What is Gestalt Therapy?

The German noun gestalt means form or shape and among the meanings of the verb “gestalten” are to shape, to form, to fashion, to organize and to structure. Gestalt therapy, according to Perls, its main originator, is an existential approach ‘not just occupied with dealing with symptoms or character structure, but with the total existence of a person’ ( Perls, 1969a, p. 71).

Gestalt therapy is a method of awareness continuum that studies direct experiences in which both parts experience each other and the world outside oneself; while keeping separation from it. In this light, therapist and client allow to be moved by the experience and are capable to change in some way by the word that is spoken, while maintaining their self-identity. As Jacobs (1989) suggests, the dialogic and relational gestalt therapy is a “specific form of the contacting process between two people, through which each person realizes most fully their distinct humanity. For one’s humanity is manifested only in dialogic relation to others. It emerges from, and requires, self-awareness, a uniquely human characteristic.”

Emotions are not only essential as energy or excitement regulators but are also ‘unique deliveries of experience which have no substitute – they are the way we become aware of our concerns, and, therefore, of what we are and what the world is’ – (Perls et al., 1951, p. 96)

How can Gestalt Therapy Help?

In gestalt therapy the client learns to become aware of awareness by keeping the work alive in the present, which the dialogic and relational processes are seeing as experimental tasks. As suggested by Yontef (1976, 1982, 1983) who found that “The patient is to learn how to become aware of awareness. How the therapist and the patient experience their relationship is of special concern in gestalt therapy.” The therapeutic relationship is regarded by gestalt therapists as a ‘working’ rather than ‘talking’ relationship.

Yontef and Simkin observe: ‘When one is moving from talking about a problem or being with someone in a general way to studying what one is doing, especially being aware of how one is aware, one is working’ (1989, p. 341)

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