Gestalt Therapy: An Alternative Approach to Mental Health


Gestalt therapy is a philosophy of healing with an existential, phenomenological and humanistic approach. Gestalt is an understanding that the individual can be seen as separate from society or the collective consciousness. The focus is on how to integrate into a changing world in order to make a difference there. Therapists do this by getting in touch with their own resources, both inner and personal ones combined with intellectual insight.

Gestalt Therapy is a type of talking therapy that aims to help you understand and integrate your thoughts, feelings, sensations and actions in order to acquire an awareness of self.

In other words, it’s a therapeutic practice based on the natural principle that people fully experience their behavior at both conscious and unconscious levels. When something doesn’t feel right in any aspect of life we’re experiencing – body or mind – Gestalt therapists will use the power of conversation to explore these dynamics with you so as to bring about real change. So for example if you don’t like certain parts of your body, then yet don’t see them as part of who you are we’ll work with those issues together until they become more manageable.

What is Gestalt Therapy ?

Fritz Perls, who is megalomaniac enough to say about Gestalt Therapy, “I believe I am the best therapist for all types of neurosis in the world,” is the father of the theory and practice of gestalt therapy. In the early 1900s, gestalt therapy, also known as Perlism and applied in a pretentious, confrontational, typically public way, is less confrontational and more therapeutic.

Gestalt psychology explores how people create meaning from the stimulus they perceive. Gestalt therapy has made the idea that people are progressive the basic philosophy. Holism is the main value here. In other words, people cannot live in isolation, nor can they be divided into parts such as body and mind. Thoughts, emotions, physical sensations are all inseparable parts of our existence. The psychological and physical aspects of human nature cannot be separated.

In Gestalt therapy, personal choice and responsibility are emphasized. Some gestalt therapists also refer to this as the ability to take responsibility / react. All organisms have the capacity to grow from birth towards self-improvement. Throughout therapy, the focus is on growth and development rather than pathology.

In Gestalt therapy, it is believed that underlying many psychological problems are creativity and spontaneity, which is atrophied due to having to comply with the general. Sometimes healthy behaviors conflict with the norms of the society, the needs of the individual and the needs of the society are contradicted, one wonders whether he can remain a healthy and sane person in this mad society, and falls into psychological distress.

The main goal of gestalt therapists is to reveal the creative growth potential by staying in touch with the world and to realize oneself. Each person has the capacity to take responsibility and to choose in a way that he can realize himself. It is possible to contradict social rules from time to time while revealing the real potential.

Interacting with people is seen as a very important need in Gestalt therapy. Individuals try to meet their needs in order to grow and mature. Everyone is inclined towards experiences that will enable them to develop themselves, and also wants to be in contact with others.

Contact is a fundamental concept of life, according to gestalt therapists. Contact is defined as meeting the environment. It can be something outside of the person or an aspect of himself. After contact, the contact must be digested. In this process, assimilation takes place, including aggression and destruction. In other words, aggression is not seen as an antisocial behavior, but as a natural and part of life. An effective contact is the foundation of life.

The person makes contact with the environment at the contact boundary. An important aspect of the contact boundary is to distinguish oneself from the other. Throughout the therapy, the theme of I-you, I-we will be discussed and the “I” will be formed.

According to the Gestalt theory, life is the process of meeting needs. The need is an incomplete gestalt in which the organism creates awareness. If the organism succeeds in meeting the need, the gestalt is complete. With Gestalt gone, the need is no longer a shape but the ground. Awareness is the critical threshold for meeting the need.

When there is a disruption in awareness, some problems arise at the contact boundaries. For example, conflict is inevitable if some of the “goods” imposed by society (such as you must be nice, obey the rules, you must be polite) are not digested as our own values. This will cause psychological problems.

Gestalt theorists recognize the importance of childhood events. What is called maturity is moving from living with the support of the environment to living with their own support. In order to grow up healthy, children need the support of the environment as much as love and respect.

Inhibition anxiety arising from not being satisfied in childhood can lead to psychological problems in adulthood. Children must learn to deal with frustration. Only in this way can they gain their independence. The child will either grow up and learn to cope with frustration, or the boredom will always be hidden somewhere.

According to the Gestalt therapy theory, being psychologically healthy means living in harmony with the environment. A healthy person knows that he is in a mutual interdependence with his environment and can balance his own needs with the needs of society and other people.

A healthy person is spontaneous, reacts with emotions, expresses himself, makes direct contact with others and lives authentic relationships. He takes responsibility for the choices he makes in his life and the meaning he gives to these lives.

Mental problems will arise as people are crushed under false roles.

In Gestalt therapy, assessment and intervention are integrated in a process. The general framework of therapy is how the person makes contact with his environment, his level of awareness, and how much support he / she provides from his environment and himself. After prompting the clients to “sit down and start living”, the research on “where and how he fails to live” is entered.

Gestalt therapy is conducted on the basis of the client’s emphasis on his current life. The past or the future is examined as “now”. The therapist takes an active role and guides the client to pay attention to different aspects of their lives.

The ultimate goal of Gestalt therapy is to raise awareness to the client. Perls means “being aware alone, even mindfulness itself can be therapeutic.” Some goals will be achieved more easily when awareness is gained. Increasing the responsibility of the person, ensuring that he / she has sufficient self-support to live a free life and make choices is among these.

There are three basic elements in the gestalt therapy process. Relationship, awareness and experiencing.

  • To increase the awareness of the client about himself and his relationships with others.
  • Integrating body and cognition experiences.
  • Help the client reach the deadlock and live it.
  • Being here.
  • I and you, or engaging in authentic and aware relationships.
  • Using “I” language instead of “We” language will be covered in detail during psychotherapy.

Any technique that helps raise awareness can be used in Gestalt therapy. The psychotherapist’s goal is to promote uncertainty. Without waiting for a certain result, conditions are tried to be created to ensure growth.

In summary, gestalt therapy is a psychotherapy method that approaches people’s functioning in an existential / humanistic way. When contact is made with the environment, individual needs can be met and a healthy mood is achieved. As the contact is avoided, the needs cannot be met, holes and psychological defects occur in the personality. In the therapy, without any psychological diagnosis, the client is supported so that he can live himself and his environment comfortably.

Last Updated on June 24, 2021 by Patric Johnson

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About Author

He is studying psychology in Canada. Lucas also volunteers helping elderly people in nursing homes. Lucas, who is especially interested in hypnotherapy, continues his education and research in this field.

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