What Is Gestalt Therapy?
There is no direct translation in the English language that describes the meaning of the German word “Gestalt.” The term is best understood as a pattern, and it refers to the way something comes together and takes shape. Known as the first true American psychotherapy, the Gestalt approach originated with Fritz and Laura Perls, who brought their theories from Germany to the United States shortly after World War II.
Gestalt therapy is an experiential, relational therapy based on mindfulness and present-centered awareness that draws heavily from Gestalt psychology, existential philosophy, Zen Buddhism, and Taoism. The Gestalt approach understands that human beings perceive entire patterns or configurations, not merely individual components. This is why when we see a group of dots arranged as a triangle, we see a triangle instead of random dots. Our brains organize information into complete configurations or "gestalts."
As the field evolves with the culture around us, the Gestalt approach is continually informed by evidence-based research and a consideration of the broader social environment and its impact on development, behaviors, patterns, and habits. At its heart, Gestalt therapy looks at how the different aspects, or parts, of ourselves come together to form an integrated whole.
In our current healthcare system, therapy is often viewed as a treatment for an illness or disorder, or reserved for individuals in crisis. By contrast, I think of therapy as a tool to build on what's right in your life. In-depth psychotherapy can be best utilized after crises have been addressed and urgent issues resolved. In our work together, I don't "analyze" you to determine what's "wrong." In fact, I'm not here to judge or change anything about you. Our relationship is a collaborative one that requires safety and trust, so we can engage with authenticity, curiosity, humor, and candor.
Gestalt therapy is considered to be a creative form of talk therapy and is uniquely versatile, providing a range of tools and techniques that allow us to expand beyond traditional talk therapy. There’s no particular way a therapy session might look, as each is unique to your needs and the co-creation of our relationship. Every session provides an opportunity for a wide range of work to be done and for different parts to emerge, and each time we meet may feel different than the last. Our work together may include education, role play, active experimentation, guided imagery techniques, and body-centered activities designed to help you develop greater self-awareness. We'll address how you experience emotions in your body, and the physical expression of your feelings. The process is creative and active, teaching you to focus on the here and now, building your self-awareness in the present moment.