About Gestalt Therapy

This humanistic approach, developed by Fritz Perls, grew rapidly in the United States in the 1960s. Although Perls’ methodology became more and more direct, the aim from the first was that clients should learn from their own experience to acknowledge previously denied feelings and aspects of their personalities.

Well-known Gestalt techniques include increasing the awareness of “body language” and of negative internal “messages”; emphasizing the client’s self-awareness by making him or her speak continually in the present tense and in the first person; concentrating on a part of a client’s personality, perhaps even on just one emotion, and addressing it (or asking the client to address it) as if it were sitting by itself in the client’s chair; the creation by the therapist of episodes and diversions that vividly demonstrate a point rather than explaining in words.

Such techniques are widely borrowed by other therapeutic disciplines to support their own practices.

Encounter Groups

Group work can be undertaken in almost any form of therapy but is mostly associated with humanistic and Gestalt approaches, where it focuses on “the here and now.” The therapist may work individually with the members of a group, but the purpose is more often to promote interaction among all those who are present.

Members are encouraged to cast off inhibitions and to receive and give feedback. Physical interaction may be significant in open encounter groups.

The success of the group depends on an interplay of energies. The role of the leader in monitoring the dynamics of this interplay is critical to the maintenance of a balance between creating a safe place, avoiding undue pressure, and yet allowing enough challenge to stimulate movement within the group.

Psychodrama

We all playa role in the drama that is our lives. If that role is painful or frustrating, we may need to express our negative emotions in some way or to create scenarios that make us feel better. Psychodrama, which was developed in the 1920s in Austria and the United States by Jacob Moreno, provides an arena for this.

The openness to self-discovery that is a feature of psychodrama derives from several factors. Once trust has been created, group dynamics encourage disclosure; acting and direction allow for safe exploration of feelings by trial and error; the rare physical freedom of moving at will across an open space promotes expansiveness.

Psychodrama can be used to unlock doors to the past, to explore one person’s “dark” side, to empathize with others through role exchange, and to discover and practice fresh ways of relating.