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Gestalt Therapy, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 984

Essay

Historical Context

Gestalt therapy is one of psychological approaches to psychotherapy that was adopted in the middle of the 20th century and brought a vast change of the paradigm of psychotherapeutical approach adopted by scientists and clinicians at that period of time. Having emerged in the period of popular psychology it was hard to distinguish and characterize distinctly enough, but still it is possible to enumerate the changes it brought about. First of all, the main distinction of Gestalt therapy is in its focus on ‘weltanschauung’ – the German term designating the individual outlook on the world and surrounding environment the patient takes: “it is how we apprehend the world – how we are involved in it, and bring our personal history to bear in it” (Woldt and Toman, 2005, p. 4).

Historically it influenced the psychotherapy by turning the focus of methodology to the field work, by shifting to the holistic models of existence and by refusing from an accustomed individualistic approach for the sake of the dialogical, relational perspective from which the therapist would look at the process. It was directed at the improvement of the patient’s contact with the surrounding reality, with the general environment by means of a chaotic, spontaneous dialogue with the therapist. Thus, it was considered that through the method of Gestalt therapy the doctor would find the disruptions in the individual’s weltanschauung and would then identify the problem.

Major Contributors to the Theory

The creation of Gestalt therapy is attributed to the German psychotherapist Frederick Salomon Perls and psychiatrist Lore Perls ( known as Fritz). They worked on the problems of brain injuries of WW II veterans, and Laura Perls (as she later changed her name) was the pupil of Max Wertheimer, the Gestalt psychologist (Nevis, 1996). They published their first work Ego, Hunger and Aggression in 1947 and analyzed the basic principles of aggression and connected it with a set of physical characteristics of a human being. After immigration to the USA the Perlses started to collaborate with Ralph Hefferline and Paul Goodman – their work yielded the book that is still called the initiator of spread of Gestalt therapy – Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality (Nevis, 1996).

It is also very important to note that these pioneers of Gestalt therapy revised the ideas of Freud and criticized many of them for inconsistency, adding essential elements and turning the framework of psychotherapy to another angle. The approach changed the vision of the psychotherapeutical process both for patients and for clinicians and made the activists of the field have a look at the therapy from another, more humanistic side. The research now became not a monologue of the researcher but the applied dialogue with the patient.

Five Distinguishing Concepts of the Theory

The first concept of high importance in Gestalt therapy is phenomenology – it is the approach to assessing reality from a detached view, setting aside emotions and feelings and being able to judge objectively. Gestalt therapy changes the meaning of the subjective and perceives it as the objective truth, here and now, in the search of the true meaning of the patient’s thoughts (Yontef, 1993).

The second concept of Gestalt therapy is the field theory perspective, the essence of which is in assessing the event researched not by its category or type but as a structural component of the field of action, that is of the whole environment, the whole social situation. This situation is the person in his or her life space, both part, present and future. It does not matter whether the situation was located in the past – the therapist works in the present period of time and analyzes the way that action is reflected in the present (Yontef, 1993).

The third concept is existentialism – it is the opinion that people cannot be discovered once and for all times because they are living, changing, evolving and improving beings whose roles change. The Gestalt therapist perceives the person in the scope of all his actions, relations with other people, attitudes and life changes, considering his environment on the whole to understand his or her true nature (Yontef, 1993).

Te fourth element is the dialogue. As it has already been mentioned, the Gestalt therapeutic method is based on direct interaction with the patient and contact with him or her to find the true problem. It is considered to be impossible to detect the issue of concern without spontaneous verbal communication (Yontef, 1993).

The final concept to be discussed in the present work is inclusion – the therapist does not take the detached view of the situation with the patient. He or she has to become an active participant and get closer to the client in order to find the solution. This concept is also based on the immediate experience: the personal communication with the patient helps the therapist sharpen his or her self-awareness thus reaching the therapeutic goal (Yontef, 1993).

The Scope of Gestalt Therapy from the Religious Perspective

Gestalt theory is considered to take certain roots in the Chinese nature philosophy of Taoism and its reflection in Zen Buddhism (Woldt and Toman, 2005). The reason for this may be found in the fact that therapists are searching for the truth here and now in addition to the application of the diachronic paradigm. They examine the human being from the existential point of view, with the probability of mistakes, evolution and change, which is highly natural and philosophical. The idea of fertility of “the void” is directly taken from Taoism and contributed much to the theory – it is the method of meditation and purification of thoughts to find the truth. Thus, nonbeing is seen as always fertile, yielding the results of self-awareness, which is a clear parallel with the Gestalt therapy principles.

References

Nevis, E.C. (1996). Gestalt Therapy: Perspectives and Applications. Routledge.

Woldt, A.L., & Toman (2005). Gestalt therapy: history, theory and practice. SAGE.

Yontef, G. (1993). Awareness, Dialogue, and Process. The Gestalt Journal Press.

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