Gestalt therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?

We often think of psychotherapy as a form of intervention that may only be helpful for people with serious psychological or health problems.

This may be due to the confusion in differentiating concepts such as psychology and psychiatry, or the way the media and audiovisual fiction portray psychotherapists: people who only come on the scene to help unhappy people, who do not achieve their goals and who, in many cases, are at risk of social exclusion.

However, this is not the case. Among other things, because there are psychological approaches with the aim of providing the necessary therapeutic tools so that people can strive for self-realization and the creation of meaning for their own actions. This is the case of humanistic psychology, in which we find a well-known type of therapy: Therapy figure.

How is Gestalt therapy?

Gestalt Therapy, or Gestalt Therapy, is a type of psychological therapy that falls under the category of humanistic psychology in the sense that it involves the way in which humanistic thought views human beings, their goals and its range of needs and potential. . In addition, as the name suggests, collects the theoretical principles of Gestaltism and uses them to offer a form of psychotherapy.

The main authors of the development of this type of psychotherapy are such authors as Paul goodman, From Isadore and particularly Fritz Perls I Laura Perls. Since the consolidation of Gestalt Therapy in the mid-twentieth century, much work has been done to extend its applicability beyond clinical psychology as we classically understand it, and it is therefore possible to find forms of this therapy in interventions on communities, specific organizations. , or work dynamics.

In short, Gestalt Therapy has flourished by spreading to a large number of social and human spheres to apply the principles of Gestalt to all kinds of purposes.. Therefore, although this type of therapy is linked to the idea of ​​personal development, it is not limited to the field of classical psychological counseling, but can be understood as a tool to redefine lifestyles in your totality. .

You can read more about Fritz Perls and his thinking by entering this article:

  • “Biography of Fritz Perls and his contributions to psychology”

Principles of Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy emphasizes how the things we experience are mentally framed, rather than worrying about the content of what is happening to us. This means that of this type of therapy, the importance lies in the way something is experienced, and not so much in this “something” itself. It is not based on questions like “what happens to us?” But “how does it happen to us and how do we experience it?”. It is an approach which emphasizes the role of subjective sensations, within the framework of the approaches of humanistic psychology.

This emphasis on processes above content and on what is subjective above the objective can unfold in three theoretical principles: the experimentation of the “here and now”, consciousness and responsibility.

1. Here and now

According to Gestalt Therapy, it is assumed that human beings perceive everything that happens to us as a unified experience. This means, among other things, that our idea of ​​what is in the future and the past are nothing more than projections of how we live in the present. In short, by working on our way of thinking about the present we will intervene on our ways of thinking about the future to come and the way in which we look back to see the past again.

This idea, by the way, has the support of some research that made the psychologist famous Gordon H. Bower.

2. Awareness

Gestalt Therapy is essential to take note of what is happening to you. Only in this way will it be possible to detect new ways of formulating the experience of the here and now in terms that bring us closer to self-realization..

Taking a look at our own experiences and thoughts allows us, on the one hand, to better recognize our style when experimenting and, on the other hand, to have more decision-making power when it is. is about changing the way we see. things. In other words, you could say that being honest with the way we experiment allows us to develop better emotional intelligence.

3. Liability

Becoming aware of one’s own actions and styles of experience also involves taking responsibility for the consequences of those choices.. From the acceptance of errors and the assumption of risks, autonomy is gained. This opens up the range of options and the conception of the senses in which one can act, from an existential perspective.

Irresponsibility is seen as the result of an illusion, a denial of the present and a refusal to be aware. This is why Gestalt Therapy emphasizes the need to take responsibility, not to improve coexistence with others, but to be freer and more able to give meaning to our lives.

In short, Gestalt Therapy affiliated therapists understand that their interventions should focus on the person’s autonomy and potential. A good way to experience what is happening may be to know how to guide yourself in this jungle of possible options, of ways to conceive of your own existence.

Criticisms of this practice

Gestalt Therapy has been severely criticized, among other things, for not having a specific unit of analysis, with which it is possible to work experimentally without losing words without clear definitions. This fact, which has to do with the attempt to approach the subjectivity of this form of intervention (from rigid definitions might leave out part of the reality of patients, from this perspective) means that it is not not possible to guarantee the effectiveness of therapy.

On the other hand, the distinctly eclectic nature of Gestalt Therapy also creates suspicion, as it does not base its proposals on a unified and systematized theoretical system, as it does from the behaviorist perspective, for example. In addition, his inspiration in Freudian psychoanalysis, based on the idea that there are conflicting parts of the psyche, is also seen as part of a legacy of thought eluding science.

Bibliographical references:

  • Brownell, P., ed. (2008) Handbook for Theory, Research, and Practice in Gestalt Therapy, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Castanedo, C. (1993). Six approaches to psychotherapy. Modern manual. Mexico.
  • Ginger, S. (2005). Gestalt. The art of contact. Integral – RBA. Barcelona.
  • Martín, A. (2007). Practical manual of Gestalt psychotherapy. Desclée de Brouwer. Bilbao.

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