If you’re reading this article, you’re probably considering going to therapy. Maybe you’ve heard a few things about Gestalt therapy, but you’re not sure if it’s right for you. Starting therapy can be a little intimidating. You imagine yourself sitting in an office, in front of someone you don’t know that well and you have to talk about possibly painful things from your past.
Although revisiting your past can be a powerful tool in understanding what parts of yourself need to heal, Gestalt therapy is an approach that relies mostly on the “here and now”. This may sound a little confusing, so in this article, we will try to clarify what Gestalt therapy is and how it can help you.
Gestalt therapy is a humanistic, holistic and client-centred form of psychotherapy developed by psychotherapist Fritz Perls and his wife Laura Perls in the 1940s. They had both trained in psychoanalysis but believed that people should be viewed as a whole entity and be seen through their own eyes, in the present, rather than through their past. The term “Gestalt” actually means whole, and it’s based on the idea the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
During your sessions with a Gestalt therapist, you will be encouraged to focus on the present and what you’re experiencing. Even if you’re discussing something from the past, your therapist will invite you to bring those emotions and experiences into the room so they can be processed in real-time instead of simply talking about them.
They’ll concentrate on your body language and based on that they’ll ask you questions like “What do you feel right now?” This is to help you become more aware of how your emotional and physical self are connected. As you progress through sessions, you’ll get better at staying focused on the present and identify your emotions through physical sensations.
According to the principles of Gestalt therapy, in order to overcome unresolved pain, anxiety, anger, resentment or other difficult feelings, we need to express them actively in the present. It’s not enough to discuss them. If we try to repress them or detach ourselves from them, they can trigger both psychological and physical symptoms. The work you do during Gestalt therapy sessions has the purpose of increasing self-awareness, give you a better understanding of how your choices affect you emotionally, physically and socially. Instead of placing blame, this approach stresses the value of understanding context and taking responsibility.
Through this self-awareness and greater ability to live in the moment, you will gradually gain a greater understanding of your emotional needs. You’ll have a higher tolerance for negative emotions because you’ll be better able to regulate them and control your impulses. Since you’ll get used to identifying and expressing your emotions, you’ll improve your communication skills and learn how to handle relationship problems.
Gestalt therapy has been successfully used to treat a variety of conditions including anxiety, depression and self-esteem issues. Since there’s such a high emphasis on physical sensations and connection between the mind and body, it’s particularly useful in handling psychosomatic symptoms.