The purpose of Gestalt methods is to bring what is unawares about the client’s behavior into awareness and facilitate “contact” (genuine human interaction involving the whole person – mind, body and emotions).
One client and one therapist for one hour, dealing with whatever issues arise for the client. The therapist intervenes to create an “experiment” which is an experience whereby the client gains new awareness (an “aha”) and to experience contact with the 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 experiments allow each member to work through his or her issues and experience contact with one another, gradually making them capable of more and more contact throughout the process.
Individual therapy for a family unit in which the therapist uses methods from group therapy. This allows the family to become aware of how they are locked into the dynamic operating between them and to experiment with new ways of interrelating.
Essentially the same as family therapy, except that a key element of the work involves the couple re-examining what it was that so attracted them to each other at the outset. This is in order to provide a counterbalance to the difficulties they are now experiencing in living together.
Group work focused on a particular theme, e.g., anger, anxiety, sexuality.
This is individual therapy done in front of a group. The difference being that the therapist makes a swift intervention to create a new awareness or “aha” for the client and does not proceed further. Instead, he or she invites another group member to come up and do work and so on.
Group work in which group members re-enact an episode from one group member’s life, directed by the therapist.
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/entity in the empty chair.
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 (usually, for example, a body movement) leads to heightened awareness and can allow the client to give voice to something that he or she had been avoiding.
Language of Responsibility
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 beating about the bush. For example, “smoking is harmful to the environment,” may be replaced by, “I cannot breath properly and you are killing me by smoking when I am with you!”
- Checking Things Out – Instead of engaging in mind reading or guessing what another person thinks or feels, the therapist encourages the client to check it out by asking directly, “how do you feel about that?”
- First Person, Active Speech – “it is not good for people to live alone,” contrasts with “I do not like to live alone.” The latter 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 the most spontaneous and uninhibited expression a person can make. 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 to rapidly get a client or group out of their heads and in touch with their bodies and feelings. The artwork or the feelings arising when drawing, etc., serve as a springboard for going on to do deeper work.
Movement, touch and sensory awareness to help incorporate sensations and feelings with the intellect into a more integrated whole. Unlike in other bodywork approaches, Gestalt bodywork does not strive to break through muscular and bodily blockages, but simply to raise awareness about where in the body these are and the feelings associated with them. Bodywork also involves the therapist in using the body language of the client to identify obvious inconsistencies between verbal and bodily expressions. This provides information for the therapist to create experiments to help the client’s body and mind “speak” with a united voice.
Like with exaggeration, playacting is an opportunity to gain new awareness by going beyond normal experience through acting out and pushing the limits. It is a technique used more in group than exaggeration, which is employed more in individual therapy.
A particular kind of playacting used in group therapy. Each group member assumes the character of a person, usually famous, 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 his or her personality that they deny or a part other group members see and would like to see more of.
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 humdrum of being a normal adult going through day-to-day life.