If you have ever engaged a psychiatrist to help with a specific problem, you may have found the experience frustrating. Why? For one thing, they usually answer a question with a question, or want to know how you felt at a certain point in your life in order to ascertain how it relates to your current state of mind. Gestalt therapy is a refreshing and holistic approach to understanding how you think and feel right now. The difference between these two forms of psychotherapy is immeasurable.

Certainly, there are cases where psychiatrists can play a vital role in helping severe cases; but Gestalt therapy is a gentler, kinder form of psychotherapy that has been widely used since the early 50s.

Focusing on the here and now seems a more appropriate way to understand a problem. If you are depressed or have anxiety attacks, the Gestalt therapist will listen – and that’s the key word – listen to your thoughts, feelings and physical symptoms, and take a more empathic and humanistic approach to help you determine the cause of the angst within.

Gestalt therapy allows the individual to express their experiences and more importantly, to feel safe when doing so. One Gestalt therapist explains it this way, “it is an exploration rather than an attempt to control a person’s behavior, feelings, or thoughts. The only goal is growth and autonomy through increased awareness.”

This is quite different from the traditional form of psychotherapy utilized by psychiatrists. In fact, Gestalt therapy is more often used by psychologists who may ask a patient, “So, what happened today?” In addition, they do not start from today and work back to your childhood, but allow you to fully explore what you are feeling right now and offer feedback that is not judgmental or controlling.

Moreover, Gestalt therapy allows the therapist to expose his or her own experiences based on their reality, which is quite a departure from traditional psychotherapy. Can you imagine a psychiatrist responding to a patient, “I know how you feel; I had the same emotional response when…….”

The exchange of ideas and feelings is what sets Gestalt therapy apart from others. It is an honest and interpersonal dialogue which results in complete awareness of the problem on both sides.

The Gestalt therapist does not pretend to understand nor give advice or try to control the individual, but rather listens intently to the emotional response of the individual and incorporates their own experience in order to make the individual aware that their perceptions do not truly reflect reality.

Gestalt therapy and focusing on how you think and feel right now is a humanistic approach to helping an individual find their way back to who they used to be.

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