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Gestalt Therapy. Overview. Formulated by Frederick S. (Fritz) Perls. Psychoanalysis forms the framework for Gestalt therapy. “Gestalt” comes from the German meaning “whole or configuration.” (Gilliland & James, pp. 136-137). Gestalt Therapy.

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Gestalt Therapy

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  • Formulated by Frederick S. (Fritz) Perls. Psychoanalysis forms the framework for Gestalt therapy. “Gestalt” comes from the German meaning “whole or configuration.” (Gilliland & James, pp. 136-137).
gestalt therapy3
Gestalt Therapy
  • Existential & Phenomenological – it is grounded in the client’s “here and now”
  • Initial goal is for clients to gain awareness of what they are experiencing and doing now
    • Promotes direct experiencingrather than the abstractness of talking about situations
    • Rather than talk about a childhood trauma the client is encouraged to become the hurt child

Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy - Chapter 8 (1)

major philosophies and nature of humans
Major philosophies and nature of humans
  • Integration into a whole is a basic function of human organisms.
  • For the individual, the organization of the world is defined by the subjective reality of his or her perceptions.
  • In this way, Gestalt is said to be phenomenological in its approach to the human person.
major philosophies and nature of humans5
Major philosophies and nature of humans
  • It is also existential in that it deals with what is currently happening to the individual. It focuses on the sources of the experiences (thoughts, feelings and actions of the individual). Understanding of the self is based on the totality of experience (gestures, voice, posture, breathing, unspoken words).
  • Humans are also in constant striving to maintain equilibrium, which is continually disturbed by the individual’s needs and regained by gratification or elimination of those needs. The restoration of balance is termed organismic self-regulation. (Gilliland & James, p. 137)
major concepts
Major concepts
  • Here-and now orientation
  • Awareness
  • Responsibility
  • Polarities
  • Top dog/underdog
  • Environmental contact
  • Figure-ground
  • Unfinished business
the now
The Now
  • Our “power is in the present”
    • Nothing exists except the “now”
    • The past is gone and the future has not yet arrived
  • For many people the power of the present is lost
    • They may focus on their past mistakes or engage in endless resolutions and plans for the future

Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy - Chapter 8 (2)

unfinished business
Unfinished Business
  • Feelings about the past are unexpressed
    • These feelings are associated with distinct memories and fantasies
    • Feelings not fully experienced linger in the background and interfere with effective contact
  • Result:
    • Preoccupation, compulsive behavior, wariness oppressive energy and self-defeating behavior

Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy - Chapter 8 (3)

major personality constructs
Major personality constructs
  • The whole is greater than the sum of its parts is the base assumption of Gestalt.
  • Motivation for homeostasis, holism and the development of a capacity for aggression provide the primary structural components for viewing the personality. (Gilliland & James, p. 138)
major personality constructs10
Major personality constructs
  • Homeostasis: The striving toward balance is instinctual and serves to order individual perceptions.
  • Holism: Two relationships are important: the interdependent, inseparable unity of the human body and spirit and the unity of human beings and the environment.
  • Aggression: Human interaction in growthful and creative ways in the environment requires a capacity for aggression. (Ex. Food must be attacked and destroyed in order to be assimilated and used for growth.) (Gilliland & James, p. 138)
nature of maladaptivity
Nature of “maladaptivity”
  • Related to the three processes of homeostasis, holism and aggression. If one of these processes becomes blocked during its healthy development, neurosis occurs.
five major boundary disturbances that lead to neurosis
Five major boundary disturbances that lead to neurosis
  • Introjection (psychologically swallowing whole concepts)
  • Projection (to make someone or something responsible for what originates in oneself)
  • Retroflection (doing to self what one would like to do to others—i.e., anger)
  • Deflection (a subtle maneuver to avoid contact with the environment—avoid intense emotions, etc.)
  • Confluence (the absence of a boundary between the self and the environment)
major goals of counseling
Major goals of counseling
  • The major goal of the counseling process is to enable the client to achieve a degree of inner integration through self-discovery. (Gilliland & James, p. 162)
major techniques strategies
Major techniques/strategies
  • Therapy focuses on heightening the individual’s awareness of responsibility for his or her behavior, feelings, and thoughts, including those he or she may not be aware of. (Gilliland & James, p. 137)
  • Gestalt therapy also takes much more interest in body language. (Gilliland & James, p. 147)
a three phase integration sequence
A three-phase integration sequence
  • discovery (bringing the issue to the foreground),
  • accommodation (adjusting to the excitement of discovery),
  • assimilation (making a new behavior part of oneself). (Gilliland & James, p. 149)
therapeutic techniques
Therapeutic Techniques
  • The experiment is the means by which much of Gestalt therapy is conducted.
  • Preparing clients for experiments
  • Internal dialogue exercise
  • Rehearsal exercise
  • Reversal technique
  • Exaggeration exercise

Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy - Chapter 8 (5)

major roles of counselor and client
Major roles of counselor and client
  • The counselor’s role is to facilitate the individual’s awareness of self and all the feelings, behaviors, experiences, and unfinished situations that make up the self. This facilitation is accomplished through the counselor’s creative use of experiments, which enable the individual actually to experience various aspects of self during the present moment of therapy. (Gilliland & James, p. 147)