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The German word “Gestalt” is not easily translated into a single English term. However, for the sake of my own desire to keep things simple and therefore, easy to understand, I would say that Gestalt means “wholeness”. Gestalt Therapy assists people to discover, explore and experience his or her own shape and patterns of being in the world so that over time, there is a movement towards real change and wholeness.
The aim of Gestalt Therapy is the integration of all parts of the Self (many parts are judged by ourselves or others as being “not good enough”; or distasteful in some way) or many aspects of the Self are out of awareness – in other words, we are not consciously aware of certain ways of being in the world that are not serving us. Also, as human beings, we all carry many negative beliefs, attitudes and ideas on how things should be, how one should behave and so on.
Very often these Introjects (Gestalt term for that which we swallow whole) have been fed to us by others including family, friends and society. Often this happens when we are young; at a time when we don’t yet have the tools or life experience to question or challenge these introjects and they are often buried deeply in our Psyche, out of our awareness.
However, negative or distorted belief systems have a big impact on how we feel about ourselves and others and how we function in the world.
Gestalt Therapy believes that in moving towards a healthier way of being, people can allow themselves to be totally who they are in the here and now and develop a sense of what they would like to change and what they would potentially like to become. The fullness of life’s experiences can then be available to them, both in the long term and in the present moment.
The most important components of this style of counselling combine the Therapist’s knowledge and skill with a process of inventiveness, using three primary tools – relationship, awareness and experiment. Gestalt Therapy hinges on the principle that the Truth or Source of knowledge can only be found by concentrating on immediate experience, shorn of assumptions or interpretations. People are thereby enabled to feel accepted and not judged by the therapist and better able to find their own meaning of what is happening in their lives.
Gestalt Therapists use the moment by moment process of the relationship between the client and the therapist. In this encounter, the goal is a full and complete authentic meeting between these two people. The development of the capacity for genuine relationship forms the core of the healing process. This relationship is characterised by dialogue. This is described in Gestalt theory as an “I – You” relationship where there is a genuine meeting between two unique individuals who openly respect the humanity of the other.
Ultimately, it is only in the context of this authentic relationship that the uniqueness of the individual can be recognized. In the recognition and acceptance of who he or she is, real change happens.
The Gestalt approach to therapy assumes that people know at some level, what is good for them. Therefore the goal of counselling is to heighten awareness of what gets in the way of this goal and to re-establish a healthy and natural way of functioning.
The Gestalt therapist know that by treating the client as a human being with intelligence, responsibility and active choices at any moment in time, this acknowledgment will invite the client to develop a sense of autonomy, self-acceptance and integration of what remains unaccepted or judged.
Gestalt counselling can embrace a wide variety of diverse but specific techniques within a holistic frame of reference which integrates mind and body, action and withdrawal. Techniques are not prescribed, but the Therapist will come up with appropriate “experiments” in order to heighten the client’s awareness.
This permission to be creative in therapy would happen over time and is always secondary to the therapeutic relationship. With the suggestion of an experiment, the client would need to feel comfortable and at no time would the Therapist ever try to override the integrity of the relationship established with the client.
Another Gestalt counselling technique involves the observation of body and verbal language. Such patterns are not interpreted by the therapist. However, the client is invited to become aware of certain mannerisms or ways of speaking/not speaking; certain postures etc. The client is then invited to discover for themselves what meaning this particular action emerges for them.
For instance, during my Gestalt training, we were required to engage in our own therapy with one of the counsellors at the centre and later, with an outside therapist. The Therapist I was working with in the early days of my training, said she was curious as to why I often clasped my hands. She also noticed that often only the toes of my feet were in contact with the floor. When I became aware of what I was doing, I was able to get in touch with the associated feelings. I was then able to tell her that the hand clasping was a way of reassuring and comforting myself. And the balancing on my toes represented feelings of anxiety and not wanting to be sitting in the chair.
The therapist encouraged me to experiment by allowing my hands to fully flex and open and with this change in movement, I felt more confident. The therapist then suggested that I try pounding both feet on the floor and standing up and walking around the room, using heavy steps. By doing this, I realised how much more present and grounded I felt.
Generally counselling sessions are for 1 hour. However, I would allow an extra 15 minutes for an initial session. The fee for a Gestalt session is $60, payable in cash or online. Clients are encouraged to commit to at least 6 sessions.
I have a Clinic with a separate entrance at my home in the Gold Coast hinterland – I live on acreage in a very beautiful valley which is located 15 to 20 minutes from the M1. The environment is quiet and nurturing. See location map.