THE MEANING OF GESTALT
Translated from the German, gestalt implies wholeness, or if used as a verb ‘to make whole’. Gestalt therapy was originally developed in the early 1950s by a group of avant-garde psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers and educators as a reaction to the orthodoxy of the psychoanalysis of the time. It provides a holistic philosophical engagement with the nature of the human condition. It privileges experience, authentic living and human relating.
The gestalt therapist holds a perspective that we are always in relationship: that we are fully embedded in a relational world. We, therefore, bring to our clients a curiosity for the full context of their lives.
Gestalt therapy has a here-and-now focus on the clients’ awareness of the world they live in and their relationships with others. Gestalt therapy has a sensitivity to the ways that past experience (and future hopes and fears) may be organising current experience.
The relational worldview is informed by the foundational gestalt philosophical principles of field theory, existential phenomenology and existential dialogic relating. These philosophies support more nuanced and complex ways of staying with experience. Including as much of the client’s world as possible, understanding is slowly arrived at together.
PRESENT CENTRED AND FOCUSED ON AWARENESS
Relational gestalt therapy promotes self-awareness and holds that therapeutic change occurs through an authentic meeting with another. A key focus is on supporting the client to relate, embody and live in the here-and-now.
GROUNDED IN THE CLIENT/ THERAPIST RELATIONSHIP
The client /therapist dialogue offers the opportunity for a healing experience. Here the emphasis of the therapy is not only talking about what has happened but on fully experiencing what is. This supports change to occur.
By being curious, and through cultivating uncertainty, the therapist assists the client to deepen their existential experience and together there is an emergent exploration. In this way, the client comes to understand how their creative adjustments have supported them in the past. By developing this awareness, the client may develop a greater capacity to be more fully who they are in the world
The working relationship provides an opportunity for an authentic and meaningful meeting where the focus is on the relationship and there is an acknowledgement of mutual influence and co-creation of the therapeutic process.
ABOUT CHOICE + FLEXIBILITY
The goal of relational gestalt therapy is for clients to become more fully aware of how they organise themselves in the world.
Change occurs when one becomes what s/he is, not when s/he tries to become what s/he is not (Arnold Beisser).
By learning to follow their own ongoing process, and to fully experience, accept, and appreciate their complete selves, clients can free themselves to make more appropriate, spontaneous and creative contact with the environment.
From a field relational perspective, change occurs when we change our relationship to, or increase, the supports in our environment.