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Gestalt therapy is an approach to psychotherapy that is now one of the primary forms of humanistic therapy. It was founded in the 1940s by Fritz Perls, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, and his then-wife, psychotherapist Laura Perls. It was originally designed as an alternative to conventional psychoanalysis. The word gestalt literally means form or pattern, but its use reflects the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Good Therapy explains that at its core, “gestalt therapy is the holistic view that people are intricately linked to and influenced by their environments and that all people strive toward growth and balance.” Gestalt therapy emphasizes perception and focuses attention on how meaning is assigned to present experiences, which greatly influence one’s worldview and emotional wellbeing. 

How It Works

Gestalt therapy can be administered in individual or group settings. In general, exercises and experiments are somewhat established practices in gestalt therapy, and are designed to provoke action, emotion, or goals from the person in therapy. Nevertheless, unlike many, this therapeutic modality does not have set guidelines for sessions. Instead, it relies on therapist’s abilities to distinguish which approaches to use and allows them the leeway to be creative in utilizing certain exercises and experiments in a more customized manner. Some of the common gestalt techniques include the following examples:

  • The Empty Chair Technique: This is a quintessential gestalt therapy roleplaying exercise which allows the client to participate in a dialogue with another person or another part of themselves, who is imagined to be sitting in an empty chair during the session.
  • Attention To Body Language: During therapy sessions, the therapist will observe the client’s body language and movements (e.g., hand gestures, posture, facial expressions, etc.). The therapist will likely mention their observations to the client and ask them what is happening for the person at that moment. Noticing and naming body language can help the client become more aware of what they are doing and encourages them to think about what it means.
  • Role Play: This exercise allows clients to embody someone else or a different version of themselves to encourage a deeper understanding of how they present and organize themselves as well as enhance empathy. 

Gestalt therapy aims to increase personal awareness and through collaboration with the therapist, the obstacles that have been interfering with one’s mental wellbeing are illuminated, actively challenged, and resolved.

Its Benefits

Research suggests that gestalt therapy can be effective for treating a variety of conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression, low self-efficacy, low self-esteem, relationship problems, etc.). VeryWell Mind identify some of the potential benefits of gestalt therapy, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Improved sense of self-control
  • Enhanced ability to monitor and regulate mental states
  • Increased awareness of needs
  • Increased tolerance for negative emotions
  • Improved communication skills
  • Improved mindfulness
  • Increased emotional understanding

Gestalt therapy can also help clients refine interpersonal skills, hone decision-making skills, further develop empathy, and improve self-esteem.

Further Information and Support

For most of us, life can be very stressful, leading us to feel emotionally charged, which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and getting stuck in a cycle of being burdened with negative thoughts. Navigating through the challenges and emotional turmoil of life can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go through it alone. Engage Treatment is a Joint Commission Accredited professional psychological practice. We specialize in treating children, teens, and young adults struggling with depression and anxiety through community-focused treatment plans that incorporate a carefully selected combination of therapeutic interventions. Our compassionate, multidisciplinary practitioners are devoted to providing the highest quality of care that helps ignite positive change and enables clients to reach optimal health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with any additional information. Feel free to call us at 805-497-0605 or email us at [email protected]. You are also welcomed to get in touch by filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.

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