Founder, Description, Philosophy

Gestalt therapy was developed by Fritz and Laura Perls. The term, Gestalt itself refers to the “whole” of the person rather than the individual parts. The basic premise is that people are best viewed as the mind, body, and soul as one entity and best understood through their own eyes. To understand the person Gestalt therapy believes in bringing the past into the future rather than spending time talking about the past passively, as in traditional talk therapy. The belief is that we can alleviate our negative reactions to past events by actively expressing them in the present. Building self-awareness is a big part of Gestalt therapy in that it helps clients better understand themselves and how the choices they make affect their health and their relationships.

What type of problems is this approach used to treat and what populations can it serve?

Gestalt therapy can help people who suffer from anxiety, depression, self-esteem, relationship difficulties. Physical ailments like migraines have reportedly been treated by Gestalt therapy. Clients that do well with Gestalt therapy are those who are interested in gaining insight into their problems and increasing self-awareness. Gestalt therapy often will include aspects of other therapies such as body work, dance, art, drama, etc.

What does this approach look like in practice? What are some types of interventions?

Gestalt therapy will focus on the client’s problems in the present and finding solutions to those problems. Clients are often asked to re-experience their feelings about a problem in the session as opposed to simply talking about those experiences in the past tense. The therapist may use role-playing and other techniques in an attempt to bring these past experiences into the present in the session. The goal is to make the client more aware of how they feel about things as they occur and learn to cope with those feelings in the present. It helps the client take more responsibility for themselves, accept the consequences of their behaviour, and learn to take care of their needs.