Sean Cockburn, M.A.
Registered Psychologist Gen. Cat. E08599970
British Psychological Society 673440
Native English Speaking Psychologist and Psychotherapist in Barcelona and Online
Gestalt therapy concepts
Gestalt therapy theoretically focuses on the present and future - rather than the past - though past experience can never be wholly absent from the picture. This is probably partly because Fritz Perls who was a psychiatrist and psychotherapist and the founder of Gestalt therapy was partly reacting against the view of psychotherapy proposed by psychoanalysis. Perls had originally been extremely interested in Sigmund Freud’s work and had imagined that the two might work together - it seems that in a meeting 1936 it became clear that Freud had no interest in the work of Perls. This led the latter to found a completely new form of psychotherapy - which is excellent - though it is funny and very human to note how a feelings of professionally hurt self-esteem might be considered an essential starting place for this theory!
Gestalt therapy focuses on present centred awareness and connecting with the state of things now, rather than looking for causative origins of these in the past. The psychotherapist accompanies the client in uncovering his or her own deeper personal values and using these as a base for future action. So, Gestalt therapy often works with detailed descriptions of How (rather than Why) i.e. not focusing so much on causative relationships but rather on increasing awareness of the nature of things as they are now to text whether these are how one would hope or like them to be. For instance, ‘I get angry when X happens’ - Gestalt therapy would focus on examining that experience, how you notice you are angry, what sensations this produces and so on...
An important model in Gestalt therapy is the ‘Cycle of Experience’ which is basically a break down of the different stages surrounding any occurrence emotional, behavioural, situational and so on. In this cycle - you can find examples on google - experiences are broken down into moments so it might be established that the person gets anxious before the particular interaction or experience and for example tries to avoid it somehow and what happens then. Or it might be that the person tends to go into experiences but finds it hard symbolically to let them go... These cycles should ideally be finished and complete attending to interruptions and working on them with the aim of being able to live through experiences without avoiding them or getting caught up in them... and so on.
This form of psychotherapy has an idea about perception at its core - that the necessary knowledge or information will emerge if we can look at the same material in a new way. Just as a side note - these ideas have also been studied in other branches of psychology by psychologists who are not working with psychotherapy at all - and there is a a school of psychology called the Gestalt Psychologists who are not related to Gestalt Therapy.
Gestalt therapy emphasises connecting with values and needs which are essential to us and using these to guide future living. This concept is related to one which is found in other types of Humanist psychotherapy - particularly in Carl Roger's Person Centred Therapy - which is that of ‘Congruence’. This is the idea of finding ways of acting and living which are in keeping with one’s own essence. Again this involves looking past the routines and obligations and imagined needs which often colour our lives to reconnect with what is vital and important for us. This goes along with the theory that people are essentially healthy and competent and that therapeutic processes are about finding ways past obstacles and connecting with innate resources which will flourish given the right conditions.