The word Gestalt derives from German and means figure, pattern.
Gestalt therapy is based on the live contact and interaction between a client and therapist. A central concept of Gestalt therapy is to raise a person’s awareness by working with what is figural (an issue) at the time, the “Here and Now”. One works with past experiences, but takes a starting point from this “Here and Now”.
Respecting a person’s differences is another central principle of Gestalt theory. This means respecting that each and every person knows what is best for them, a therapist respects a client’s choices.
The therapist’s main role is to help the client become aware of all possible aspects, possibilities, drawbacks of a situation, and let the client make his/her own decision to move forward.
There are feelings that are not generally accepted in the society (e.g. sadness, pain, anger). Gestalt therapists do not believe these feelings are intrinsically negative. They can be viewed as “creative adjustments”, i.e. these feelings can be a protection mechanism protecting a person from situations that are not healthy for them. Gestalt theory suggests that if a person rejects the feelings, they won’t disappear by themselves. They will bother the person and they can be expressed by e.g. headaches, eating disorders, pain in the shoulders, neck. It is, afterall, natural for people to have “negative” feelings.
Another premise of Gestalt therapy is that it encourages clients not to excuse their weaknesses. By assisting a client to become aware of her/his “less positive” emotions/features, the therapist can help a client to become aware of how to be responsible for her/his actions. An example of this is a therapist helping a client to express anger in such a way that it won’t hurt anyone, and at the same time the client is able to process the painful feelings.
There are many further ways in which the Gestalt perspective can be applied positively to the therapeutic process, e.g. working with internal and external conflicts, looking at interpersonal/relational contact, working with dreams.
Gestalt therapy is an exciting and active way of dealing with problems. The client is the one who is mainly responsible for the process, the therapist, expressing her/his reactions and opinions only if the client wants them.
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