Biography of Fritz Perls and his contributions to psychology

the Therapy figure, Developped by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls I Paul goodman in the 1940s, it was a model of humanist-existentialist therapy that was originally conceived as an alternative to conventional psychoanalysis.

Gestalt therapists use experiential and creative techniques to enhance the patient’s self-awareness, freedom and self-direction. The German word Gestalt can be translated into Spanish as “shape” or “outline”.

In a previous article, we talked in depth about the Gestaltism. If you haven’t read it yet, we invite you to do so:

“Gestalt Psychology: Laws and Fundamental Principles”

Talking about Gestalt Therapy is talking about Fritz Perls

Talking about Gestalt Therapy is talking about its creator: Fritz Perls. So let’s start by reviewing his biography.

Biography of Fritz Perls

Friedrich (Fritz) Pearls he was born in Berlin in 1893. He was a medical student, but shortly before the outbreak of World War I he interrupted his studies. However, even though he enlisted at the age of 21 with the Red Cross, that did not prevent him from continuing his studies. like that, in 1920, he obtained his doctorate in medicine and specialized in neuropsychiatrya.

Three years later, Fritz began his vagabond journey and made a series of trips (for example to the United States) in order to broaden his knowledge of his new profession. In 1926, he met Karen Horney, with whom he shared a close relationship. Thanks to her, he became interested in psychoanalysis and began to study it in different centers and institutes, thus becoming a psychoanalyst. So, Fritz was interested in psychoanalytic psychology, although later, unlike psychoanalysis, Fritz created Gestalt Therapy..

His life in South Africa with Laura Perls

In 1930 he married Laura Posner, later known as Laura Perls. Due to Hitler’s regime and Nazi Germany, in 1933, he decided to emigrate to Johannesburg (South Africa). There he founded the South African Institute of Psychoanalysis; in 1942, he published his first book, “Ego, Hunger, and Aggression”; and from 1942 to 1946, he worked as a psychiatrist in the South African army.

Travel to the United States and Consolidation of Gestalt Therapy

In 1946, she moved with her family to New York City where she worked for a time with Wilhelm Reich and Karen Horney, but soon began working with Paul Goodman in Manhattan. Next to him and next to Ralph Hefferline, published the book “Gestalt Therapy: Excitation and Growth of the Human Personality” based on the research and clinical data of Fritz Perls.

In 1951, he founded the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy and began to train psychologists interested in his therapeutic model. It was then that Fritz spread his ideas across the United States and began to lead seminars and workshops in different countries of the world.

In 1964, Fritz Perls moved to California to teach Gestalt Therapy as a way of life rather than a model of therapy at the Esalen Institute in California, with which he partnered, and Laura Perls took over as director of the New York Institute. In 1969 he moved to Canada and created a community of therapists. On March 14, 1970, he died in Chicago.

Fritz Perls’ contribution to psychology

Fritz Perls will always be remembered as the father of Therapy figure, A therapeutic model that not only has its roots in Gestalt psychology, but is also influenced by psychoanalysis, Reich character analysis, existential philosophy, Eastern religion, phenomenology and Moreno’s psychodrama.

Gestaltism states that the mind is a self-regulating and holistic unit, and is based on the principle that “the whole is more than the sum of the parts”..

If you want to know more about Gestalt Therapy, we invite you to read our article:

“Gestalt Therapy: What is it and on what principles is it based?”

Gestalt Therapy is more than just psychotherapy

Gestalt therapy is considered a model of humanistic psychotherapy and focuses on the present moment and self-awareness of emotional and bodily experienceUsually censored in Western culture.

One of its peculiarities is that it is not considered as a simple psychotherapy, but as a true philosophy of life, What influences the way in which the individual perceives relations with the world. Thus, and following the Gestalt principle of “everything is more than the sum of the parts”, the human being is seen in a holistic and unifying perspective, integrating at the same time its sensory, affective, intellectual, social and spiritual dimensions, and to understand that in his overall experience.

In search of self-awareness

His practice uses an “insight” of the patient’s experiences, encouraging them to creatively explore how to find their own satisfaction in different areas of their life. The basis of this therapeutic model is the patient’s self-awareness of his behavior, emotions, feelings, perceptions and sensations. Therefore, it not only focuses on explaining the origins of the difficulties and pain that the individual may feel, but also allows him to experiment and experiment with new solutions. More important is the how than the why, that is, when an individual understands how they are doing what they are doing, they can understand why they are doing it.

The therapist does not tell the patient what to do, but uses the educational capacity of dialogue, and is more concerned with the bond of trust with it, with the aim of increasing the authenticity of the relationship. Although Fritz studied medicine, Gestalt Therapy is more an educational approach than a medical one.

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