Gestalt Therapy Gestalt Therapy I. Summary and Integration of Major Concepts Founded by Frederick (Fritz) and Laura Perls in the 1940's, Gestalt therapy is a phenomenological - existential methodology which emphasizes experience and experimentation. Gestalt is a German term that means a "complete pattern or configuration" (p. 112). Though there are many modalities and styles in Gestalt therapy, it is holistic in its approach uniting mind, body, and feeling (p. 112).
Some concepts at the core of Gestalt therapy are "the organism as a whole", emphasis on the "here and now", and "awareness" (pp. 223-225). Perls believed that "human beings are unified organisms" (p.223) and that mind and body were not separate entities. It was important that to understand the person as a whole, one must consider all dimensions of the person such as physical functioning, thoughts, emotions, culture, etc., in a unified manner. All of these aspects were viable expressions of the individual.
Gestalt therapy also places a great deal of emphasis on the "here and now", however, it does not imply that the past and the future are not important. Past-unfinished business can interfere with a person's current and future existence. For this reason, finishing unfinished business is a significant aspect of Gestalt therapy (p. 112). It is thought that these unfinished situations will naturally emerge when the person is focused on what is being done, thought, and felt at the moment (p.224).
Focusing on the "here and now" allows the individual to be in touch with the self and his/her environment which in turn enables the individual to realize his/her needs (p.224). Awareness and acknowledgement of experiences are key elements to the completion of a gestalt. Awareness is grounded in the present needs of the individual. Completion is dependent upon the individual taking responsibility for his/her own feelings and behavior. It is through this increased awareness that the health (or mental health) of the individual is restored.
II. Breakthroughs and Steps in Learning Practicing Client Centered therapy helped me get over most of my fear and apprehension about performing as therapist and client in front of my classmates. So, as we (the class) began our first session in Gestalt I initially felt less nervous about participating, in fact, I volunteered to be the first client in my group during the first demonstration. Just like client centered therapy, I had again been in a group that was assigned to Dr. Fiebert and I felt fortunate to have him demonstrate because I knew that I would learn a great deal given his years of experience.
I had learned through the reading and class lecture that this was a therapy that called for the therapist to be creative in getting the client to express emotions and feelings. I was anxious to see what creative techniques Dr. Fiebert would employ. He began the session by asking me what I was aware of and I told him that I was feeling some tension in my neck and shoulders. He then asked me to describe the tension, rate the level of tension on a scale of 1-10, increase the tension and relate it to and experience or incident in my life. I linked to a recent situation I had experienced with my mother, whom he then brought in to the empty chair to begin the external dialogue.
My immediate reaction was to put up a defense by holding back but I knew if I was going to truly learn anything I had to freely allow myself to experience this process. In the third stage we had identified and labeled my internal polarities - Independent and Neglected. After a couple of minutes in to this stage I was uncomfortable with the depth of emotion that we were exploring and again put up my defenses but trying to keep it at a superficial level. Sensing this, Dr. Fiebert had me stand up and stomp my foot while repeating a line that expressed my anger and frustration, and exercise that was aimed at getting me in touch with my feeling. When my session...
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