Gestalt therapy is an experiential and mindfulness-based approach to
counselling and psychotherapy that has inspired many other experiential
therapies since it's inception in the 1950's.
Gestalt is a German word meaning ‘whole’. Our body, emotions,
sensations, thoughts, perceptions and experiences, together represent
the ‘whole’ person that we are. A core concept of Gestalt
therapy is that we 'creatively adjust' or adapt to our life circumstances.
This can result in us developing habitual behaviour that is not in our
awareness, and can affect our capacity to function effectively and flexibly,
preventing us from fully experiencing and enjoying our lives.
The primary focus of Gestalt therapy is to increase awareness. As our
awareness is heightened, we develop a deeper understanding of ourselves,
and how we function in the world.
Awareness is an ongoing process. With awareness we develop the ability
to become fully who we are and to recognize that we have the potential
within us for change. The aim is to become aware of what we are doing
and how we are doing it, with acceptance and without judgement.
The Paradoxical theory of change is an important concept in Gestalt
therapy. The paradox being that the more one tries to become who one
is not, the more one stays the same. When we accept what is and who
we are, then change can begin to take place.
Gestalt therapy focuses more upon process (what is happening - ‘the
experience’) rather than content (what is being discussed). The
emphasis in therapy is on our experience moment to moment and what is
being thought, felt and done, rather than what was, might be, could
be, or should be. For example when sharing about the end of an important
relationship - the details would be the content. Tears, sadness, anger,
feelings of regret, are the experience.
Gestalt therapy increases our capacity to become aware of the process
of experiencing as it is happening. We become increasingly skilful at
noticing our conditioned patterns of behaviour, develop a greater awareness
of choices and potential for change, and experience an increasing sense
of and ease and acceptance with the way things are.
The fundamental propositions that lie at the heart of Gestalt therapy
relate to human functioning and how change takes place. The main principles
- Awareness leads to change
- Heightened awareness leads to a greater understanding of self, needs
- Through awareness we are able to take responsibility for ourselves
- Emerging, dominant needs organize our field of perception (i.e. we
see and notice things dependent upon our need in that moment)
- We can only be understood within the context of our environment (i.e.
influences, environment, culture, beliefs, behaviour, and our past.
- We have a tendency to perceive in wholes. If closure is not reached
around an issue, or if a need is unfulfilled, this will push into our
- We have an instinctual need to give meaning to perceptions and experience
- We are organismically self regulating (i.e. we have the ability to
be aware of and own our senses, feelings, emotions, needs, wants and
beliefs – growth begins with the awareness and experience of these
- Learning occurs when we are curious and interested in our ‘here
and now experience’
The Therapeutic Relationship
In Gestalt therapy, the therapeutic relationship is paramount, as is the quality
of contact and interaction between client and therapist. The Gestalt
therapist works in an open, respectful, and non-judgemental way. The
therapist does not profess to know what is best for the client, but
assists them to explore and discover what might be. The therapist will
share their experience (what they see, feel, and think) and encourage
the client to do the same, as well as communicating their understanding
of the client's experience. These experiences are referred to in Gestalt
therapy as phenomenology. Through phenomenological exploration awareness
is increased, and insight, curiosity, and understanding of self can
Gestalt therapy is a powerful therapeutic method, that enables individuals
to develop an increased capacity for self-support, to effect change,
and to live fulfilling lives.
An accredited Gestalt therapist has a minimum of four years intensive,
experiential psychotherapeutic training including their own personal
therapy, and an ongoing commitment to professional development and personal
growth. Most Gestalt therapists have further professional training in
the fields of psychology, organisational training and development, social
work, occupational therapy, counselling, mental health nursing, or psychiatry.
If you would like more information about Gestalt Therapy or would
like to make an appointment, please contact Diana or Victoria by telephone
Phone: (08) 9278 6578
Psychotherapist and Counsellor
Phone: 0438 983 590
Please email Diana or Victoria to ensure the fastest possible response
See also: Clinical Supervision
Click here to go to Diana Lalor's page
Click here to go to Victoria Morrissey's