Molly Weigel, PhD, LCSW
Forever is composed of nows. Emily Dickinson
At the core of gestalt therapy is the holistic view that we are connected to and influenced by our environments and that we all strive toward growth and balance. Gestalt therapy recognizes that forcing a person to change paradoxically results in further distress and
fragmentation. Rather, change results from acceptance of what is.
Gestalt therapy places emphasis on gaining awareness of the present moment. Through therapy, people learn to discover feelings that may have been suppressed or unacknowledged and to accept and trust their needs and emotions. Through this process, a person gains a new sense of self as overall awareness increases. The focus on the here and now does not negate or reduce past events or future possibilities; in fact, the past is intricately linked to one’s present experience. The therapist and person in therapy may focus on exploring what factors made a particular memory come up in this moment, or how the present moment is impacted by experiences of the past.
Gestalt therapy sessions do not follow specific guidelines; in fact, therapists are encouraged to use creativity in their approaches, depending on context and each person's personality. What is consistent is the emphasis on direct contact between therapist and client, direct experience and experimentation, and the focus on the “what and how”—what the person in therapy is doing and how he or she is doing it—and the “here and now.” Together, the therapist and the person in therapy will evaluate what is happening now and what is needed as a result. Therapists may refrain from interpreting events, focusing on the immediate, including the physical responses of the person in therapy. Remarking on subtle shifts in posture, for example, can bring a person into the present. In this way, gestalt therapy helps people gain a better understanding of how their emotional and physical bodies are connected.
The Gestalt Therapy Institute of Philadelphia identifies the following core components of Gestalt therapy:
Emphasis on experience
Creative experiment and discovery
(Adapted from http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/gestalt-therapy)
See http://www.gestaltphila.org/gestalt-therapy.html for an elaboration of these components and a brief overview of Gestalt therapy.
See http://www.gestaltassociates.org/aboutus.shtml for a brief description of Gestalt therapy's origins and a short bibliography of foundational writings and
http://www.gestaltassociates.org/articles.shtml for links to more recent articles on Gestalt therapy.