"Gestalt Therapy is permission to be exuberant, to have gladness, to play with all the nicest possibilities for ourselves within our short lives. For me it stands for all that is in front of me, for all that promises completeness of experiencing, for the things to come which are awesome, frightening, tearful, moving, unfamiliar, archetypal, growthful. For me it means the full embrace of life - the savouring of all its subtle tastes."
Gestalt therapy derives its name from Gestalt Psychology, which is a study of how people organise data into
meaningful constellations by, in any one moment, perceiving a figure of what is most urgent, interesting and clear, against a ground of all other information. A gestalt is a configuration against a
ground of all other information. (Perls, Hefferline and Goodman, 1951)
Within the therapy, the ever-changing figure of the client's awareness is tracked by the therapist who, as far as possible, brackets her own goals, values and preconceptions and attends solely to the client's current, ever-changing experience.
The therapist may set up an experiment to aid the client in more fully experiencing and expressing a current sensation. (Zinker, 1978) Gestalt is a creative approach, which may include drawing, playing, dance and drama. The therapist will be willing to engage in a genuine relationship with the client, within appropriate therapeutic boundaries. Exploration of this therapeutic relationship will be likely to form an important part of the therapy.
Gestalt therapists believe that unfinished business underlies much human distress and will support clients in reaching resolution in those areas of their lives where they feel incomplete. This may involve the safe expression of pain, anger, sorrow, fear and joy. Often, relief follows the release of emotions which have been held back, especially if they have been held over a long period of time, perhaps because such expression would have been unsafe.
Gestalt therapists further believe that all of us contain aspects which are loving, cruel, hostile, joyful, adventurous, timorous and so on. Integration occurs when we own and accept all that we are, rather than pretending to ourselves and others that we are always kind, or brave or hard-working or whatever. Thus the therapist will also support clients in discovering, exploring and reclaiming parts of themselves which they have disowned.
Perls, Hefferline and Goodman (1951) Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality Souvenir Press, U.K.
Zinker, J. (1978) Creative Process in Gestalt Therapy Vintage, New York