What is Gestalt Therapy? Developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls, and Paul Goodman in the 1940s and 1950s, it is defined as a “humanistic approach to psychotherapy which includes psychoanalysis, existentialism, and phenomenology”.
In laymen’s terms, it is a holistic approach which asserts that everyone has the capacity to control their own emotions, and therapists practicing Gestalt therapy are simply there to listen and assist a person to become aware of his or her own experiences.
Focusing on the here and now, Gestalt therapists facilitate a person’s awareness of their feelings, emotions, and sensations while helping them to understand what it is that is contradicting those feelings and emotions.
Traditional psychiatrists may spend more time questioning one’s childhood and any significant event that may have triggered the onset of depression or anxiety. However, the Gestalt therapist is more proactive in assessing why the person is feeling a certain way by asking the person to become aware of how they are feeling physically and emotionally when discussing a particular problem.
Gestalt therapists seem to be more empathic than the more conventional community of psychiatrists. Gestalt therapy allows the patient to feel more at ease in discussing the underlying problems without feeling embarrassed or judged.
One of the techniques used by Gestalt therapists is allowing a patient to conduct a dialogue that allows two distinct feelings to be aired so that the patient can give a voice to the conflict within.
While traditional psychotherapists try to control a person by telling them they are acting this way because of something that is inherent in them, the Gestalt therapist will give control to the patient. What this means is that by not trying to control the patient’s behavior through advice that may or may not be appropriate to the underlying cause, the relationship between the Gestalt therapist and the patient is an open and honest discourse.
Let’s face it; psychiatrists often tend to be rather distant. They may end a session just at the point where the patient is revealing something profound or needs to continue discussing the point they were trying to make. Gestalt therapy is just the opposite. This is the humanistic approach mentioned in the opening of this article, and is one that can be more therapeutic and effective for the patient.
After a patient discloses his or her innermost thoughts to the Gestalt therapist, he or she is then able to receive feedback from the therapist. This includes how they can, together, resolve any given situation with care, kindness, and attention. The dialogue between the two is ongoing.
Gestalt therapy allows both therapist and patient to freely explore feelings and emotions in ways no other psychotherapists can. It is this freedom of expression that has allowed patients to become more aware and grow as individuals in a healthy and open environment.