Your student experience

"My experience was of growth, self-discovery, relational intelligence and healing. The process can feel energising, thrilling, joyful, uncomfortable, painful, and through it all, you are learning skills to support yourself internally. A highlight is being a part of a rich community that offers support throughout the entire process." Natalie, GTA Student

The learning trajectory over the 4 years of training, though never linear, can be represented in the following way.

  • Self / How am I in the world. What do I sense, feel and think?
  • Self & Other / Who am I with you and who are you with me?
  • Self in Context / How do the contexts from which I have emerged shape who I am?
  • Self & Other in Context / Who am I as an emerging gestalt therapist?

Being a student at GTA

A GTA student is willing to participate in an inquiry-based learning process that is holistic and developmental. Effective learning at GTA involves responding to the experiences offered in the education and training program with leadership, agency, openness and commitment.

A central feature of being a student at GTA involves participating in an experiential learning group, and the wider GTA learning community and being responsive to unfolding events – especially as they manifest in the learning process in the training group. This interrelating involves making and sustaining relationships with fellow students and faculty through sharing personal experiences and repairing ruptures in relationships should they occur.

Engaging ever more fully in this relational activity requires developing deeper personal awareness and insight through self-reflection and inquiry. In the experiential learning process, students are encouraged to be curious and to investigate how they affect others and the environment through the way they relate and the choices they make. Students are challenged to take opportunities to move beyond established patterns and into new territory and novel experiences of themselves and others.

What can I expect to learn in the 4 years?

While the training cannot be structured into a neat and linear progression, each of the training years focuses on developing a specific set of competencies that aim to develop emerging gestalt therapists.

In the first year, students are encouraged to explore and deepen their self-awareness. The focus is on building capacity for a nuanced appreciation of their embodied experience. That is the sensitivity to the sensations, feelings and thoughts that make up their moment-to-moment experience, as well as an understanding of their capacity to work with emotional arousal and affect regulation. This self-awareness is the ground on which the ongoing development of the therapist is built.

In the second year, the development of this awareness process moves from a focus on self-process to focusing on others, and in particular understanding how self-experience is shaped by this engagement and interaction.

In the third year, the focus returns to the experience of the individual, but with a specific focus on better understanding how developmental contexts shape and influence the individual experience. This ‘field’ focus also seeks to take into account the complex social and cultural situations in which we are all embedded.

Fourth-year aims to integrate the learning of the three previous years, supporting students to weave together self-awareness, awareness of others and sensitivity to how our 'situatedness' shapes our experience can be applied in therapeutic practice. In this student’s engage with what they know of their own relational patterns and explore their developmental edges as emerging therapists.

Personal Abilities Framework (PAF)

Over the four-year training program, students will inquire into (and develop) the seven personal abilities that we see as crucial to the practice of psychotherapy. These are Self-Recognising, Embodying, Responding, Interrelating, Experimenting, Contextualising and Presence. These personal abilities become an important tool for self-awareness and conversation across all aspects of the program.

The PAF abilities together create a holistic picture of the skills required in developing a gestalt therapist.  These six personal abilities are based on the foundations of our training program, clinic, and all that we do at the Gestalt Centre.

Embodied awareness


The ability to be embodied, self-aware and experience life holistically: that is to be able to get in touch with your here-and-now experience including your sensations, emotions, cognitions, and actions.  

You can recognize, track, and express your subjective experience in meaningful and congruent ways.  This includes the ability to give expression to your somatic and sensory experience in physical ways (e.g., laugh, cry, move, play, make physical contact).  

You stay present to and manage emotions: to be able to identify, articulate, tolerate, regulate, and express your feelings as they emerge and are evoked relationally.

Attuned & transformative presence


The ability to be self-recognizing, embodied and responsive to personal experience and present to the experience of others: to embody a relational therapeutic stance that draws on the here-and-now co-created experience of relating and holds a broader sense of the moment in a developmental (change) process.

Understanding presence as the ‘intentional use of self, combining energetic availability and fluid responsiveness within a dynamic relational field’ (Marie-Anne Chidiac and Sally Denham-Vaughan), this ability is demonstrated by the capacity to be humble, wholehearted, responsive, transparent, flexible, and creative.

Attuned & transformative presence

commitment to dialogue

The ability to notice and feel affected by the experience of living and to make and sustain relationships: to be impacted by the events of your life and committed to relationship with others. You can observe and assess the need for you to act in your immediate world and to be able to predict and reflect on the consequences of your action.

It includes the ability to respond in respectful, compassionate, attuned and confirming communication with others - especially in relation to interpersonal difference, conflict, diversity, and alternative perspectives. It means being available to repairing ruptures in relationships as they occur.

You have a healthy boundary. You are aware of and interested in understanding the experience of others and have the capacity to disclose your immediate experience as relevant.

Compassionate & choiceful living

paradoxical theory of change
core themes

The ability to learn experientially and to take new action: to be actively curious, inquisitive, open minded and involved in your immediate experience (and the experience of others).

This includes the ability to take risks and experiment with new behaviour: to be able to take opportunities, invent possibilities, make creative decisions, risk the unusual to move beyond established patterns towards novel experiences of yourself and others.

Because we understand that some causes of distress are a response to earlier adversity, and that with support we can identify and begin to let go of unhelpful pathologising narratives. We develop creativity and flexibility for each moment

Cultural & environmental sensitivity

field theory
cultural sensitivity
power & privilege

The ability to process relational experiences with consideration for the impact of personal perspective, mutual influence, and context: to be able to explore your experience with others with an appreciation that you are impacting others as they impact you.

You appreciate that while unfolding events are occurring in a contemporaneous context they are being influenced by the wider field, including the personal history and the current perspective of everyone involved.

Your curiosity helps us to grapple with the ways we are situated in cultural and environmental worlds. You seek to become more meaningfully engaged in responding to issues of ecology, diversity, power, and privilege etc.

Ethical, just & community minded

field theory

The ability to be engaged in the world: you have a developed sense of self and understanding of the co-emergent experiencing in relationship, family, communities large and small. You demonstrate a ‘natural’ sense of justice, and willingness to support other people around you.

You are an ethical person; ethical in the sense of responsive, responsible, and willing to act for justice.

The experiential nature of GTA’s training requires students to cultivate a deeply embodied self-awareness, creating the capacity for presence, attuned responsiveness, phenomenologically grounded awareness, willingness for dialogical engagement and is aware of, and takes responsibility for, their privilege. These abilities are developed through participation in a training group, which remains the primary and most effective way of supporting prospective therapists to build these capacities.

You can read more about the foundations here.