Gestalt Therapy


“Gestalt” is a dynamic, interactive, proactive, responsible approach to personal growth and discovery. While reflection is important, the key element of Gestalt therapy is the here and now, the present, both as that refers to the precise individual moment and also the all-encompassing environment during a given period in life. It emphasizes personal responsibility, freedom and power, as well as the will, to change.

Gestalt therapy was developed and written about primarily by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940s and 1950s. Their seminal work was Gestalt Therapy, Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality, 1951. The objective of Gestalt Therapy is to achieve independence through exercising personal freedom in action and to face obstacles which are preventing development.

At the center of Gestalt is the idea of awareness. There is reflection on feelings, the source of those feelings, the desires they cause and how all of that affects the patient's present circumstance. Often times obstacles or hesitations to achieve are examined in depth. The source of obstacles is discovered, discussed and confronted. With this level of examination and conversation with a therapist, discoveries are made which encourage growth and recovery from traumatic episodes.

As a basic principle, Gestalt therapy relies on the crux of the psychological experience. The individual is intelligent and independent. Any attempt by another to control or limit the freedoms of the person will put that person out of balance. Gestalt asserts that psychological problems arise from this struggle between the organic, natural self and those powers that try to control it. The control must be ended for the person to regain balance and achieve potential.

Three principles of overcoming outside control

Actuality, attention and responsibility are the three principles which help a person defeat outside control.

Actuality is a reference to keeping perspectives in the present without escaping to past episodes which cannot be changed or future events which are speculated.

Attention refers to awareness of the whole. A therapist will encourage a client to be aware of feelings, thoughts, images, body posture and to be aware of others as they interact.

Responsibility will replace blame. This allows a flexibility for the person to get back to natural balance.

It is an interesting part of Gestalt that the therapist knows there are no answers. Gestalt as a therapy and the therapist as a facilitator cannot know what the end result will be. They guide and allow the patient to determine when equilibrium has been achieved.

Sources: MentalHelp, Gestalt Therapy Theory,


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