Understanding gestalt therapy can be especially challenging because it works from a broad set of principles rather than according to a set framework. Different individuals respond to different treatments, so learning about each method of counselling is absolutely essential if you or your loved one is struggling with psychological issues. Gestalt therapy combines elements of phenomenology, field theory and existentialist philosophy to provide a unique approach to psychotherapy. The counsellor and the individual engage in a dialogue, which is designed to help the person make better decisions by identifying the factors in their general environment which influence their behaviour.
Phenomenology is central to gestalt therapy. It’s primarily concerned with removing the individual from his or her past experiences and learned methods of interpreting situations. It focuses on what the individual picks up in “naive” (untainted) perception, and both the subjective and objective things they perceive are treated as valuable information. One of the main goals of this type of counselling is to teach the individual to become aware of their own awareness of their surroundings. In other words, not only are the things perceived important, the method through which they’re perceived is also important.
This phenomenological perspective is combined with elements of scientific field theory and the philosophy of existentialism to complete gestalt therapy. Field theory, at its most simplistic level, states that everything within a particular field (for example, your particular life-environment) has an effect on everything else in that field. This means that the individual in psychotherapy is being affected by the therapist and his or her surroundings, which is essential to gestalt therapy. Existentialism is all about the individual, and places special importance on his or her subjective experiences. They also believe that the individual is constantly searching for his or her “authentic” self, but that this is an ongoing project which will never realise completion.
Gestalt therapy primarily operates through “dialogues,” which are conversations between the counsellor and the client. These can move in unpredictable directions, but are governed by four underlying principles. The first is called inclusion, which can be thought of as a non-judgmental and non-analytical form of empathy between the two people. The second relates to the presence of the therapist, who is encouraged to share his or her thoughts, feelings, observations and preferences freely. The counsellor also has to fully commit to the communication process to enable a deeper connection to develop. The last principle is that dialogues are lived and not discussed, meaning that the focus is thoroughly on experiencing the moment, not analysing it.
Through the process of these dialogues, the counsellor helps the individual gain a better understanding of the variety of influences working on their behaviour at any given time. This allows them to make better decisions regarding their own life and therefore move towards their “authentic” self. This happens through the dialogues, but is not a direct intention of them. The conversations are unstructured, occurring however they happen to on a particular day, but by thinking about things in this way the individual is in a better position to make informed decisions in their day to day life. The therapist doesn’t push the individual to take any form of action (because only the individual can truly know what their state of authenticity is) but the process helps them identify and move towards it.
If you or your loved one is going through a tough time, psychotherapy can help you address the issues and continue with your ordinary life. Gestalt therapy is fairly complicated because the content of the session isn’t known beforehand, but it can be very effective for some individuals. If you have any questions about the treatment or aren’t sure whether you or your loved one could benefit from counselling, get in touch with us for some free advice. We’ll answer your questions in plain English and help you get the care you need. This comes with no obligation, no charge and complete confidentiality, so pick up the phone and see how we can help you!