Gestalt therapy, which was initially developed by Laura and Fritz Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940s, and further developed throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, is a form of psychotherapy that focuses above all on the patient’s personal responsibility for their own behaviour and therapy, focusing on their current experience and the context in which they live.
According to this view, we can only understand ourselves in the broad context of our relationships with other people. As we are social beings by nature, we can only be understood in a social context. Gestalt therapists engage in ongoing therapy themselves, ensuring that they do not bring their own “baggage” to the therapy sessions they conduct and instead can focus on the patient, their experiences, and their needs.
As with other forms of therapy, in Gestalt therapy the patient and the therapist discuss the patient’s problems and anxieties with the intention of resolving ongoing issues that are making them unhappy. However, it is distinguished by the fact that the focus is very much on the present moment—on what the patient is currently thinking, doing, and feeling, rather than on speculating about the past and how things might have been different.
Gestalt therapy looks at what is frequently referred to as “unfinished business”; emotions towards others that have been left unexpressed, and on how the patient can put themselves in a situation whereby they are in a better position to finally express these thoughts and feelings.
Over time, the patient becomes increasingly aware of what they are doing, and in a better position to develop the abilities they need to make changes in their behaviour, their relationships with others, and their life overall. Ultimately, the goal is for them to be liberated from the barriers in their lives that might be preventing them from being as happy as possible, and for them to feel free to live in a different way. In the process, they typically develop a very close relationship with their therapist, and in fact the relationship between patient and therapist is central to a successful outcome and must therefore be nurtured, encouraged, and allowed to grow.
Both the therapist and the patient maintain a focus in the moment, and on the thoughts and feelings that are occurring right now. This implies, for example, that the therapist might notice certain aspects of the client’s body language and comment on them—without, however, suggesting an explanation as to what might be behind them.
At times, forms of role play may be used to help the patient to explore their own interactions in the context of their relationships—often a prop in the form of an empty chair is used to represent a person or thing around which the client needs to work. The therapist should never attempt to impose her or his own belief system or values on the patient but is an enabler in this process of self-discovery.
When the patient feels enabled to try a new approach in their lives, they are supported and encouraged throughout the process of doing so; their experiences, feelings, and thoughts are all explored in this context, and when the therapist gives advice, it is on the process of change (i.e. practical considerations about how to approach a particular change) rather than by exploring motivations per se. In this way, the client is encouraged to become more flexible and responsive to their environment, rather than defaulting to reacting in the predictable patterns that they have established before.
IF I’M SEEKING GESTALT THERAPY IN LONDON, WHAT SHALL I DO NEXT?
If you would like to talk to someone about seeing a Psychologist or Psychological Therapist for Gestalt Therapy in London, please get in touch with us at Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: 020 81507563 or book online.