Explore the GIT

Gestalt Modalities

The purpose of training in different modalities is to awaken spontaneity and creativity in the co-creation of the work. As the training therapist begins to work more creatively, the client begins to find their own creative self and so both lives are continuously enriched.
Gestalt invites what is now referred to as “right brain facility” between therapist and client. This is the natural human facility to work intuitively, sensitively, with empathy, and connectedness while grounded in the body. Gestalt calls this genuine human interaction involving the whole person – mind, body and emotions – “contact”.


One client and one therapist for one hour, dealing with whatever issues arise for the client in the context of the inter-relationship that emerges between the two. The therapist interrupts stale and repetitive patterns through the creation of an “experiment” which can lead to new awareness (an “aha”) and create present moments of contact between client and therapist.


An organic process (as opposed to a structured program of pre-defined steps) in which the leader spontaneously creates experiments based on the group dynamic (how the group members relate to one another). The therapist/leader experiences themselves as part of the process, using their own awareness of their responses, their biases and their part in the interaction to support both the individual and the group process. Each member is given time to work through their issues within the context of the group, gaining a sense of life meaning and purpose, gradually making each member capable of longer and deeper contact throughout the process.


Group work focused on a particular theme, e.g., creativity, anger, anxiety, addictions, sexuality, each explored through “Gestalt eyes.” The Gestalt therapist does not work at changing behaviours or symptoms that are deemed undesirable but sees these as creative adjustments in a relational field in which they literally saved our lives.These workshops play with the power and creativity through which our creative adjustments were forged in order to ignite a sense of self and hope for the future.


This is individual therapy done in front of a group. In Hot Seat the therapist creates an experiment in the moment to bring about a new awareness or “aha” for the client. That is the completion of the work. Then they invite another group member to come up and do work and so on. Hot Seat work was the focus of early Gestalt therapy practice. The Gestalt Institute of Toronto continues to include this modality as a training for creative and contactful experimentation, but focuses on longer pieces of therapy within the group, leading to an experience of contact. Work continues to be done in front of the group so that as one person gains insight, others in the group also gain insight through shared experience and empathy.


Group work in which group members re-enact an episode from one group member’s life, directed by the therapist. Psychodrama, created by Moreno, influenced Fritz Perls who adapted it to a simpler structure. Not only the group member whose story is enacted but group members who enact characters or aspects of another’s life or self, continue to be changed through the process.

Empty Chair or Two Chair Work

Gestalt’s application of psychodrama methods in the individual therapy situation. The client plays each role and engages in a dialogue by moving back and forth between the two chairs. From each chair, the client speaks directly to the imagined person/aspect in the empty chair, and experiences in the here and now the embodied response of relating to the other, as well as being the other embodied. In Contemporary Gestalt the therapist themselves may carry the role of the other chair, or may choose to work directly in the here and now with the client.

POLARITY WORK Topdog/Underdog

Two-chair work concerning a split (polarity) in the person’s character, the most common being topdog/underdog. The topdog is your inner dictator who tells you what you should do. The underdog plays the victim/rebel and schemes to thwart and avoid doing as the topdog demands.


Amplification of a behavior (for example, a body movement) leads to heightened awareness and can allow the client to give voice to something that they have been avoiding.


The therapist has the client use language that allows them to say what they mean and mean what they say. In other words, language that injects real feeling into their words. This includes:

  • Directness – talking directly to the therapist or another group member rather than alluding to matters by “talking about”
  • Checking Things Out – Instead of engaging in mind reading or guessing what another person thinks or feels, the therapist encourages the client to ask directly, for example “how do you feel about that?”
  • First Person, Active Speech – allows the speaker to own what is being said and imbue it with personal meaning and emotion.


There is more to language of responsibility. However, this gives you an idea of how what we say affects the way we relate to others.



In Gestalt, all parts of a dream are considered parts of the dreamer. Dreams are considered very useful because they are our most spontaneous and uninhibited expression. To work a dream, the client retells the dream as though he or she were experiencing it here and now. The therapist intervenes to work with what is revealed by the dream in order to raise the client’s awareness of himself or herself. This may mean the client acts out the dream’s different elements – be they people or objects. Or it might involve finishing the dream in a different manner. Or the therapist might ask the client to do chair work with the dream to determine what it has to tell the person.


The use of drawing, painting and other art media opens our awareness to the many layers of meaning in felt experience. The production of art is often loaded with inhibition and pain from childhood experiences. What is encouraged is not the doing of art but the making of art to restore confidence in body knowing and feeling. The artwork or the feelings arising when creating art serve as a springboard to deeper work.


Movement, touch and sensory awareness to help incorporate sensations and feelings with the intellect into a more integrated whole. Unlike some bodywork approaches, Gestalt bodywork does not strive to break through muscular and bodily blockages, but simply to raise awareness about where these are in the body and the feelings associated with them. Bodywork also involves the therapist in identifying how the body language of the client carries obvious inconsistencies between verbal and bodily expressions. This provides information for the therapist to assess the unspoken communication between therapist and client, the therapist’s part in that communication and out of this to create experiments that lead to bodies and minds “speaking” with a united voice.

Disowned Parts

A particular kind of playacting used in group therapy. Each group member assumes the character of a person, usually known either in the public arena or to the person themself, and dresses up and becomes that person for several hours. The persona adopted is assigned to give the group member an experience of a side of their personality that they deny or a part other group members see as present but concealed.

Gestalt “Games”

For the purpose of experimenting with the transformative potential of uninhibited, child-like play, creativity and self-expression; to experience a refreshing and liberating shift compared with the repetitive aspects of our “adult” going through day-to-day life. Recovering childhood play can be a painful process for many, as in some cases it represents an aspect of life never experienced and in others a significant loss of what was. Integrating this aspect into everyday life provides the innocence of childhood in the wisdom of the adult – a full life.