Gestalt Therapy: What is it?

“I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you and I am I,
And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it cannot be helped.”
Fritz Perls, 1969, in Gladding, 2000

The founders of Gestalt therapy are Fritz and Laura Perls. In the 1940’s they developed Gestalt Therapy which is known as an experiential and humanistic approach to counselling.

Central to Gestalt therapy is the therapeutic relationship. Gestalt therapists believe that by working with the therapeutic relationship, in the here and now that clients can increase their awareness about how they relate to themselves, their environment and to the other. Ultimately by building a person’s awareness they can better understand who they are and in turn better understand what they are doing and how they are doing it, with acceptance and without judgement. With awareness, choice becomes known. If I do not know what I’m doing and or how I am doing it, then I cannot choose to do anything differently.

To assist a client to build awareness a Gestalt Therapist observes how a client makes and breaks contact with themselves, the other (in the therapeutic environment this would be the therapist) and or their environment. To do this Gestalt Therapists refer to the contact cycle. The contact cycle as seen below is the process we engage in in order to have a need met.


Creative Adjustments
Fritz Perl believed that we all ‘creatively adjust’ to our life circumstances. Creative adjustment is derived from the notion that people will try and solve their problems living the best way possible. However, whilst our creative adjustments may be functional at one point in time they don’t necessarily continue to be so. Creative adjustments can result in us developing habitual behaviours that are often outside of our awareness and often affect our capacity to function effectively and flexibly, preventing us from fully experiencing and enjoying our lives

With awareness we develop the ability to become fully who we are and to recognise that we have the potential within us for change. The aim is to become aware and curious of what we are doing and how we are doing it, with acceptance and without judgment.

To bulild awareness a Gestalt therapist focuses more upon the 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.

Choosing a Gestalt Therapist
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, 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 Belinda by telephone or email.