Gestalt Therapy: What Is It And On What Principles Is It Based?

Have you heard of Gestalt Therapy? Here you have a summary about its postulates.

Many times we associate psychotherapy with a form of intervention that can only be useful for people with serious psychological or health problems. 

It is possible that this is so because of the confusion that exists when differentiating concepts such as psychology and psychiatry, or because of the way in which the media and audiovisual fictions portray psychotherapists: people who only enter the scene to help unhappy people, who do not achieve their goals and who, in many cases, are at risk of social exclusion.

However, this is not so. Among other things, because there are psychological approaches whose objective is to provide the necessary therapeutic tools so that people can tend to self-realization and the creation of a meaning for their own actions. This is the case of Humanist Psychology, within which we find a well-known type of therapy: Gestalt Therapy.

What is Gestalt Therapy like?

The Gestalt therapy , or therapy Gestalt , is a type of psychological therapy that falls under the category of Humanistic Psychology in the sense that it assumes the manner in which humanist thought conceives human beings, their goals and their range of needs and potentialities. In addition, as its name indicates, it collects the theoretical principles of Gestalt Psychology and uses them to propose a form of psychotherapy.

The main responsible for the development of this type of psychotherapy are authors such as Paul Goodman, Isadore From and, especially, Fritz Perls and Laura Perls. Since the consolidation of Gestalt Therapy in the middle of the 20th century, much work has been done to extend its applicability beyond clinical psychology as we classically understand it, and that is why it is possible to find forms of this therapy in interventions on communities, organizations or concrete work dynamics.

In short, Gestalt Therapy has flourished, extending to a large number of social and human fields to put into practice the principles of Gestalt in all kinds of objectives. That is why, although this type of therapy is related to the idea of ​​personal development, it is not limited to the scope of the classic psychological consultation, but can be understood as a tool to redefine lifestyles in their entirety.

You can learn more about Fritz Perls and his thinking by entering this article:

  • “Biography of Fritz Perls and his contributions to Psychology”

The principles of Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt Therapy emphasizes the way in which the things that are experienced are mentally formulated, rather than worrying about the content of what happens to us. This means that from this type of therapy the importance falls on the way in which something is experienced, and not so much on that “something” itself. It is not intervened from questions such as “what happens to us?”, But from “how does it happen to us and how do we experience it?” It is an approach that highlights the role of subjective sensations, since it starts from the approaches of Humanist Psychology.

This emphasis on the processes over the content and the subjective over the objective can be deployed in three theoretical principles: the experimentation of the “here and now” , awareness  and responsibility .

1. Here and now

Gestalt Therapy assumes that human beings perceive everything that happens to us as a unified experience. This means, among other things, that our idea of ​​what the future is and the past are nothing more than projections of how we live in the present. Ultimately, by working our way of thinking about the present, we will be intervening on our ways of considering the future to come and the way in which we look back to review the past.

This idea, by the way, is supported by research that made psychologist Gordon H. Bower famous .

2. Awareness

Gestalt Therapy is essential to take note of what happens to oneself. Only in this way will it be possible to detect new ways of formulating the experience of the here and now in terms that bring us closer to self-realization.

Looking at our own experiences and thoughts allows us, on the one hand, to be better at recognizing our style when experimenting, and on the other, to have more power of decision when it comes to changing our way of seeing things. In other words, it could be said that being honest with our way of experimenting allows us to develop better Emotional Intelligence.

3. Responsibility

Being aware of your own acts and styles of experiencing things also implies assuming the consequences of those choices. From the acceptance of errors and the hypothesis of risks, autonomy is gained. This opens the range of options and the conception of meanings in which one can act, from an existential perspective.

Irresponsibility is considered the result of an illusion, a denial of the present and a refusal to become aware. That is why Gestalt Therapy emphasizes the need to assume responsibilities, not only to improve coexistence with others, but to be freer and better able to give meaning to our lives.

In short,  the therapists who adhere to Gestalt Therapy understand that their interventions must focus on the autonomy and potential of the person. A good way of experiencing what is happening can be to know how to guide oneself through this jungle of possible options, of ways of conceiving one’s own existence.

Criticisms of this practice

Gestalt Therapy has been severely criticized, among other things, for not having a specific unit of analysis, with which it is possible to work experimentally without getting lost in words without clear definitions. This fact, which has to do with the attempt to approach the subjectivity of this form of intervention (starting from rigid definitions could leave out part of the reality of the patients, according to this perspective) means that the effectiveness of the procedure cannot be guaranteed either. therapy.

On the other hand, the markedly eclectic nature of Gestalt Therapy also creates misgivings, since it does not base its proposals on a unified and systematized theoretical system, as the behaviorist perspective does, for example. Furthermore, his inspiration in Freudian psychoanalysis, based on the idea that there are parts of the psyche that come into conflict, is also seen as part of an inheritance of thought that remains outside of science.

Bibliographic references:

  • Brownell, P., ed. (2008) Handbook for Theory, Research, and Practice in Gestalt Therapy, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Castanedo, C. (1993). Six approaches to psychotherapy. Modern Manual. Mexico.
  • Ginger, S. (2005). Gestalt. The art of contact. Integral – RBA. Barcelona.
  • Martín, A. (2007). Gestalt Psychotherapy Practical Manual. Desclée de Brouwer. Bilbao.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *