Gestalt is one of the therapy models that falls under the humanistic umbrella. In common with some other models it is based upon humanistic values such as the uniqueness of each person, free-will, and self-actualisation and growth. Humanistic therapy was developed as a reaction against psychoanalytic and behaviourist models which were seen as pathologizing and reductionist.
Gestalt evolved out of this background. Central characteristics of gestalt are that it is:
- A healing relationship
A client-centred approach is based upon the belief that a person can understand and solve their own problems by drawing on their own inner resources. It aims to strengthen selfhood, autonomy and empowerment. The therapist provides a facilitative rather than a directive relationship.
The client-centred therapist regards every individual as unique and therefore does not have pre-set categories or answers to provide. The client gradually gains trust and confidence in their own thoughts, feelings and evaluations and uses these as a basis for living.
The development of a secure sense of self in childhood is sometimes thwarted by adverse circumstances, and it is usually helpful for each individual to come to understand what has happened to them as part of the process of recovery.
“It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried.”Carl Rogers
A healing relationship
In gestalt therapy you engage in a healing relationship. The therapist hears and responds to the unique person you are and values your uniqueness. She does not put you into a type or category or pathologize you. The therapist does not remain concealed and will engage with you as much or as little as is appropriate to you in particular. The therapist’s commitment is to being authentically present for you. The healing comes through the understanding and acceptance of your therapist alongside your increasing self-awareness. For many this is a successful way to work because it is the right kind of relationship in childhood that has led to their current difficulties.
“The human heart yearns for contact, above all it yearns for genuine dialogue.”Richard Hycner
“The world is not what I think it is but what I live through”Merleau Ponty
Helping people to be aware of their own physically based and sensory experience is central in restoring health and well-being. Sometimes people have developed habits of living in thought or of over-riding and ignoring sensory information, such as exhaustion and over-work, but this results in a gradual crushing of the self and a disorientation of the individual in the world.
The therapist working with embodiment invites a client to listen to their body. She will draw attention to the non-verbal communications of the client such as tone of voice or posture in order to help clients become aware of themselves.
Through repeated connection with your embodied experience you gradually get to know yourself and build a sense of self from within. This is different to the person you have been told you are, conditioned to be or would like to be.