I always have difficulties explaining what Gestalt therapy is, because there’s no exact translation for the word Gestalt in Spanish.
The most similar word would be “totality” or “set” because this therapy consists of uniting and integrating the mind, body and emotions.
In this article I’ll simply summarize some of this therapy’s basic ideas so you can get a better idea of what it entails.
Gestalt therapy is a humanistic therapy founded by Fritz Perls.
A little of history
Reich insisted on the value of the present over the value of the past, and he cared more about how than about the why.
Perls was deeply inspired by Reich during the creation of Gestalt therapy.
He also studied the General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski who maintained that the emotional influenced the intellectual and vice versa.
Gestalt therapy ideas
- Importance of the body and sensations
- Importance of the present
- Direct real contact between the therapist and the patient
- Attention to incomplete emotions
The first Gestalt Therapy book was published in 1950.
This book’s essence was the idea of the unfinished situation or open Gestalt and its working method was:
- concentrating on here and now
- on feelings
- and, above all, on physical sensations
Thus, Gestalt therapy was against, freely associating Psychoanalytical ideas
The end of the 60s was, along with the sexual revolution and the women’s liberation movement, the perfect time for an existential standpoint, such as the Gestalt therapy, to bloom.
Ref. Sinay, and Blasberg S, P. (1995,). Gestalt for beginners. Ed. Era Naciente
What is Gestalt therapy based on?
I’ll try to define some of this therapy’s basics:
Gestalt therapy gives great importance to the way in which we perceive things.
In this picture, do you see a young person or an old one? Can you see both?
From this standpoint, personality is divided into 3 parts: mental, emotional and physical. And it’s the emotional side which connects the mind with the body, and vice versa.
It’s an experiential therapy: you can’t say “this is so”, but from your own experience, you can learn to see things differently.
It focuses on the present: here and now. Believing that reality is what we perceive at a specific moment.
It gives more importance to feelings than thinking.
How does it value the why: When you realize how to do something, no matter the reason, because you can change your behavior.
Importance of the body and feelings: it takes into account corporal manifestations such as gestures, movements, voice tones, postures, breathing, etc. as important information of what happens inside a person.
Gestalt uses the body (moving, and talking about or to him) to reach inner processes.
Realization is the answer to 4 key questions:
What are you doing?
What do you feel now?
What are you trying to avoid?
What do you expect from the therapist?
Responsibility is the appropriation of what is yours.
Speaking in first person: the person is responsible for his actions, thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Holistic approach: the body is a whole that, in its present, contains much of its past and its future.
Potentiate the capacities, skills and resources of the person.
Pay attention to incomplete or interrupted emotions.
Work with the polarities or inverses, either personal or from relationships.
To live gestaltically
Precepts announced by Claudio Naranjo
- Live now: worry about the present before worrying about the past or future
- Live here: take care of what’s present instead of what is absent.
- Stop imagining things: Experience reality.
- Stop thinking about unnecessary things: instead, join and observe them.
- Express instead of manipulating, explaining, justifying or judging.
- Surrender yourself to uneasiness and pain just as you surrender yourself to pleasure. Don’t limit your conscience.
- Don’t accept other people’s “must” or “should” more than those you impose on yourself. Don’t idolize anyone.
- Assume full responsibility for your actions, feelings and thoughts.
- Accept being you.
What I liked the most about training as a Gestalt therapist was that all my training was almost 100% experiential, that is, that many of the exercises I send to my clients are those which I’ve experienced before.
So I know what a client might feel when facing a given task.
It’s much easier accompanying or leading someone across a road that you’ve already crossed, so if you liked this therapy and want to delve a little further in your personal growth, don’t hesitate to contact me.