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Gestalt Theory, Outline Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1514

Outline

Introduction

Background to gestalt therapy intervention

  • Experiments can be useful tools to help the client gain fuller awareness, experience internal conflicts, resolve inconsistencies and dichotomies, and work through an impasse that is preventing completion of unfinished business.
  • Exercises can be used to elicit emotion, produce action, or achieve a specific goal. When used at their best, the interventions described here fi t the therapeutic situation and highlight whatever the client is experiencing.

Thesis statement

  • Gestalt therapy is a function of psychology that contains a number of different exercise approaches in the theory of personality development.

Exercises

Internal dialogue exercise

  • One goal of gestalt therapy is to bring about integrated functioning and acceptance of aspects of one’s personality that have been disowned and denied. Gestalt therapists pay close attention to splits in personality function.
  • A main division is between the “top dog” and the “under-dog,” and therapy often focuses on the war between the two. The top dog is righteous, authoritarian, moralistic, demanding, bossy, and manipulative.
  • This is the “critical parent” that badgers with “shoulds” and “oughts” and manipulates with threats of catastrophe. The underdog manipulates by playing the role of victim: by being defensive, apologetic, helpless, and weak and by feigning powerlessness.
  • This is the passive side, the one without responsibility, and the one that finds excuses.

The reversal exercise

  • Certain symptoms and behaviors often represent reversals of underlying or latent impulses. Thus, the therapist could ask a person who claims to suffer from severe inhibitions and excessive timidity to play the role of an exhibitionist.
  • I remember a client in one of our therapy groups who had difficulty being anything but sugary sweet. I asked her to reverse her typical style and be as negative as she could be. The reversal worked well; soon she was playing her part with real gusto, and later she was able to recognize and accept her “negative ide” as well as her “positive side.”
  • The theory underlying the reversal technique is that clients take the plunge into the very thing that is fraught with anxiety and make contact with those parts of themselves that have been submerged and denied. This technique can help clients begin to accept certain personal attributes that they have tried to deny.

The rehearsal exercise

  • Often at times we get stuck rehearsing silently to ourselves so that we will gain acceptance. When it comes to the performance, we experience stage fright, or anxiety, because we fear that we will not play our role well.
  • Internal rehearsal consumes much energy and frequently inhibits our spontaneity and willingness to experiment with new behavior. When clients share their rehearsals out loud with a therapist, they become more aware of the many preparatory means they use in bolstering their social roles.
  • they also become increasingly aware of how  they try to meet the expectations of others, of the degree to which they want to be approved, accepted, and liked, and of the extent to which they go to attain acceptance.

The exaggeration exercise

  • One aim of gestalt therapy is for clients to become more aware of the subtle signals and cues they are sending through body language.
  • Movements, postures, and gestures may communicate significant meanings, yet the cues may be incomplete. In this exercise the person is asked to exaggerate the movement or gesture repeatedly, which usually intensifies the feeling attached to the behavior and makes the inner meaning clearer.
  • Some examples of behaviors that lend themselves to the exaggeration technique are trembling (shaking hands, legs), slouched posture and bent shoulders, clenched fists, tight frowning, facial grimacing, crossed arms, and so forth. If a client reports that his or her legs are shaking, the therapist may ask the client to stand up and exaggerate the shaking.
  • Then the therapist may ask the client to put words to the shaking limbs.

Psychoanalysis

Gestalt approach to dreamwork

  • In psychoanalysis dreams are interpreted, intellectual insight is stressed, and free association is used to explore the unconscious meanings of dreams. The gestalt approach does not interpret and analyze dreams.
  • Instead, the intent is to bring dreams back to life and relive them as though they were happening now. The dream is acted out in the present, and the dreamer becomes a part of his or her dream. The suggested format for working with dreams includes making a list of all the details of the dream, remembering each person, event, and mood in it, and then becoming each of these parts by transforming oneself, acting as fully as possible and inventing dialogue.
  • Each part of the dream is assumed to be a projection of the self, and the client creates scripts for encounters between the various characters or parts. All of the different parts of a dream are expressions of the client’s own contradictory and inconsistent sides, and, by engaging in a dialogue between these opposing sides, the client gradually becomes more aware of the range of his or her own feelings.

Perls concept

  • According to perls, the dream is the most spontaneous expression of the existence of the human being. It represents an unfinished situation, but every dream also contains an existential message regarding oneself and one’s current struggle.
  • Everything can be found in dreams if all the parts are understood and assimilated; dreams serve as an excellent way to discover personality voids by revealing missing parts and clients’ methods of avoidance.
  • Perls asserts that if dreams are properly worked with, the existential message becomes clearer. If people do not remember dreams, they may be refusing to face what is wrong with their life.

Application to group counselling

Concepts of group counselling

  • As a therapeutic orientation based on field theory, gestalt therapy is well suited for a group context. Gestalt therapy encourages direct experience and actions as opposed to merely talking about conflicts, problems, and feelings.
  • If members have anxieties pertaining to some future event, they can enact these future concerns in the present. This here-and-now focus enlivens the group and assists members in vividly exploring their concerns.
  • Moving from talking about to action is often done by the use of experiments in a group. Gestalt therapy employs a rich variety of interventions designed to intensify what group members are experiencing in the present moment for the purpose of leading to increased awareness.
  • When one member is the focus of work, other members can be used to enhance an individual’s work. Through the skill of linking, the group leader can bring a number of members into the exploration of a problem. I prefer an interactive style of gestalt group work and find that bringing in an interpersonal dimension maximizes the therapeutic potency within the group.
  • I do not like to introduce a technique to promote something happening within a group; rather i tend to invite members to try out different behavioral styles as a way to heighten what a given member might be experiencing at the moment.

Strengths from diversity to perspective

  • There are opportunities to creatively use gestalt methods with culturally diverse populations if interventions are timed appropriately and used flexibly. Frew (2008) has made the case that “contemporary gestalt therapy has evolved as a culturally sensitive and diversity friendly orientation” (p. 267).
  • He notes that gestalt therapy can be a useful and effective approach with clients from diverse backgrounds because it takes the clients’ context into account.
  • One of the advantages of drawing on gestalt experiments is that they can be tailored to fi t the unique way in which an individual perceives and interprets his or her culture. Although most therapists have preconceptions, gestalt therapists strive to approach each client in an open way. They do this by checking out their biases and views in dialogue with the client.

Shortcomings from diversity perspective

  • To a greater extent than is true of most other approaches, there are some potential problems in too quickly utilizing some gestalt experiments with some clients. Gestalt methods can lead to a high level of intense feelings.
  • This focus on affect has some clear limitations with those clients who have been culturally conditioned to be emotionally reserved and to avoid openly expressing feelings. As mentioned earlier, some individuals believe expressing feelings openly is a sign of weakness and a display of one’s vulnerability. Counselors who operate on the assumption that catharsis is necessary for any change to occur are likely to find certain clients becoming increasingly reluctant to participate in experiments, and such clients may prematurely terminate counseling.

Stan’s case

  • Gestalt-oriented therapy focuses on the unfinished business stan has with his parents, siblings, and ex-wife. It appears that this unfinished business consists mainly of feelings of resentment, and stan turns this resentment on himself.
  • His present life situation is spotlighted, but he may also need to re-experience past feelings that could be interfering with his present attempts to develop intimacy with others. Although the focus is on stan’s present behavior, i guide him toward becoming aware of how he is carrying old baggage around and how it interferes with his life today.
  • My task is to assist him in re-creating the context in which he made creative adjustments during his childhood years that no longer serving him well

Conclusions

  • Counseling and psychotherapy: the case of stan and lecturettes (session 6 on gestalt therapy) for a demonstration of my approach to counseling stan from this perspective. This  session consists of stan exploring one of his dreams in gestalt fashion.

 

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