, voice, manner of speech, clarity or vagueness of expression, apparel,
color or lack of it." (p. 1)
Assist the client in experiencing
their process in the present by experimenting with words or gestures which
might be congruent with their core experience, enabling the client to experience
directly how a true statement fits.
Suggestions are made so
that the client has a choice to follow them or not.
Resistance is respected
as a valuable area to explore. By noticing the current validity
of each fear, the client can enter new territory at their own pace.
The therapist is not attached
to the client responding in a particular way; there is no right
answer to any question asked.
There is no set interpretation
of dream symbols or any set of techniques that are always used.
methods seem pretty "schizy" to me. For example, the "Empty
Chair" exercise looks like someone with multiple personalities.
How can it be helpful?
In the experience of an exercise like the "Empty Chair," the aspects of
self which emerge and are "given a voice" are in no way indicative of some
personality disorder or disintegration. To the contrary, in
the course of this sort of first-person dialogue or interaction, such potentially
fragmented facets of an individual's unique ground
and wholeness are made experientially
present and aware, and thereby re-integrated.
What is the meaning
of the statement, "Gestalt therapy is body-oriented"?
Gestalt therapy is not so much body-oriented as it is whole-person oriented.
There are two primary reasons, however, why Gestalt therapists may choose
to draw awareness to the relationship between the client's stated problem
and the ways that this problem resonate in their physical body.
clinical experience we know that talk alone is often not effective or that
when the client only talks about the problem, awareness and change are
normally very slow.
(2) The body's
physical response, when it occurs as a result of discussing the problem,
is a response that can be observed in the present moment, and which can
change as the client gains insight. This physical component
can become a tool for the client to use as a way of knowing:
What's true for them
When they are in direct
contact with their own process
How changes occur as they
apply their attention to the process in the present.