It was developed in the late 1940's by Fritz Pearls, and is guided by the relational theory principle that every individual is a whole (mind, body and soul). The belief is that they are best understood in relation to the client's current situation as he or she experiences it.
My approach combines the relational theory with present state - focusing strongly on self-awareness and the 'here and now' (what happens from one moment to the next). With gestalt therapy, self-awareness is key to personal growth and developing full potential. My approach recognises that sometimes this self-awareness can become blocked by negative thought patterns and behaviour, that can leave people feeling dissatisfied and unhappy.
My aim is to promote a non-judgemental self-awareness, that enables clients to develop a unique perspective on life. By helping an individual to become more aware of how they think, feel and act in the present moment, gestalt therapy provides insight into ways in which he or she can alleviate their current issues and distress in order to aspire to their maximum potential.
Person centred awareness - Focusing on the present, and imagining it separated from the future and past is considered essential. The process follows an individual's experience in a way that does not involve seeking out the unconscious, but staying in the present and awareness now.
Respect - Clients, whether an individual, group or family, are treated with profound respect by a myself. I provide a balance of support, and challenge is key to helping those taking part, to feel comfortable about opening up and acknowledging areas of resistance.
Emphasis on experience - My approach focuses on the client's experiences in terms of their emotions, perceptions, behaviours, body sensations, ideas and memories. I encourage the client to 'experience' all of these senses, both vividly and in the here and now.
Social responsibility - The gestalt approach recognises that humans have a social responsibility for self and for others. It demands respect for all people and acknowledges that everyone is an individual. Ultimately, it encourages clients to adopt an impartial approach to social life.
Relationship - Relating is considered central to human experience and gestalt therapy considers individuals as 'whole' when they have a good relationship with themselves and others around them. The interpersonal relationship between the individual and myself is a nurturing process in my sessions.
Those undertaking gestalt therapy will explore all of their thoughts, feelings, behaviours, beliefs and values to develop awareness of how they present themselves. It also helps them to respond to events in their environment. This gives them the opportunity to identify choices, patterns of behaviour and obstacles that are impacting their health and well-being. These are all barriers which prevent them from reaching their full potential.
Role-play can help individuals to experience different feelings and emotions, and to better undertand how they can present and organise themselves in every day life.
The 'open chair' technique
The open chair technique involves two chairs and role-play, and this can evoke deep emotions that are essential to the healing process. The client sits opposite an empty chair and must imagine someone (usually himself/herself or parts of him or her) in it. They then communicate with their other self/person, asking questions and engaging with each other. My client will then sit in the once empty chair where the conversation continues, but the client has reversed roles - speaking on behalf of the imagined part of his or her problem. This technique enables participants to locate a specific feeling or a side of their personalities which they have 'disowned' or tried to ignore. This helps them to accept the two sides, and to acknowledge that conflict exists in everyone.
I will engage with my client through meaningful and authentic dialogue, in order to guide them into a particular way of behaving or thinking. This may go beyond simple discussion, to more creative forms of expression such as dancing, singing or laughing. The client will only, of course take part in activities where they feel comfortable!
Dreams play an important role in gestalt therapy, as they can help individuals to understand spontaneous aspects of themselves. Fritz Perls frequently asked clients to relive his or her dreams by playing different objects and people in the dream. During this, they would be asked questions like: "What are you aware of now?" to sharpen self-awareness.
Attention to body language
Throughout our session, I will concentrate on body language, which is considered a subtle indicator of intense emotions. When specific body language is noticed, I may ask the client to exaggerate these movements or behaviours. This is thought to intensify the emotion attached to the behaviour, and highlight an inner meaning. For example, a client may be showing signs of clenched fists or frowning, to which I may ask something along the lines of: "What are you saying with this movement?" We work together by discussing any questions they may have during the session
Who can benefit?
Ultimately, gestalt therapy is considered to help individuals gain a better understanding of how their emotional and physical needs are connected. They will learn that being aware of their internal self is key to understanding why they react to certain feelings or situations.
Gestalt therapy is considered particularly valuable for helping to treat a wide range of psychological issues - especially as it can be applied as a long-term therapy or as a brief and focused approach. It has been found to be effective for managing tension, anxiety, addiction, post-traumatic stress, depression and other psychological problems that can prevent people from living life to the full. I offer a safe and secure environment to ensure that my clients feel comfortable. Overall, people who participate in gestalt therapy tend to feel more self-confident, calm and at peace with themselves.