Basic therapeutic skills in gestalt therapy

Remembering the different interventions that I was able to carry out in different workshops and therapeutic processes, in particular those which focused on the establishment of roles, I wish to reflect on the important role of therapeutic listening, in particular the listen gestalt.

Observations and analyzes that have given me many conclusions on the role he maintains in this double direction on the ego that every therapist seeks: inward and outward.

Find out more: “Gestalt therapy: what is it and on what principles it is based”

Clarify some concepts

internal listening

the internal listening, As the ability to question from self-observation, is nothing more than the virtue of looking inward, to enable us to become aware of ourselves and to witness these processes that awaken in communication.

And it is that if “being available for the other does not mean forgetting us” (Peñarrubia, 2012), the severe self-criticism, resulting from this “safeguarding of appearances” in therapy – like the care of the yes in the experiential process -, forget that Gestaltists not only pay attention to what happens to the other, but must also keep in mind (be aware) of what is happening to them at that precise moment (here and there now).

interior escort

this one interior escort, Which at the beginning we thought to be a burden for a complete care of the patient, gives way to a more friendly version, illustrating the excellence of its method in accompaniment, without having to interfere with the attention of our interlocutor.

Paraphrasing JB Enright (1973), we illustrate this new vision and awareness of what is alluded to here: “To perform an ideal clinical task, mental health professionals must have access to the flow of their inner experience. . understanding the anguish, hostility … of the other is the awareness of a similar or complementary state in oneself. “

external listening

Regarding the external listeningHe forgets that more important than hearing what is being said is deciphering how he is saying it. It is therefore common to observe how important listening to verbal content is (again showing our ability to listen with the repetition of what we have witnessed with the greatest fidelity: words and textual themes transmitted), but even more important is listening to non-verbal content.

And it is that in my experience of the dynamics of the groups, although we develop the attention and the concentration in the words and the subjects we relegate the gestures, the tones of voice, the body posture, which more than the words, provide more sincere information than its narration in sentences.

Without a doubt, this shows that a good therapist should not only limit himself to passive listening to what is being exposed, but also he must actively take care of the sound of his voice, his tones, the rhythm of the musicality in his lyricsBecause in short, verbal communication is nothing more than a lie (Peñarrubia, 2006).

My experience of congruence with what is exposed has allowed me to understand that in addition to listening to the words, we must attend in a more conscious way what the voice says to us, what the movements tell, to the posture, his facial expression, his psychosomatic language; in short, and as Fritz Perls himself said (1974): “everything is there, if they allow the content of the sentences to act only like a second violin”.

Keys and benefits of therapeutic listening

Therapeutic listening must be treated as an attitude: availability, attention, interest in the other … If we materialize the same thing in two inseparable operational lines (listening to the content and perception of the form) we will understand the purpose of the training that any good therapist should take care of:

  • Listen to the content (What the other says), conserve and reproduce – literally; it is a test of attention. Given the purely theoretical nature of its explanation, we find that, almost constantly, the forgotten, changed, corresponds or indicates conflicting areas of the therapist, referring to unfinished questions of their own and alluding to their own inner world. One could conclude from this that memory is therefore selective and that both the saved and the rejected allude to the neurosis of the therapist.
  • Listening to the nonverbal requires the therapist to be a good observer, Ability and perception that transcend beyond the word. The attention of the how on what, focuses on the non-verbal in the event of dissonance.

Communication in Gestalt therapy

We talked about the attitude of Gestalt listening, which inevitably leads us to speak of a certain communication attitude (Gestalt communication). It is already common in the workshops, the correction among several colleagues, among which I am, of the forms of expression which distort the rules of communication in Gestalt.

Let’s start by stating and illustrating the most common ones (Peñarrubia, 2006):

  • Speaking in the third person and past / future is perhaps the most common correction during therapeutic processes. The theoretical basis behind this tutor correction which forces us to “speak in the first person and in the present tense” asserts that impersonal language dilutes responsibility for what is said. Speaking in the present (even if we are talking about the past) facilitates the experience, making accessible and available the emotional content that closes the experience told.
  • Do not take responsibility for expression, Emphasizing the recommendation to integrate as the speech progresses, with the introduction of sentences (which make it easier to take charge of what is being told. Examples of these experiences in real sessions are: expressions on “I feel the neck is straining me up”, being able to hold the patient accountable for this experience in a more engaged way from “I feel strained”.
  • Use of the conjunction “but” instead of “and” and the question “why” instead of “how”. It is common in the clinic to ask “why” questions when trying to get some rationalization or explanation, and that should bring back that relationship dynamic. This will never lead us to a holistic understanding and if we get down to the “how” we will look at what is going on, observe the structure of the process, and provide perspective and guidance. Likewise with the use of the “i” instead of the “but”, we will avoid the dichotomy of language, integrating instead of dissociating.

Gestalt Therapy and Therapeutic Relationship

To conclude and go back to the origins of Gestalt Therapy, we are indebted (either by position or by opposition) to Freud and his psychoanalysis (Rocamora, 2014): “what a bad relationship in its origin or its childhood, another can heal – psychotherapy ”, allowing to speak of therapeutic relationship, to detect certain models of patient-therapist relationship. Relation which, speaking of Gestalt listening, highlights the particularity which, in relation to its fundamental principle of “realizing”, points to an interaction where the therapist (himself) is used as a reference card or experience with his patient (gestaltic balance).

What attitude should we maintain: “feel? Or listen?”. If listening is something that is done intentionally and the feeling is something beyond the control of the will, in Gestalt Therapy the first is the priority. This, in congruence with the objective of the same (focused more on the processes than on the content), focuses on what is happening, is thought about and felt in the moment, Above what it could have been or had been Global listening, as shown in the workshop (verbal and non-verbal), is therefore the key to the success of a therapeutic process.

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