Personal work through Gestalt therapy

What characterizes gestalt therapy?

Gestalt therapists are well known by their interest in the “here and now”, i.e., what is happening right now, how you feel, what you think, what you bodily sensations are. Our work aims to help the person have full awareness of all aspects of his or her experience. By exploring together situations from the past that may still be felt as painful, or present-day situations that are a source of difficulties, a relationship is established that helps the person take his life in his own hands and develop new ways of understanding the world.

A brief example may clarify this. During a therapy session, a male client explains that he had a difficult situation with his boss during a work meeting: “He talked to me in way that I find quite disrespectful…. But …. well… This has no importance. I just should be more intelligent than him.” He talks about this while twisting his hands. The therapist could remark on what is happening with his hands and invite him to explore the feelings that are connected to that. Another possibility would be to say: “You talk about being more intelligent than him… I can imagine that you’ve been through a difficult situation as well…” This intervention may help the person be more aware of his feelings of sadness or anger which he usually neglects.

What happens at a gestalt therapy session?

In a gestalt-therapy session, client and therapist meet face to face and dialogue. During the first session, they explore what the client is looking for and the therapist answers the client’s questions. The framework for the therapeutic relationship is made explicit: frequency and duration of meetings, the fee, how to modify an appointment and when therapy is considered to be finished. If both therapist and client agree, the therapeutic work can begin.

The person is accepted as he/she is, with his/her fragile or insecure areas, with no judgement or reference to any behaviour model. The therapist encourages you as a client to express everything that is present for you: things you think about or are worried about, your moods, intuitions, feelings, sensations, a dream, a happy experience; or a situation: something at work, with the family, or a film you’ve seen. Anything can be the base for work since the therapist is helping you be aware of the different facets of your experience and identify what your actual needs and aspirations are right now. This helps you achieve a greater freedom and automomy in your life choices.

Who is gestalt therapy for?

Gestalt therapy can help with any life problem: shyness, a difficult separation, feelings of exclusion, psychosomatic troubles, anxiety, eating disorders, existential impasse, relational problems, and so on. It is addressed to any person who is in search of himself or herself who is suffering, and needs some help for going through a time of crisis or imbalance in his personal, social or professional life. If the situation calls for it, the therapist works with a multidisciplinary team, including a psychiatrist if, for instance, support with antidepressants is necessary.

A little history

Gestalt comes from the German word “gestalten” meaning “to give shape, to structure”. Gestalt therapy was born during the 50s in the USA and arrived in Europe during the 70s. It belongs to the current of humanist, existential and relational psychologies and aims to develop automony, responsability and creativity. It is not limited to an individualistic point of view of human beings, but it is strongly interested in the interactions of the individual with his/her environments, whether personal, professional or social.

Code of ethics

A gestalt therapist follows a code of ethics that protects the patient and helps therapy. This code of ethics demands the therapist to refrain from any abuse of power regarding his/her clients, to maintain an ongoing training, and to admit the limitations of the help he/she can offer when that is the case. The therapy work is done under the rule of confidentiality and professional secrecy. The therapist’s priority is the client, the client’s dignity, integrity and freedom of choice.

As a personal note, one of the advantages of having been trained as a gestalt therapist is that I’ve had to go through my own process of therapy. It is really this process and the changes I could experience in my own life, rather than reading theories, which convinced me of how useful this can be for many people. I’m happy to be able to offer it now.

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