Gestalt therapy refers to a form of psychotherapy drawn from the gestalt school of thought. Developed in the 1940s by the German-born psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Fritz Perls, Gestalt is driven by the rational theory belief that every person is a whole (mind, body, and soul) and that we are best understood with our current situation as we experience it.
During therapy, awareness is viewed as the gist of change. When therapists help patients to become fully aware of their own experience, it's believed that change will happen spontaneously without the need for persuasion or coercion.
As patients learn to live more fully in the present moment, they will discover that suppressed emotions and needs are gradually exposed. Since everything happens in the therapeutic environment's safety, patients can acknowledge and even work through new material. They learn how to rewire the parts they have previously rejected, and accept the plethora of their experiences – the whole self.
During a gestalt therapy session, the counselor’s aim is to neither interpret nor directly alter the behavior. In turn, the therapist intends to raise the patient's awareness of what they are thinking, doing, sensing, and feeling at the moment. Instead of encouraging them to talk about challenging events, the therapist guides them through experiments and exercises that allow them to actively experience such events in a safe therapeutic environment.
Some of the most commonly used techniques in Gestalt therapy include:
Amplification- The patient is asked to repeat and even exaggerate a particular feeling, action, or expression so that he or she becomes more aware of it.
Guided fantasy – The patient is asked to visualize a hypothetical situation or even an actual event. In doing so, the therapist can help them focus on what they're thinking, doing, and sensing as they mentally experience this event.
Internal dialogue – The internal dialogue allows the patient to engage in a conversation between opposing poles of her or his personality. It can be something like the feminine side versus the masculine or the passive versus the aggressive self.
Dreamwork – During a Gestalt session, dreams aren't interpreted but acted out. Different aspects of the individual can be found in different parts of a dream, so becoming each part, the patient becomes more aware of the many different sides of her or his personality.
Becoming more aware of ourselves means healing- and that's exactly what Gestalt therapy does. It uncovers and heals parts in us that have been lost for some time.