Gestalt in Practice

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A. This report will conceptualise a hypothetical client, using the application of Gestalt methods whilst relating to Gestalt theory to analyse the client’s issues. C athy is a 45-year-old woman who’s been referred for counselling by her GP; she has been referred because of her 20 year bouts of depression and panic attacks. This assessment will analyse how Cathy makes meaning and contact with her world using the following three methods; support systems, modifications to contact, unfinished business/fixed gestalts.

The process of contact and withdrawal from contact defines the self (Lobb, and Litchenberg, 2005). The self is a phenomenological concept which exists alongside its environment, and neither can exist independently (Parlett, 1997). My understanding of Phenomenology is it refers to a person’s unique experiences, past and futures experiences are simultaneously parts of the field. However, past field experiences are not a concern as they do not present in the here and now. The environment changes on a moment by moment basis along with people within the field and their perceptions. According to Clarkson (1989) “conceptually, the sequence of moments in the shift between figure and ground constitutes the gestalt formation and destruction cycle” (p6). Using this cycle will assist a counsellor in assessing disruptions to contact.

On evaluation of the case study, it appears that Cathy’s figure/ presenting issue is her depression. In today’s society depression is a common symptom of psychological distress (Joyce, and Sills, 2010). Cathy mentions the loss of her mother; this historical ground and the re-experience of loss within her marriages may have formed a constant cycle of loss which has become a fixed gestalt. This fixed gestalt may be a reason why Cathy and her environment are on different ends of a continuum. She appears to be very self-reliant. However, Cathy does not appear to use her environment to meet her needs. For example she states ‘she finds it difficult to discuss personal issues with her husband; also she takes herself off to bed and doesn’t attend her gym classes.’ These types of disruptions to contact can be avoidance from pain or difficult feelings (Joyce, and Sills, 2010). The above disruptions are known as modifications to contact.

There are some possible interconnecting modifications, which appear to demonstrate how Cathy makes contact and withdrawal. Un-healthy retroflections are when a body’s energy is turned inwards towards itself, leading to bodily tensions like psychosomatic illnesses, impotency, depression or even self-harm (Joyce, and Sills, 2010, Mann, 2010). Cathy’s initial referal was connected to depression and panic attacks; this could be symptomatic of Cathy’s inability to express her feelings and insufficient environmental support. Furthermore Cathy’s negative beliefs and fears of not being worthy, may well be related to her father’s negative interjects which Cathy seems to have taken in and kept as an unhealthy self-belief. When an individual’s experiences of their feelings belong outside their body this is an introjection (Mann, 2010). Cathy recalls her father saying “you will never amount to anything”. Unresolved childhood experiences or situations like this can lead to ‘unfinished business’ leading to dysfunction in adulthood (Clarkson, 1989). We could speculate that this belief of “never amounting” has left Cathy with current negative beliefs. B. Essentially the assessment would allow a counsellor to understand the implications of Cathy’s problems and her suitability to Gestalt therapy. The counsellor’s aim would be to actively involve the client in raising awareness. This would enable her to move from a static historical pattern to a more flexible and responsive pattern (Joyce, and Sills, 2010) .The Gestalt model is a process orientated therapy which uses phenomenological enquiry, in relation to questioning what’s happening in the here and now for the client,...
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