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Gestalt therapy pdf

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Gestalt Therapy 'I wish this book had been available when I was beginning to learn about therapy. Mann, writing in his conversational style, draws the reader. PDF | On Jan 1, , G. Yontef and others published Gestalt therapy. PDF | On Jan 1, , Michael Uebel and others published Gestalt Therapy.


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Gestalt Therapy. Published by: J & S Garrett Pty Ltd. ACN All Case Histories in this text are presented as examples only and any comparison which. Orthodox gestalt therapy suffered a rather unfortunate fate; gestalt theory has been poorly articulated, and gestalt techniques have received minimal empirical . Gestalt Therapy. • Existential & Phenomenological – it is grounded in the client's “ here and now”. • Initial goal is for clients to gain awareness of what they are.

Whilst this armouring keeps the environment at bay it means that impulses are turned inwards towards the individual experiencing the reaction rather than being expressed. Experiential exercise Take longer over your next meal. Consequently, when these beliefs about ourselves are challenged, the ground of our experience can shake with the individual experiencing a psychological earthquake if the challenge is over-pitched. Experiential exercise Think of an emotional experience you have had and describe that experience in literal terms. The way in which these philosophies — which might at this point appear to be a confusing collection of terms — integrate to create gestalt therapy will unfold over the next points. We may imagine that a solvent approach could be the more challenging.

In gestalt we do not believe that there is a self that resides exclusively inside me, only a self that is created in the process of me making contact with the environment. It is in this between that self forms. Our selves emerge in the act of reaching out to our world at our respective contact boundaries in the present in an on-going, ever-changing dynamic process. Our responses constantly change in relation to the situations we meet. Hycner As no two situ- ations are ever the same our relationship is constantly changing.

When I developed arthritis that changed markedly. The way in which these functional structures act is as follows. For these images to sharpen and realize their potential interest would require a movement away from this book and towards them. Consequently, introspection will reveal little information about the id, which manifests through behaviour. Id functions are most commonly seen in situations of relaxation and also at the start and end of contact experiences.

To return to you reading this book, the desire to do so will have been held as background at the fore-contact phase of the gestalt cycle before, upon com- pletion, receding into the background again as out of your aware- ness you assimilate the material at the post-contact phase of the gestalt cycle see Point Although an observer may see certain behaviours as they watch us during id functioning, they would not gain a sense of who we were.

The ego is deliberate, alert and conscious of itself as separate from its situation. As such it is central during introspection — we can be aware of ourselves in an isolated moment without being in direct contact with someone or something else. It is through your ego function that you are able to be conscious of yourself as you read this book. The deliberateness of the ego function in continually making choices is key in gestalt therapy. It is through the ego function that we gain a sense of who we are, but such a sense of self could be in relation to an outdated situation rather than the present situation.

Let me illustrate this process through someone reading this book. He was repeatedly told that he was stupid during his formative years, force-fed messages that were then reinforced by teachers and peers. He left school early and took on a menial job believing the messages from his past.

Following a crisis he sought therapy and found a therapist who recognized a disowned intelligence. She suggested he read an introductory book on therapy and he found this one. He opened it randomly at this page, saw the heading and closed the book believing that he was not capable of understanding it. His self-concept formed in relation to the old messages from the past prevented any updating.

Personality function The personality function forms a framework of attitudes and beliefs about who we are in the world and is autonomous, respon- sible and knowing. This process builds upon previous learning and growth. Our book reader met with a situation where there was an opportunity to update his attitudes and beliefs about who he was, but instead he chose to close the book and the opportunity and remain with his belief that he was unintelligent. As the personality function is seen as the struc- ture able to hold responsibility, it is this structure that decides the course of action to be taken.

Do I split mind from body? Do I include spirit? Do I see body as an extension of my situation? I do not believe that such a holistic view of what Heidegger referred to as our being-in-the-world comes naturally to many of us in the West.

The term being-in-the-world is hyphen- ated to illustrate the eternal connectedness between our existence and our world. As such holism does not split mind from body, nor does it speak as though there was a separate interior and exterior experience or see a human being as divorced from their environ- ment. Holism, sometimes descriptively spelt wholism, as the word suggests sees the world as a complete interrelated entirety.

The founder of this philosophy was Jan Smuts whose work on holism nearly a century ago was later integrated into gestalt by the Perls, being seen as a process of creative synthesis.

This often- misunderstood phrase refers to the unity of human beings as complete organisms, and to the unity of human beings and our entire environment. Think of your family and friends, past and present, and look at these relationships through a lens of support. Some may be supportive some not and all will vary depending upon your situation.

If we did so the interwoven fabric of these rela- tionships would be missed, they would remain isolated threads. We believe that there is an embodied wisdom in the organism to regulate to its environment in the best possible way given its situation.

This process of organismic self-regulation is a central belief underpinning the approach. What we want to do in Gestalt therapy is to integrate all the dispersed and disowned parts of the self and make the person whole again. Perls, The whole emphasis of the gestalt tradition is on seeing phenomena as work- ing wholes compared with the medical model that sees phenomena as separate units.

In the medical model a human being is treated as a collection of systems lymphatic, cardio-vascular, neurological, psycho- logical, etc.

For example, a heart condi- tion may be caused by poor diet, lack of exercise and a family history. Such a model is relationally objectifying. The relationship is vertical, meaning that an expert treats the other.

I am not saying that gestalt therapists do not have expertise, but our expertise is relational. We aim to provide a milieu for increased awareness and central to that milieu is the expertise of the client. Administering the treatment is all that matters. Thankfully some medical practitioners do recognize when more than chemicals, surgery or procedural treatments are needed.

Although the medical model appears diametrically opposed to the gestalt approach, there are some similar beliefs. As Greenberg asserts, this is similar to the medical idea that many modern medical problems confer immun- ity to other more dangerous diseases.

Pdf gestalt therapy

One such example being that the gene that can cause Sickle cell anaemia was a lifesaver in Africa where it protected against malaria. Medically the word refers to illness with synonyms such as sickness, ailment and disorder. In gestalt the word has been hyphenated to dis-ease Van de Riet, Korb and Gorrell, to illustrate that the organism is ill at ease and responding to an environment. A particularly distressing example of such a block can be seen in a person who is experiencing anxiety attacks.

Similarly, it is easy to get lost in the ordinary rush of daily life with its various demands and plethora of messages about how we should be in the world. As a con- sequence awareness of our desires and aspirations can get buried under a mountain of externally imposed shoulds. The aim of Gestalt therapy is the Awareness Continuum; the freely ongoing Gestalt formation, where what is of greatest concern and interest to the organism, the relation- ship, the group or society becomes Gestalt, comes into the foreground where it can be fully experienced and coped with.

There is a brightness and spontaneity in moment-to-moment experience. It is important that we do not put a value upon a certain level of awareness without consideration to the situation faced. Awareness can be vivid, muted, automatic, spontaneous, rigid, limited, blocked or interrupted and all can be useful or harmful ways of being depending on the situation. A mother may forget herself when caring for an infant.

If we only concentrate on the awareness continuum of the client we dismiss one relational pole. Our task as therapists lies not only with raising a clients awareness of how he is impacted by his world, but also in facilitating awareness of how his world is impacted by him and the process between him and his world.

Such facilitation can be achieved through carefully considered, well-graded self-disclosure by the therapist. There is a distinct tendency in the gestalt literature when dis- cussing awareness to place a heavier emphasis upon sensory and bodily experience with comparatively few references to cognitive awareness Fodor, My view is that awareness is awareness whether it is cognitive, sensory, spiritual or linguistic and that a fully embodied awareness requires an integration of all modes of experiencing.

Without awareness there is nothing, not even knowledge of nothingness. This story did not form within a void, it formed upon the ground of a particular worldview, and there is a story behind your story. This is your paradigm.

It is more than the view upon which we gaze. It is the ground upon which we stand to gaze, the way in which we gaze and the lens through which we see the world. All of which will determine the way in which our bodies reach out to our world and the way in which our world reaches out to us. The lens through which the vast majority of us in the West gaze upon our world is an individual- istic lens.

Our individualistic paradigm is the ground upon which we stand and as such forms our cultural worldview; experience cannot be felt or formed separate from our culture.

Man being separated from woman, mind from body, humanity from the natural world, art from science and the indi- vidual soul or self from a larger collective or spiritual whole. Cul- turally we live and breathe in a world characterized by separation and splits. The environment and the individual organism are mutually dependent parts of the same whole. Examples of our contact boundaries can be seen as our skin and our senses.

We also run the risk of giving the impression that the process of making contact is always initiated by us when the process of gestalt forma- tion, making sense of our world, comes from the whole situation — both the person and the environment PHG, It is in this process of meeting and withdrawing at our contact boundary that we creatively adjust in relation to our environment.

Polster and Polster, Picture them in a familiar setting, one in which you readily associate in your contact with them. Now consider how permeable, semi-permeable or impermeable your contact boundary is in relation to each of them.

Do you let them in readily? Are you wary around any of them? Do you merge or are you resistant? Picture each of the characters in unfamiliar settings, e. As you imagine, note any change that may occur in your contact bound- ary in relation to them. Do you notice any softening or hardening? What sensations are you aware of in your body?

Whilst these might be examples of the extremes of the continuum, degrees might be represented by openness or a tendency to agree, which suggest a more permeable contact boundary, whereas guardedness, defensiveness and being con- frontational may suggest more rigidity at the contact boundary. Neither is inherently healthy or unhealthy.

The organism is at rest A task then emerges for me and I settle to write Point 13 of this book on my computer. A disturbing factor that may be internal or external comes into awareness Whist writing this example my three-year-old granddaughter comes bouncing into the room demanding that I tell her a story. That then subsides as I make contact with the yearning face and wide-open eyes before me.

The answer to the situation is aimed for I decide to leave this work until later and put my energies into creating a story for my granddaughter. The organism returning to balance The story is created and told. With its roots in the above cycle PHG conceptualized a process of contacting that journeyed through four phases. To illustrate this process let us take the example of the individual responding to a need for food.

Fore-contact — Excitement or energy surfaces in the individual in response to sensations of hunger. These sensations stand out from other bodily and environmental factors that remain background. Contact — Following excitation the individual responds by con- tacting their environment and mobilizing in search of food, exploring possibilities.

The rest of the environ- ment and the body will now have receded into the background. To fully appreciate the cyclical nature of phenomena, we need to appreciate and experience the void between gestalts. When we let ourselves go into the emptiness of this void fullness can emerge. Consequently, this space is known as the fertile void. In Table 1. The examples in Table 1. From a gestalt perspective the physical and the psycho- logical cannot be separated.

Pdf gestalt therapy

There are completed cycles within incomplete cycles and this is most obviously evident in the longer gestalt cycles in our lives. For Figure 1.

A criticism levelled at the gestalt cycle is that use of such a map perpetuates and encourages an individualistic view of the person, and does not adequately address the impact of the environmental situation of which the person is a part. In doing so it implies that the individual is superior to the situation Wollants, When using any maps or constructs in gestalt therapy we need to hold them lightly. They can be useful ways of conceptualizing experience, but they are only maps and the map is not the terri- tory.

Awareness Sensation is Reality of the enormity of interpreted and need the loss begins to surface for water moves into with associated emotional awareness. Mobilization Person moves to satisfy Begins to contact the emerging need, emotions in reaction to e.

Action Moves towards the tap, Moves towards expressing turns on tap, fills glass, the emotion, e.

Final contact Drinks the water from Emotion is expressed fully. Cries, feels the hurt of the loss. Satisfaction Thirst is quenched. Organism feels the force of the emotion expressed with associated response, e.

Withdrawal Moves away from the Organism withdraws from activity, the need the emotion. Void Leaves space for Space is left for the next further need to need to emerge in the emerge. Consequently, I can easily rush the satisfaction and withdrawal phases and struggle to leave space for the void. In my experience this is a common pattern with people from my culture.

This can lead to confusion for those new to gestalt. In essence, they are creative adjustments that originally formed in relation to our situation at the time as the best possible way of managing that situation at that time.

We also need to be mindful that none of these processes function in isolation, all interrelate. Most gestalt therapists will describe seven inter-relating pro- cesses that we employ to calibrate our level of contact with our environment.

This process of calibration in relation to the way we perceive our environment often occurs out of awareness, but can be performed consciously. Contact is not a black and white process, it has many shades of grey.

I will devote Points 16 to 19 to the resistances to contact that the founders of gestalt discussed at length and that I see as the core creative adjustment styles we employ in moderating con- tact with our environment. This means introjection. Or, you experience something which is outside and it belongs to your organism. This is projection. Or again, you might experience no boundaries between your organism and your environment. From and Muller, Desensitization Anaesthetizing the sensing self The person numbs himself as in the acute phase of a grief reaction.

In an emergency situation such as a car crash we may not be touched by the horror of the situation. Alternatively, this process could manifest in the psychological detachment from physical pain; for example, a hiker gets blisters but desensitizes to his pain until he reaches his destination. A more disturbing example might be seen in someone who employs a similar creative adjustment to survive abuse.

A degree of desensitization will be present in any addictive behaviour whether this is compulsive eating, sexual addiction or substance abuse. Experiential exercise Take longer over your next meal.

Pay attention to the smells, the textures, let the food and drink linger a little longer on your palate. Allow yourself to linger over the food, paying attention to your sensations. Changing the subject is another example and this manoeuvre can be subtle: Many of us behave this way when receiving compliments. Energy is invested in turning away from direct contact, and we can all be very creative and subtle in the way this is achieved. I am not fully in relation with the other, but am observing myself being in relation.

Most of us can probably relate to congratulating or constructively criticizing ourselves, this can be relationally constructive or destructive depending upon the situation. The process of egotism blocks spontaneity through control, as one appears to be in rela- tion rather than is in relation. I can watch myself meditating but as long as I am watching myself I am not in the experience. When the infant cuts teeth choice increases as chewing over what enters the body becomes possible.

In introjection the person takes on board without question an attitude, trait or way of being from the environment resulting in the building of an internalized rulebook of shoulds, oughts and similar absolutes.

Such messages are all around us: They are in the air we breathe and the ground upon which we walk. They may have been born from actual statements, e. The person responding to introjected material, usually out of awareness, will feel a strong pressure to conform to these internalized rules and is likely to feel uncomfortable if they go against them.

In our work let us not forget that this process will have originally been a developmental manoeuvre to ensure safety or acceptance and was the best way of creatively adjusting to the environment at the time. Experiential exercise Think back to your childhood.

What messages or instructions were part of your daily life? What messages did you receive about your body, honesty, morality, sex? Have you freely chosen all of them as an adult or are there some you just live by without question?

The process of introjection often occurs out of awareness in response to stereotyping. I can also assure you that you really do need the latest gadget! Many problems are rooted in a belief a person has about how they need to be in the world that has never been questioned. The person then continues to live their life by this prescribed way of being that has now become self-prescribed and can be re-prescribed for the next generation.

An introject can support a whole system of moderations or, conversely, a whole system of moderations can be constructed to protect an introjected belief. Below I have given an example of how a system of introjected beliefs can support each other. Case example Susan habitually attempted to look after me in sessions and would repeatedly check out if I was alright when she had contacted an emotion.

She adapted to how she imagined I might want her to be. This belief was supported by another powerful introject car- ried from early childhood that led her to believing that she was unloveable. She had been an unwanted pregnancy and unwanted as a child, her mother had told her that she had wanted a termin- ation. Susan therefore believed that she needed to adapt in order to gain a degree of love and acceptance.

Consequently, she had never been loved for all she truly was. We are capable of a creative selective capacity regarding what information we assimilate and what we distort, forget or reject in relation to these core beliefs.

Challenge these beliefs pre- maturely, before a solid relational ground has been built, and they are likely to be defended forcefully. Just as with a suit of armour the individual protects herself from the environment and in protecting herself holds her body back from contact with her environment. Whilst this armouring keeps the environment at bay it means that impulses are turned inwards towards the individual experiencing the reaction rather than being expressed.

Contact with the present environment is resisted. The individual splits himself into the aspect who does and the aspect who is done unto. In doing so the individual substitutes himself for his environment. This splitting is usually present in the language used and is visible bodily in ways that diminish con- tact with the environment such as shallow breathing, muscular armouring, restricted movement, paleness.

This process of providing for oneself what is absent or inaccessible in the environment can be a healthy substi- tution for what is missing, and if brought to awareness can pro- vide the client with information regarding what they may need. If emotional or intel- lectual expression is repeatedly met with negative responses we learn to stop expressing ourselves fully. If the tension held is enduring this can result in chronic soreness and joint problems as muscle groups push and pull against each other.

The therapist needs to be attentive to when these tensions surface in sessions. Client — Talking about her relationship He told me that he never loved me chest begins to redden, hands begin to clench. Therapist — What are you aware of right now? Therapist — That sounds familiar. Client — Somehow my mother comes to mind. Without the ability to hold back our impulses our society would disintegrate.

Anais Nin, Picture yourself at the cinema. In essence, this describes the psychological process of projection whereby an attitude, trait or quality is assigned to another indi- vidual, group or object and in the process is disowned by the projector s. In the previous point, I described a particular mani- festation of a process where the client splits himself. Simply stated, projection is seeing in others what is present in myself. Now list those qualities you admire. Note any temptations to rush as you try the qualities on for size.

Examples could be seen in a client seeing their therapist as brilliant and disowning their own bril- liance. Sometimes there is confusion when discussing the concept of projection. An artist projects his vision onto the canvas; a poet projects hers in prose. This form of projection is usually referred to as transference. In the give and take of a therapy session a client could project their need or desire onto the therapist and then respond to their projection.

For example, a client has a need for love and care but through a process of introjection does not see herself as deserving. She projects her need onto the therapist and takes care of her. Before we go any further I would like to return to our cinema and the image projected onto the screen. I could go on. What I am saying is that the client does not simply throw something onto the therapist, but that there are a multitude of factors at play in the situation in any one moment.

Just as with any other creative adjustment we need to view projection as a co-created phenomenon and recognize that this moderation does not occur in isolation from other moderations but that all moderations are functionally related.

Projection is marked by distancing. This can occur in relation to our own bodies and is evident in the language used where the body is considered an object of experience and not part of the subject Kepner, Here the split and projection is clear. However, the response may be a more subtle projection that sug- gests ownership, e.

It implies posses- sion in the sense of property my handbag, my car and the dis- tinction between the owner and the object owned remains. This can go unnoticed because it is such a cultural norm — and many therapists do it too!

PHG touch on projection in the form of prejudice. Perls recounts a story when a new candidate was being selected at a club at a committee meeting.

At this club whenever a particu- lar name came up and someone wanted to give them the thumbs down, the committee member had to state his reasons. If you were brought up in Britain you will have internalized some racist attitudes Joyce and Sills, If you are white a sense of white-rightness maybe deeply imbedded. If black, you may have internalized a sense of oppression or powerlessness or that other is more entitled. If you are black and a non-British resident this sense is likely to be increased.

Standing on our individualistic ground, we separate rather than join. Despite the fact that the notional line that it is neither positive nor nega- tive is stated, what follows rarely backs this up. They may begin to dress in similar ways and even look similar.

Such systems are by no means restricted to couples but can occur in any relationship between individuals or groups or organizations including therap- ist and client. With a complete lack of friction there is a lack of vibrant contact in this low-energy way of being.

The therapist needs to be aware of their reactions to this presentation. After all, most clients that walk through our door may want change, but ultimately want to be understood. When considering these processes in this unilateral manner there is a tendency to view them in a predominantly negative light, as something to overcome, rather than seeing them as a skill that has been developed and can still be of considerable use today depending on our situation.

Some of these processes rest less easily upon the ground of an individual- istic culture than others.

Pdf gestalt therapy

Consequently, I agree with Erving Polster: Polster, The danger of such an attitude is that we behave as dis- connected islands separate from our situation and each other. In contemporary gestalt we believe that self-awareness develops between our contact boundaries not behind them. The following model based on the work of MacKewn better illustrates the need to develop a range of responses.

The whole situation at the time will dictate where on the following continuums is healthy or unhealthy, safe or unsafe. Consequently, when these beliefs about ourselves are challenged, the ground of our experience can shake with the individual experiencing a psychological earthquake if the challenge is over-pitched.

To do so, the ground of the therapeutic reationship needs to have been developed. Both client and therapist need to lean into their growing edges. The greater our capacity to extend our ability to move along these continuums with awareness, the healthier our relationship with our world becomes. The series of dots in Figure 1. It is a human need to complete to make sense of our world.

As soon as one task or situation is com- pleted another arises. These incomplete gestalts will range from the relatively trivial such as mounting housework, to major life events such as an on-going grieving process. Such processes can then become habitual particularly when supported culturally.

Her research showed that incomplete tasks take up more psychological space than completed tasks. She discovered that waiters with incomplete orders would readily recall those orders whereas as soon as the orders were completed they were forgotten. In the following account I am grateful to the work of Elena Mazur She never saw him again — he was missing presumed dead.

So, in order to avoid her increasing distress, she moved to live in Moscow itself. Rather than improving her distress and anxiety this continued to grow. She avoided visiting places that she associated with her husband and this anxiety-based avoidance continued to increase to a point where she developed a form of agoraphobia.

Having returned she began to visit places around Moscow that held emotive memories of their relationship. The more she exposed herself to these situations the more her symptoms subsided.

It is a key task for the gestalt therapist to facilitate clients to do likewise. It is certainly not a word we associate with caring. However, in gestalt therapy we make the creative manoeuvre of remaining impartial; unlike other approaches we do not become goal oriented. As already stated, the only outcome we invest in is increasing awareness. They trust that the client is oriented towards health. Holding such a therapeutic stance means that the therapist surrenders to the between of the relationship and in doing so equalizes the relation- ship between client and therapist.

This does not simply mean sitting back and hoping for the best. It is fundamentally a position of non-attachment. This simple yet profound theory has become a guiding principle for gestalt therapists. I am grateful to Lynne Jacobs personal communication for clarifying aspects of his life story. Beisser was an intelligent, athletic, attractive man, a US-ranked tennis player, who despite his many attributes was apparently ill at ease with himself.

At the age of thirty-two he was struck by polio resulting in paralysis from the neck downwards. Following an initial depression Beisser grew to accept his new life and developed The Paradoxical Theory of Change, which in essence had emerged from his personal journey. Even with his profound disability he was willing to support friends in any way he could. Towards the end of his life he said that even if it were possible to be given the choice of returning to being the athletic young man he was prior to his paralysis he would not take that option — he had truly become what he was and accepted what was.

If we concentrate on restoring what we decide to be health, we run the risk of depriving the client of the opportunity to live out the life change that is happening and to adapt to that life change creatively.

If we attempt to rescue, we can rob the other of the journey to discovering the best creative adjustment to their situ- ation. We need to notice what is obvious before us. If we invest in only one aspect of the client — their desire to rid themselves of the perceived unpleasant quality — whilst this may provide a short-term panacea we miss the aspect of the client that invests in being as they are. Consequently, we miss the complete personhood of the client — what dilemmas they are struggling with, what the change will cost them, the loss involved in the change and the value of that quality.

Rather than exploring how to change or what coping methods may be useful, the gestalt therapist and the client co-explore what is. During the years I spent working in psychiatry, I worked with many clients who experienced auditory hallucinations.

According to Lichtenberg we cannot coercively change the other in some productive way. Such coercive change can only occur destructively through such examples as oppression, exploit- ation and domination. One must become who one truly is before constructive, true change is possible.

Laura Perls was a musician and writer before she became a psychologist and psychotherapist Kitzler, Perls and Stern, ; she played the piano for years and had an active interest in modern dance.

They went on to collaborate with Paul Goodman with his radical views on social criticism that saw art as an antidote to what he saw as the evils of society. Through this creative synthesis of ideas, interests and ideals the founders of gestalt assumed that in human experience aesthetic qualities were inherent, evident in the human need to perceive their experience in meaningful, structured and organized wholes — to form and complete gestalts.

The term good form refers to a well-formed gestalt. In healthy functioning we creatively adjust smoothly to our ever-changing world. A process of transformation takes place as recently out- dated or archaically outdated ways of being are changed through contact with the novel in the here and now.

In my book this is not good form. Both will be creative but only one will truly be aesthetic in relation to the whole situation. It is through this self-conscious function that I develop a sense of stability through forming and maintaining on-going relationships and how myself and others can explain who I am if explanation were needed.

Through the personality function acting in relation with the ego function, autonomy is achieved. We cannot learn how to be creative — we just are creative. Whether we use our creativity to nourish, diminish or destroy our being-in-the-world is ultim- ately our choice. It may be that it is not readily available or that it is not perceived as available but either way the felt sense is one of a lack of stability in their ground.

Over time they will begin to trust that if they fall we will at least try to catch them and so the reconstruc- tion of their ground will begin. Laura Perls believed that in our work as gestalt therap- ists we need to provide as much support as necessary and as little as possible. This is not to deny the value of the ability to hold a provocative, evocative stance, as many clients will at times experience this as supportive.

Another way of thinking about this is in terms of therapy as glue or solv- ent. Often the last thing they needed was a stance that further dissolved an already fragile ego. To put it crudely I saw my task as helping the client identify and stick the fragmented parts together. We may imagine that a solvent approach could be the more challenging. Whilst this is often the case, we need to be mindful that challenge and support come in many guises.

To best assist the client in their journey we need to develop a range of authentic therapeutic stances, not as roles that we enter into, but as fully integrated ways of being. It is not only the client who needs to be constantly re-evaluating their creative adjustments. Even if we do our job of preparing the ground well, we will also need to take into account a multitude of other factors to support growth.

Experiential exercise Pay careful attention to how you are holding your body at this moment. If you are sitting how are you using the furniture? Are you collapsing into the chair or sitting on the edge? Are there parts of your body that feel supported and others that you feel you need to hold? Consider your breathing, something we usually take for granted.

Also ask yourself what your use of support may say about your environment and your relationship with your environment, e. A primarily self-supporting person may not fully utilize the sup- port available in the environment. It is not something that can be brought about through an act of will.

How we make contact is through seeing and looking, touching and feeling, tasting, smelling, sound, gesture, language, movement — the ways in which we reach out to our world. Contact and resistance are part of the same continuum and both can be supports depend- ing upon the situation. We are always in contact but we moderate the level of our contact through our ability to creatively adjust.

I do not want to be in full contact in an environment that is toxic. Likewise a surgeon will need to diminish her level of contact with her patient — open-heart surgery is best performed whilst minimizing emotional engagement!

Resistance to contact has its place. He told the story of an outstanding German weight- lifting team who were far superior to any other team at the time and were fully expected to make a clean sweep of the medals at the world championships. Leading up to these championships they were lifti- ng far more than any of their rivals.

The championships were held in a new sports centre in Switzerland and the team failed miserably. In the new arena the light was such that a glare made the oppos- ing wall appear to disappear. They had nothing to lift against, nothing to use as a resistance. It is often a way of protecting oneself from an actual or perceived threat or lack of support and as such needs to be respected by the therapist. There is always a story behind every resistance. Some clients need to recycle the same resistance to contact whilst the therapist simply meets them with consistency.

Others need to build resistance, an example being people who are too readily open in an environment where a degree of caution maybe indicated. Work with the contact—resistance continuum often involves many small steps.

One cannot destroy resistances; and in any case they are not evil, but are valuable energies of our personality harmful only when wrongly applied. It is the actual current situ- ation that determines whether a resistance is healthy or unhealthy rather than the style of resistance viewed in isolation.

Our resistances are created in relationship and can only be revised in relationship. This is when the person divides their energy between impulse and resistance. Whether they are fully utilized will be decided in the between of the relationship and will depend upon the situation, but they need to be available as potentials.

Through such self-restriction and due to our eternal interconnectedness we deprive others as well as ourselves. The ability to be cognizant and aware of what we are doing as we are doing it, and more generally of how we are living and being in the world, making sense of our life and purpose and being attuned to our own development and limits. The ability to live in the present, exploring the possibilities and opportunities that are present, and to be prepared to alter or change self-limiting ways of thinking and acting as part of updating ourselves.

The environments we create interact with the therapeutic relationship — relationships do not take place in a void. These will all say something about the therapist.

Part of the setting also involves the way in which the therapist decides to dress, which will also make a statement. Take a few moments to consider what you would and would not want in your therapy room and what you feel would be inappropriate. What personal touches would you like?

What about the seating arrangements? We cannot be blank screens, not that it would be desirable anyway, but we need to consider what might already be present on the screen we present and the possible messages we can give. We need to acknowledge the ways in which the setting might limit therapeutic possibilities. For example, if I am working in a busy medical centre some cathartic work may be inappropriate or the size of the therapy room might preclude some forms of bodywork.

Most self-refer or are referred because they want to be, but some because the refer- rer wants them to be. We do need to be clear about responsibility in exploring expectations. As gestalt therapists we do not give out solutions or seek to ameliorate unpleasant feelings. It is not only the client who arrives in the therapy room with expectations.

As therapists we also carry hopes and expectations of our clients, some may be helpful some not. Ask yourself what expectations you have of a client attending ther- apy with you.

Then consider in what situations these expectations might be helpful and unhelpful. Our expectations of the client will be evident in the contracts we form with them. It is worth mentioning that some expectations may have emerged from generalized misconceptions about gestalt such as: However, an agreement between therapist and client is needed as part of the holding environment.

All the intricacies of contracts cannot be fully addressed here but that said I see contracts as covering three broad areas. Included in this con- tract are areas such as: Therapeutic boundaries I will address therapeutic boundaries in the section discussing Ethics and Values.

If not we run the risk of an outdated contract lead- ing the therapy rather than re-evaluating the changing situation between the client and their world together with the developing client—therapist relationship.

We create a narrative about ourselves that gives us a sense of who we are in the world, what is and is not possible for us. These stories are not created merely through a cognitive process but are embodied senses of who we are. Our personal narrative will reveal itself through the way we hold ourselves, walk, move, and through all our contact functions — the way in which we make contact in the world.

If my personal narrative is one of a lack of entitlement I may be tentative in my actions, anxious when meeting people I perceive as superior, restricted in my ambitions. Listening is an embodied experience. If there is a lack of resonance or the client does not impact you, treat this as information. One of the prime needs for any human being is to be under- stood and telling our story is a way of facilitating that yearned-for understanding.

Two people or more can create mutual experiences of meaning. However, our ability to use lan- guage is double-edged. Whilst language provides a vehicle for sharing experience it also makes part of our known experience less shareable. Our experiences and felt senses can only be partially expressed through language, which in our culture is invariably elevated to a higher level of accurate expression than other modes of expression.

It is in fact a less accurate form, as language moves our relating away from the personal immediate level of communication onto a more impersonal abstract level. When listening to that story we need to begin by exploring how the client experiences herself in relation to her situation.

PHG, However, our human need to make meaning of our world means that it is inevitable that we will diagnose. Also, as Delisle states,. Delisle, In making a process diagnosis of the person in relation to their situation, it follows that any diagnosis will be a temporary assessment at one moment in time. A series of these moments over time will give an impression of a pattern of relating, but let us not forget that patterns change and that reality and meaning are co-created.

The map is not the territory; diagnostic maps simplify as much as they mimic the world and cannot account for everything that comes into existence between client and therapist. If we do so the function may be understood rather than labelled. Any process of diagnosis needs to have an emphasis on description and be phenomenological.

Any diagnosis needs to recognize the impact of the wider situation. So what do we assess? In essence, how the client makes and breaks contact. We might think of assessment as something that hap- pens at the initial meeting, but just as with the process of diag- nosis assessment needs to be an on-going process. The following is a suggestion of a broad outline to a structure: Identify the presenting issue — What has brought the client to therapy and why now?

Do hold your hypotheses loosely. With the client begin to construct a possible way forward to achieving their goals. This may include giving an outline of the nature of gestalt therapy, explaining that it is a process-focused therapy rather than an outcome-oriented therapy.

A crucial part of the assessment is to consider whether you are the right person to assist this person and whether gestalt might be a suitable approach. Is the nature of the therapy likely to be within our level of competency? Although gestalt is renowned for focusing on the here and now, it is important to gain a context and history.

For instance, a client has given an account of an abusive background: Susan has come to therapy complaining of dissatisfaction in her relationships. She describes an abusive upbringing in which it was unsafe for her to express strong emotions. She sits rigidly in the chair as she tells her evocative story with little emotion; on the occasions when she seems to become more animated she swallows, as if swallowing down an emerging feeling.

Her breathing is shallow; her complexion pale as she tells how she had to hold in her feelings as a child and that she still does today. He wonders how he and the therapy situation might be contributing to this. It is useful to ask what a client wants from therapy even though many clients struggle with this simple question. Any struggle in itself will give information, however we may choose to assist the client through experimenting with projecting into the future.

Fritz Perls ; PHG, emphasized that humans endow meaning to aspects of their environment and that meaning will be unique to that individual at that point in time. Through dialogue, careful phenomenological inquiry and appreciation of the way the client reaches out to his world — and how his world touches him — with skill, emotional engagement and patience we can gain an impression of their situation, but we can never actually experience their situation.

We do not see the person in some detached, atomized way separate from their world. The whole deter- mines the parts and it is only the interplay between organism and environment that constitutes the psychological situation, not the organism and the environment taken separately PHG, Through this emergent process something comes into being as a result of the constituent parts that make up the whole coming together that none of those constituent parts carry in isolation.

The moments in a gestalt ther- apy session do not stand in isolation from each other and nor does a session take place within a void. We cannot detach the client from their experience of what they are living through beyond the therapy room. It is concerned with the ground of your relationship with the client and the patterns that shape your relationship over time. This relational matrix supports their situation, but let us not be daunted for the next step lies on the surface waiting to unfold in relationship.

We can never be out of contact completely. There are degrees of contact and avoidance of contact and these can only be assessed in the context of the situation. Client and therapist may moderate their contact more in an initial session, as there is likely to be increased anxiety in meeting the unfamiliar.

Polster and Polster listed the contact functions as, look- ing, listening, touching, talking, moving, smelling and tasting. How do you feel about the way in which the client looks at you?

What emotions do I feel that these eyes would most easily express? What do I feel in response to this voice and what emotions do I imagine this voice best expresses? How does this person use their voice? Does this person hear something other than what I say? What do I imagine we would each feel if I were to touch them?

Would I like to touch them? How does this person use their body in relation to space? How does this person use the furniture in terms of support? How does the client move? What is my impression of their level of self-care?

How would I describe their features and what features stand out for me? Rigid jaw, dancing hands, frozen expres- sion, etc. What we need to be attentive to however, is that our ques- tions have a phenomenological basis see Part 3. In one form or another the client is likely to be asking themselves similar questions as the therapist and if they are not asking themselves such questions that is information in itself. As you do so remain open to other questions surfacing about the way in which each of you make and break contact.

Inner Zone — Concerned with internal phenomena such as feelings, emotions, dream world and bodily sensations. Outer Zone — Where we make contact with our outer world through our contact functions. This is concerned with our perception of our world and the behaviours and actions we move into.

Middle Zone — This includes our cognitive processes, our memories, imaginings, fantasies and daydreams. You may recall the I see. By being attentive to each of these areas we can heighten our awareness and increase our ability to attune to our current environment and the way in which we creatively adjust to our environment. Consequently, we can improve our relationship with our perceived world. In healthy functioning there is usually rapid shuttling between all three zones of awareness with the middle zone functioning to facilitate awareness of what is.

As stated previously awareness is a prerequisite for full and vibrant contact with the environment. In order for the gestalt therapist to be able to work optimally she needs to be aware of how she functions in each of the three awareness zones.

It is through this on-going process of formation and destruction that we maintain contact with what is, rather than remain with what was, by freeing our foreground for the next relevant gestalt to emerge from our background. Her ability to make such creative adjustments is still useful today. However, there are times in her home life when she distances herself from her caring husband, particularly around intimacy. Alarmingly there have been occasions when she has seemingly desensitized herself from the dangers in her current environment when walking home alone late at night.

We should not confuse meaningful awareness with an intern- ally focused introspection that some may mistakenly consider self-awareness, but is in fact more akin to egotism. Meaningful awareness is awareness of self in relation at the contact boundary. If open to the novelty implicit in that meeting new gestalts are born, integrating past disparate awareness.

The process of projection is key in transference and the line drawn between what is projection and what is transference is some- what arbitrary. Generally, transference is spoken of when a whole person or blanket sets of qualities are projected onto the other, whereas projection may be referred to when a single trait is attrib- uted to the other.

This sug- gests that there is a passive receiver of the transference and an active projector and does not illustrate the co-created nature of the phenomena. Transference and counter-transference are multi-directional, neither just travels from the client to the therap- ist or vice versa, nor does therapy take place within a bubble.

The therapist is just as capable of projecting material from their past onto the client. If we fail to consider how we contribute to the way in which the client perceives us, we deprive the therapy situation of one of its most powerful and potentially healing elements. If as Merleau-Ponty asserts, the lived present holds a past and a future within it, then characters and experiences from our past and anticipations or projections into our future will enter our present experience.

Let me give an example from my practice: My new client sat facing me hoping that I was a miracle worker, the father she never had who could take away her hurt. In my anxiety to please I attempted to meet these impossible unspoken expectations. We got stuck and in the emerging co-transference my client felt hurt and disappointed, just as she had in relation to her absent father. In supervision I realized my part in this and subsequently apologized to her for having missed her and let her down.

It was a tearful session, no one had ever apologized to her before — they had always blamed her. Accepting that transference is a co-created phenomenon, it may present in any of the following forms: If we concentrate on restoring what we decide to be health, we run the risk of depriving the client of the opportunity to live out the life change that is happening and to adapt to that life change creatively. If we attempt to rescue, we can rob the other of the journey to discovering the best creative adjustment to their situ- ation.

We need to notice what is obvious before us. If we invest in only one aspect of the client — their desire to rid themselves of the perceived unpleasant quality — whilst this may provide a short-term panacea we miss the aspect of the client that invests in being as they are. Consequently, we miss the complete personhood of the client — what dilemmas they are struggling with, what the change will cost them, the loss involved in the change and the value of that quality.

Rather than exploring how to change or what coping methods may be useful, the gestalt therapist and the client co-explore what is. During the years I spent working in psychiatry, I worked with many clients who experienced auditory hallucinations. According to Lichtenberg we cannot coercively change the other in some productive way. Such coercive change can only occur destructively through such examples as oppression, exploit- ation and domination.

One must become who one truly is before constructive, true change is possible. Laura Perls was a musician and writer before she became a psychologist and psychotherapist Kitzler, Perls and Stern, ; she played the piano for years and had an active interest in modern dance. They went on to collaborate with Paul Goodman with his radical views on social criticism that saw art as an antidote to what he saw as the evils of society. Through this creative synthesis of ideas, interests and ideals the founders of gestalt assumed that in human experience aesthetic qualities were inherent, evident in the human need to perceive their experience in meaningful, structured and organized wholes — to form and complete gestalts.

The term good form refers to a well-formed gestalt. In healthy functioning we creatively adjust smoothly to our ever-changing world. A process of transformation takes place as recently out- dated or archaically outdated ways of being are changed through contact with the novel in the here and now.

In my book this is not good form. Both will be creative but only one will truly be aesthetic in relation to the whole situation. It is through this self-conscious function that I develop a sense of stability through forming and maintaining on-going relationships and how myself and others can explain who I am if explanation were needed.

Through the personality function acting in relation with the ego function, autonomy is achieved. We cannot learn how to be creative — we just are creative. Whether we use our creativity to nourish, diminish or destroy our being-in-the-world is ultim- ately our choice.

It may be that it is not readily available or that it is not perceived as available but either way the felt sense is one of a lack of stability in their ground. Over time they will begin to trust that if they fall we will at least try to catch them and so the reconstruc- tion of their ground will begin. Laura Perls believed that in our work as gestalt therap- ists we need to provide as much support as necessary and as little as possible.

This is not to deny the value of the ability to hold a provocative, evocative stance, as many clients will at times experience this as supportive. Another way of thinking about this is in terms of therapy as glue or solv- ent. Often the last thing they needed was a stance that further dissolved an already fragile ego. To put it crudely I saw my task as helping the client identify and stick the fragmented parts together.

We may imagine that a solvent approach could be the more challenging. Whilst this is often the case, we need to be mindful that challenge and support come in many guises. To best assist the client in their journey we need to develop a range of authentic therapeutic stances, not as roles that we enter into, but as fully integrated ways of being.

It is not only the client who needs to be constantly re-evaluating their creative adjustments.

Even if we do our job of preparing the ground well, we will also need to take into account a multitude of other factors to support growth. Experiential exercise Pay careful attention to how you are holding your body at this moment. If you are sitting how are you using the furniture? Are you collapsing into the chair or sitting on the edge? Are there parts of your body that feel supported and others that you feel you need to hold? Consider your breathing, something we usually take for granted.

Also ask yourself what your use of support may say about your environment and your relationship with your environment, e. A primarily self-supporting person may not fully utilize the sup- port available in the environment. It is not something that can be brought about through an act of will.

How we make contact is through seeing and looking, touching and feeling, tasting, smelling, sound, gesture, language, movement — the ways in which we reach out to our world. Contact and resistance are part of the same continuum and both can be supports depend- ing upon the situation.

We are always in contact but we moderate the level of our contact through our ability to creatively adjust. I do not want to be in full contact in an environment that is toxic. Likewise a surgeon will need to diminish her level of contact with her patient — open-heart surgery is best performed whilst minimizing emotional engagement!

Resistance to contact has its place. He told the story of an outstanding German weight- lifting team who were far superior to any other team at the time and were fully expected to make a clean sweep of the medals at the world championships. Leading up to these championships they were lifti- ng far more than any of their rivals. The championships were held in a new sports centre in Switzerland and the team failed miserably.

In the new arena the light was such that a glare made the oppos- ing wall appear to disappear. They had nothing to lift against, nothing to use as a resistance. It is often a way of protecting oneself from an actual or perceived threat or lack of support and as such needs to be respected by the therapist.

There is always a story behind every resistance. Some clients need to recycle the same resistance to contact whilst the therapist simply meets them with consistency. Others need to build resistance, an example being people who are too readily open in an environment where a degree of caution maybe indicated. Work with the contact—resistance continuum often involves many small steps. One cannot destroy resistances; and in any case they are not evil, but are valuable energies of our personality harmful only when wrongly applied.

It is the actual current situ- ation that determines whether a resistance is healthy or unhealthy rather than the style of resistance viewed in isolation. Our resistances are created in relationship and can only be revised in relationship. This is when the person divides their energy between impulse and resistance. Whether they are fully utilized will be decided in the between of the relationship and will depend upon the situation, but they need to be available as potentials. Through such self-restriction and due to our eternal interconnectedness we deprive others as well as ourselves.

The ability to be cognizant and aware of what we are doing as we are doing it, and more generally of how we are living and being in the world, making sense of our life and purpose and being attuned to our own development and limits.

The ability to live in the present, exploring the possibilities and opportunities that are present, and to be prepared to alter or change self-limiting ways of thinking and acting as part of updating ourselves.

The environments we create interact with the therapeutic relationship — relationships do not take place in a void. These will all say something about the therapist. Part of the setting also involves the way in which the therapist decides to dress, which will also make a statement.

Take a few moments to consider what you would and would not want in your therapy room and what you feel would be inappropriate. What personal touches would you like? What about the seating arrangements? We cannot be blank screens, not that it would be desirable anyway, but we need to consider what might already be present on the screen we present and the possible messages we can give. We need to acknowledge the ways in which the setting might limit therapeutic possibilities. For example, if I am working in a busy medical centre some cathartic work may be inappropriate or the size of the therapy room might preclude some forms of bodywork.

Most self-refer or are referred because they want to be, but some because the refer- rer wants them to be. We do need to be clear about responsibility in exploring expectations. As gestalt therapists we do not give out solutions or seek to ameliorate unpleasant feelings. It is not only the client who arrives in the therapy room with expectations. As therapists we also carry hopes and expectations of our clients, some may be helpful some not.

Ask yourself what expectations you have of a client attending ther- apy with you. Then consider in what situations these expectations might be helpful and unhelpful. Our expectations of the client will be evident in the contracts we form with them. It is worth mentioning that some expectations may have emerged from generalized misconceptions about gestalt such as: However, an agreement between therapist and client is needed as part of the holding environment.

All the intricacies of contracts cannot be fully addressed here but that said I see contracts as covering three broad areas. Included in this con- tract are areas such as: Therapeutic boundaries I will address therapeutic boundaries in the section discussing Ethics and Values. If not we run the risk of an outdated contract lead- ing the therapy rather than re-evaluating the changing situation between the client and their world together with the developing client—therapist relationship.

We create a narrative about ourselves that gives us a sense of who we are in the world, what is and is not possible for us. These stories are not created merely through a cognitive process but are embodied senses of who we are.

Our personal narrative will reveal itself through the way we hold ourselves, walk, move, and through all our contact functions — the way in which we make contact in the world. If my personal narrative is one of a lack of entitlement I may be tentative in my actions, anxious when meeting people I perceive as superior, restricted in my ambitions.

Listening is an embodied experience. If there is a lack of resonance or the client does not impact you, treat this as information. One of the prime needs for any human being is to be under- stood and telling our story is a way of facilitating that yearned-for understanding. Two people or more can create mutual experiences of meaning. However, our ability to use lan- guage is double-edged. Whilst language provides a vehicle for sharing experience it also makes part of our known experience less shareable.

Our experiences and felt senses can only be partially expressed through language, which in our culture is invariably elevated to a higher level of accurate expression than other modes of expression.

It is in fact a less accurate form, as language moves our relating away from the personal immediate level of communication onto a more impersonal abstract level.

When listening to that story we need to begin by exploring how the client experiences herself in relation to her situation. PHG, However, our human need to make meaning of our world means that it is inevitable that we will diagnose. Also, as Delisle states,.

Delisle, In making a process diagnosis of the person in relation to their situation, it follows that any diagnosis will be a temporary assessment at one moment in time. A series of these moments over time will give an impression of a pattern of relating, but let us not forget that patterns change and that reality and meaning are co-created. The map is not the territory; diagnostic maps simplify as much as they mimic the world and cannot account for everything that comes into existence between client and therapist.

If we do so the function may be understood rather than labelled. Any process of diagnosis needs to have an emphasis on description and be phenomenological.

Any diagnosis needs to recognize the impact of the wider situation. So what do we assess? In essence, how the client makes and breaks contact. We might think of assessment as something that hap- pens at the initial meeting, but just as with the process of diag- nosis assessment needs to be an on-going process.

The following is a suggestion of a broad outline to a structure: Identify the presenting issue — What has brought the client to therapy and why now? Do hold your hypotheses loosely. With the client begin to construct a possible way forward to achieving their goals. This may include giving an outline of the nature of gestalt therapy, explaining that it is a process-focused therapy rather than an outcome-oriented therapy. A crucial part of the assessment is to consider whether you are the right person to assist this person and whether gestalt might be a suitable approach.

Is the nature of the therapy likely to be within our level of competency? Although gestalt is renowned for focusing on the here and now, it is important to gain a context and history. For instance, a client has given an account of an abusive background: Susan has come to therapy complaining of dissatisfaction in her relationships. She describes an abusive upbringing in which it was unsafe for her to express strong emotions.

She sits rigidly in the chair as she tells her evocative story with little emotion; on the occasions when she seems to become more animated she swallows, as if swallowing down an emerging feeling. Her breathing is shallow; her complexion pale as she tells how she had to hold in her feelings as a child and that she still does today. He wonders how he and the therapy situation might be contributing to this. It is useful to ask what a client wants from therapy even though many clients struggle with this simple question.

Any struggle in itself will give information, however we may choose to assist the client through experimenting with projecting into the future. Fritz Perls ; PHG, emphasized that humans endow meaning to aspects of their environment and that meaning will be unique to that individual at that point in time. Through dialogue, careful phenomenological inquiry and appreciation of the way the client reaches out to his world — and how his world touches him — with skill, emotional engagement and patience we can gain an impression of their situation, but we can never actually experience their situation.

We do not see the person in some detached, atomized way separate from their world. The whole deter- mines the parts and it is only the interplay between organism and environment that constitutes the psychological situation, not the organism and the environment taken separately PHG, Through this emergent process something comes into being as a result of the constituent parts that make up the whole coming together that none of those constituent parts carry in isolation.

The moments in a gestalt ther- apy session do not stand in isolation from each other and nor does a session take place within a void. We cannot detach the client from their experience of what they are living through beyond the therapy room. It is concerned with the ground of your relationship with the client and the patterns that shape your relationship over time.

This relational matrix supports their situation, but let us not be daunted for the next step lies on the surface waiting to unfold in relationship. We can never be out of contact completely. There are degrees of contact and avoidance of contact and these can only be assessed in the context of the situation.

Client and therapist may moderate their contact more in an initial session, as there is likely to be increased anxiety in meeting the unfamiliar. Polster and Polster listed the contact functions as, look- ing, listening, touching, talking, moving, smelling and tasting.

How do you feel about the way in which the client looks at you? What emotions do I feel that these eyes would most easily express? What do I feel in response to this voice and what emotions do I imagine this voice best expresses?

How does this person use their voice? Does this person hear something other than what I say? What do I imagine we would each feel if I were to touch them? Would I like to touch them? How does this person use their body in relation to space? How does this person use the furniture in terms of support?

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How does the client move? What is my impression of their level of self-care? How would I describe their features and what features stand out for me? Rigid jaw, dancing hands, frozen expres- sion, etc. What we need to be attentive to however, is that our ques- tions have a phenomenological basis see Part 3. In one form or another the client is likely to be asking themselves similar questions as the therapist and if they are not asking themselves such questions that is information in itself.

As you do so remain open to other questions surfacing about the way in which each of you make and break contact. Inner Zone — Concerned with internal phenomena such as feelings, emotions, dream world and bodily sensations.

Outer Zone — Where we make contact with our outer world through our contact functions. This is concerned with our perception of our world and the behaviours and actions we move into. Middle Zone — This includes our cognitive processes, our memories, imaginings, fantasies and daydreams. You may recall the I see. By being attentive to each of these areas we can heighten our awareness and increase our ability to attune to our current environment and the way in which we creatively adjust to our environment.

Consequently, we can improve our relationship with our perceived world. In healthy functioning there is usually rapid shuttling between all three zones of awareness with the middle zone functioning to facilitate awareness of what is. As stated previously awareness is a prerequisite for full and vibrant contact with the environment. In order for the gestalt therapist to be able to work optimally she needs to be aware of how she functions in each of the three awareness zones.

It is through this on-going process of formation and destruction that we maintain contact with what is, rather than remain with what was, by freeing our foreground for the next relevant gestalt to emerge from our background.

Her ability to make such creative adjustments is still useful today. However, there are times in her home life when she distances herself from her caring husband, particularly around intimacy.

Alarmingly there have been occasions when she has seemingly desensitized herself from the dangers in her current environment when walking home alone late at night. We should not confuse meaningful awareness with an intern- ally focused introspection that some may mistakenly consider self-awareness, but is in fact more akin to egotism.

Meaningful awareness is awareness of self in relation at the contact boundary. If open to the novelty implicit in that meeting new gestalts are born, integrating past disparate awareness. The process of projection is key in transference and the line drawn between what is projection and what is transference is some- what arbitrary.

Generally, transference is spoken of when a whole person or blanket sets of qualities are projected onto the other, whereas projection may be referred to when a single trait is attrib- uted to the other. This sug- gests that there is a passive receiver of the transference and an active projector and does not illustrate the co-created nature of the phenomena.

Transference and counter-transference are multi-directional, neither just travels from the client to the therap- ist or vice versa, nor does therapy take place within a bubble. The therapist is just as capable of projecting material from their past onto the client. If we fail to consider how we contribute to the way in which the client perceives us, we deprive the therapy situation of one of its most powerful and potentially healing elements.

If as Merleau-Ponty asserts, the lived present holds a past and a future within it, then characters and experiences from our past and anticipations or projections into our future will enter our present experience. Let me give an example from my practice: My new client sat facing me hoping that I was a miracle worker, the father she never had who could take away her hurt.

In my anxiety to please I attempted to meet these impossible unspoken expectations. We got stuck and in the emerging co-transference my client felt hurt and disappointed, just as she had in relation to her absent father. In supervision I realized my part in this and subsequently apologized to her for having missed her and let her down. It was a tearful session, no one had ever apologized to her before — they had always blamed her.

Accepting that transference is a co-created phenomenon, it may present in any of the following forms: An alienated aspect of the individual is projected onto the other usually referred to as projection. A response to introjected beliefs, assumptions or attitudes, e. The there and then presenting in the here and now provides an opportunity of at least partial reparation of past hurts. Experiential exercise: Take a few moments to consider what sort of transferential reactions you might attract as a therapist.

Whilst every meeting is unique there is likely to be a pattern to the way in which you relate that will lend itself to being seen in particular ways. Here are some questions that may help you — How do others generally perceive you? What roles do you have? How would you describe your sexuality?

I would also suggest that you gain feedback from others — after all, transference is a relational process! As layer upon layer of creative adjustments are updated or remain out- dated, the patterns we form in our relating to our world unfold.

As long as we are a living body, we will body forth in the world in the way we hold ourselves, the way we move, the way we walk, and the way we make physical contact with others and the world. In doing so our histories of our contacts with the world show themselves. Our bodies forever carry information that cannot be verbalized and the way in which we body forth is a record of our on-going dialogue with the world. A disabled person can only achieve ordered behaviour through shrinkage of their environment in proportion to their disability Goldstein, Someone with a physical disability will reorganize the proximity of her physical environment just as a person with a psychological problem reduces the size of his phenomenal world.

To illustrate possible styles of bodying forth, let us consider possible presentations in relation to some of the moderations to contact discussed in Part 1.

In Table 2. Introjection Gulping down the environment. Swallowing as they receive information. Have little awareness of their body. Have eyes that just want to take in. Retroflection Armouring their body. Present with a hardened exterior. Breathe shallowly. Walk and hold their body with muscular tightness. Projection Throw their arms out as they speak. Stick their chest out. Throw their legs out as they walk, put feet down firmly. Breathe out strongly but in quietly.

Appear to look through you rather than at you. Confluence Eyes bulging as if person wants to merge. Collapse into their environment, e. Walk with minimal resistance. Deflection Fidget and be easily distracted. Breathe in short quick breaths. Move around quickly. Only engage fleetingly in eye contact. Kepner discussed the body processes of overbounding and underbounding.

In response to an introjected belief the indi- vidual may creatively adjust by either: Underbounding — burying their own needs and presenting as compliant so that they do not clash with the introject present in the environment.

In this case the person is likely to be overly permeable in contact with others. The process is designed to protect through distancing from contact with the environment. Such an approach challenges current social trends in which virtual contact can replace actual contact and medication can be used to quell or lift unpleasant emotions without consideration for their meaning.

As with diagnosis, treatment planning does not sit easily with many gestalt therapists probably because of prescriptive connotations. However, just as diagnosis is process diagnosis, treatment planning in gestalt considers the process of the therapy rather than prescribing a formulaic action.

A gestalt therapist does not impose a treatment plan upon a client; rather the journey ahead needs to be mapped out in dialogue with the client. A particular therapeutic stance may be indicated earlier in therapy that may later need adapting to facilitate on-going growth.

For example, some clients may not welcome much presence from the therapist initially, but as the therapeutic relationship becomes established this could become a growing edge for the client and their relationships outside the therapy room. The present does not exclude remembering or planning. We need to plan our therapy sessions. The therapist and the client would not arrive in the room together without mapping out a future plan!

Therapy in many areas such as within the British National Health Service or through that delivered via insurance companies is time limited. It would be irresponsible to proceed without acknowledging the limitations imposed by the structure in which the therapy takes place. A treatment plan formed in collaboration with a client to address their unique experience of the area of risk can provide a holding that greatly minimizes that risk.

It also sows the seeds for possible future experimentation around this dichotomy. Treatment plans are formed in relation to theoretical maps and notions. However, a form of treatment planning takes place at a micro- level within a single session or in a brief succession of moments in a session. An example: An agreement to spend a session on a particular area, such as working with a dream, could also be described in such terms. Lewin stated that the person and the environment have to be considered as one constellation of independent factors.

He called the totality of these factors the lifespace of the individual. The person and the psychological environment consti- tute that lifespace, as it exists for that person at that time in the here and now — neither can be viewed in isolation. Marrow Figure 3. We live in an inter-subjective world. In Figure 3. Whilst acknowledging the double-edged potential for use and abuse in using the many maps available to us in gestalt therapy, Parlett The Principle of Organization — Everything is interconnected, the meaning of any singular aspect can only be derived from looking at the total situation.

The individual will construct meaning and any generalizations are suspect.

Therapy pdf gestalt

Consequently, we need to be wary of a tendency to categorize. All parts are potentially as meaningful as each other. To do so requires a whole paradigm shift away from an atomized and individualistic worldview towards a much wider contextual world- view.

However, such a shift is needed in order to practise gestalt therapy. To understand the dynamics of a process, we have to com- prehend the entirety of the situation involved, along with all its elements and characteristics. Lewin, He later considered healthy development as being the transition from environmental support to self-support F. It may be a pole that in general terms we tend to move towards as we become increasingly more capable of independence in relation to our expanding experienced world.

The person creatively adjusts in relation to their situation and their situation adjusts in relation to the individual. Similarly, the lifespace of an elderly person shrinks in many ways, but within this shrinkage there is often an on-going growth in terms of the way in which they creatively adjust to their smaller physical world. For example, the recent collapse of the banks that led to recession. Contemporaneity — Any behaviour depends on how the individual views the psychological situation at that moment.

In gestalt we believe that present experiences and the way in which we 11 I am grateful to my colleague and gestalt therapist from Australia, Sally Brookes, for sharing her thinking regarding these attributes of the lifespace.

You may be wondering why I have included contemporaneity in a section discussing the lifespace through a developmental lens. Quite simply, through the very action of you reading this page you are continuing to develop contemporaneously — in the here and now. Development has a past but it also has a present and a future. William Blake, Auguries of Innocence, Clients arrive for therapy not with problems in themselves but problems with their situation.

They present these problems in their relating to the world in the present situation — the therapy space. As they do so the nature of these problems unfolds in the style and manner the client makes and breaks contact in the here and now of the therapy session.

The way in which the client relates in the therapy situation will have shades of varying depth and colour to the way in which they constellate their world of relations outside the therapy situation. Although every meeting in every situation and every therapy session is unique, there are patterns of relating in all of us that will play out across situations.

We may call this character, style or personality — it is an essential part of who we are. The style that developed in the past plays out in the present. I see many areas worthy of consideration as I sit facing a fellow human being experiencing discord in their situation. How can I make sense of the way the client makes and breaks contact? The possi- bilities may be endless, but the answers and choices of direction lie on the surface if we only pay attention to what the client is telling us in all the ways in which they communicate.

The mists of my confusion are now lifting as I make sense of my struggle to explain my thinking regarding the therapy space as the present situation. Just as I get stuck here, stuckness, or impasse, is a common feature of therapy and life. Whilst the therapist may be able to facilitate movement through inter- ventions, there is no guarantee that these will provide insight or awareness and there is often a need to remain with impasse.

For the purposes of therapy only the present structure of the person-world interaction is available. PHG Such a dynamic is true for the therapy space as much as any other space. Two young children splash playfully in the shallows of the riverbank, watched by their mother grateful for a few min- utes respite from their energetic demands.

Lewin considered that we create a map of our landscape based upon our need at that moment in time. For example, our hiker may have had an experience of poisoning from drinking from a river and choose to remain thirsty, or the mother may not allow herself to enjoy the experi- ence of space from her children through an introjected belief that this would be neglectful and make her a bad mother. Self-awareness is often spoken of as an internal event discon- nected from others.

His children were in the car at the time and he could do nothing to avoid the collision. Since the accident he has become oversensitized to possible dan- gers on the roads due to an overwhelming need to ensure his family and he himself remain safe.

In response to his need for safety he is constantly anxious and alert to any possible dangers. He is hyper-vigilant when he sees any white transit van, which triggers particularly strong memories of his accident. He begins to recall past events where his safety was threatened, resulting in a greater need for certainty and security, exacerbated by his project- ing into the future about what dangers could befall his children.

He attempts to minimize uncertainty by avoiding driving at busy times or on busy roads before withdrawing from driving com- pletely. As we say in gestalt, one thing leads to another. The only certainty we have is that there will be constant change. At a macro level cer- tain cultures will be more supportive of an embodied way of being whilst others will support a more cognitive way of being. Experiential exercise Draw a map of your supports including all types of relationships: Now consider in what circumstances each of these potential supports moves into being less supportive or a pressure, for example, the need to keep up with friends may become a burden at times.

Then consider what best supports you physically: Can you build upon your supports? We need a healthy work—life balance, if we support ourselves well we will be better equipped to support our clients.

Persistent disconnection due to a lack of support for contact can lead to various forms of physical and psychological dis-ease. Therapists need to be supported in their work with a coherent theoretical philosophy to be able to support their clients ethically with care and wisdom. Speed seems to be of the essence from fast food to faster broad- band.

Although the presenting issue may be managed, and in the short term this may be supportive, for lasting change the issues that are supporting the presenting issue need to be addressed.

Addressing such sedimented ways of being cannot be done by simply thinking it through. What supports the client? What sup- ports the therapist? What supports are needed in the current situation?

Simplistically we could say that guilt is when I make a mistake, shame is when I am a mistake. Both shame and guilt form in relationship but can be maintained, and deepened in isolation.

Con- sequently, the person only lets in information that reinforces their self-perception of wrongness. One of the prime tasks for the therapist is to track the client and attune to possible guilt and shame triggers and ruptures in the therapeutic relationship. The process of introjection plays a key role in forming and maintaining guilt and shame.

Perls maintains that introjects form because of over-control by the environment. He spoke primarily of explicit messages in relation to authoritarian child rearing Wheeler, These are not the only introjected beliefs that can guide us. In a grossly shaming or guilt-ridden upbringing, the person breathes in their wrongness in every moment of their infancy.

Regarding shame, people also shrivel and shrink in the context of pathological relationship. For example, a parent pulls away from a child when the child cries for nurturance and continues to do so repeatedly. To make the environment safe the infant makes a necessary creative adjustment by making a part of itself wrong. To do otherwise would risk abandonment, a consequence being the formation of a distress— shame bind.

Although I illustrate a distress—shame bind, this is but one example of a shame bind — choose your need and that can develop into a shame bind. It is often needs in particular that lead to shame and shame binds. This suggests to me that such shame binds are more prevalent in an individualistic culture where dependence is less acceptable.

Whenever the shame-linked need arises, the person experi- ences shame to enable them to live in some sort of harmony within their lifespace. Shame, and to a lesser extent guilt, are major regulators of the boundary between self and other. Shame is continually useful in our daily lives. It enables the person to pull back when there is no immedi- ate support.

It tells us when our interest is not being received so that we may reframe our interest Lee, It is through the lens of these experiences that we view any new experience. In healthy functioning we will use this new experience to question and reassess our original map. In essence we re-evaluate our narrative self, the story we tell our- selves about who we are in the world made up from the creative adjustments made to this point in our life. Fixed gestalts may have been the only supports available for the client in an otherwise barren landscape.

Such beliefs will have been valued allies and one cannot necessarily just talk a client out of such embodied beliefs even if they are well past their sell- by date. Consequently, movement away from what Polster and Polster termed the familiarity boundary can result in the contact boundary becoming hardened and impermeable, as the person becomes resistant to change, limiting themselves to life-restricting familiar situations. For such people changes in their environment can feel catastrophic due to their prior behaviour of minimizing the unfamiliar.

For change to take place there needs to be a moment where the client lets go of the familiar and enters the void. There are a series of moments when the skydiver leaps from the aeroplane and hurtles towards the ground not knowing whether his parachute will open.

Staying with the void holds similar uncertainty. Take a few moments to consider the contents of the room. Now picture yourself sitting with a client. What stands out for you as you picture this client? What are they wearing? I would now like to take the liberty of making a few assump- tions. I imagine that the vast majority of you thought of a white client.

Culture is, of course, more than skin colour and soft furnishings but what I am hoping the above exercise illustrates is that we naturally gravi- tate towards what is culturally familiar without even realizing it. What is culturally unfamiliar is far less accessible. Experience is formed within a particular cultural context. I form in process with my culture and I also shape my culture. Our 13 Men from African and Caribbean backgrounds have been dis- proportionately represented in mental health services in the UK.

They are more likely to come to the attention of services via the criminal justice system, more likely to delay engaging with the services due to negative perceptions and more likely to receive mandatory treatment Keating, Consequently, meaning making is culturally contextual and, as meaning-making maps, so are psychotherapy theories. However, like any other psychotherapy, gestalt stands upon a cultural worldview that excludes other cultural worldviews. A consequence was that those ways of being that matched the culture at the time were seen in a more positive light than those that clashed with Anglo-American values.

A further example could be seen in the valuing of self-support above environmental support. A lot has changed but it seems inevitable that blind spots will exist. My culture is embodied and as such will shape not only my thinking but also impact the way I hold my body and the way in which I use my contact functions in relation to my environment.

I manipulate my environment and my environment manipulates me, cultural norms and values shape the way I hold myself. I will then continue to hold muscle groups in this way as both comfortable and familiar.

Such cultural norms will occur out of awareness. Culture shapes our very perception of things. Language is culturally embodied. We shape the words we form and the words we form shape us. The way in which we hold our jaw will be shaped as much by our language as the way in which a Muslim woman holds her posture in public places.

As such it is the cornerstone of experiential learning. The gestalt experiment is underpinned by the belief that we learn at a deeper level and in a more embodied way experientially. Such learning might include taking what appear to be wrong turn- ings or blind alleys but this is all part of the process of active engagement in experimentation.

Gestalt experiments are not solution focused but can lead to solu- tions. Within the holding environment of the therapy session the client can be facilitated to explore a wide range of relational dilemmas that can be brought to life through experimentation.

Consensus should be reached between therapist and client and the experi- ment should be graded appropriately, meaning that the experi- ment needs to be enough of a stretch for the client without being too much of a leap. If you were learning to play the piano you would begin with practising scales and simple melodies before playing Chopin. The therapist is likely to be looking for ways in which the client disowns their power and moderates their behaviour.

In gestalt we do not seek the cause of events in the nature of isolated behaviour but in the relationship between behaviour and its surroundings Lewin, Such a change occurs in the ground as new embedded awareness sediments down, replacing past creative adjustments. Fantasy allows us to make sense of our experience by adding a narrative to that experience. Experiential exercise Think of an emotional experience you have had and describe that experience in literal terms.

Then describe either the same experience or another with the freedom to use metaphor and fantasy. If you are doing this with a partner, ask for feedback regarding the impact it had on them and also consider the level of your engagement with your material.

What helped you both connect with the material? Rather than being solely internal creations metaphors and fan- tasies are created in relation with our world, even if they relate to isolation. As we develop language our growing dependence upon verbal expression restricts our ability to convey our actual intersubjec- tive experience Stern, Use of metaphor can add colour, form and texture to our verbal communication and in doing so build an intersubjective bridge between I and other, retrieving at least some of what has been lost before the spoken word domin- ated the expression of our experience.

For example: Energy increases. This is not necessarily something to shy away from; a clinical choice can be to follow through the fantasy to a conclusion. For example, a client says she is fearful of asking her partner to help her more around the house. The therapist asks what might happen if she did and her fantasy is that he may end up deserting her.

Simply noticing this as ability, rather than investing in moving away from the negative focus can facilitate a movement into other forms of engaging with fantasy. What she means by this is our capacity to use our imagination and to fantasize. Our capacity to fantasize has immense power across all areas of our functioning and can be invested in nourishing or destroying us. We are creative beings; the choice that faces us is how we invest our creativity.

In one sense we could say that we work to try to put our- selves out of business! The point of therapy is not for the client to have wonderful contact with the therapist exclusively in the therapy room. New relational skills and abilities that emerge from increased awareness in therapy need practice beyond the therapy space and with such practice there are pitfalls.

For exam- ple, clients who have just discovered an ability to assert themselves may over-stretch into aggressive or over-assertive relating or receive a hostile response. Some gestalt therapists have been surprised when in collabor- ation with clients I have set homework between sessions under some misguided impression that this is for the behaviourists.

Some reasons for incorporating homework with clients are as follows: Therapy might be time-limited. It can be an extension of an experiment completed in the session — an increase in the grading of the experiment. Just as we do not suggest an experiment in the session to attain a certain result so the same principle applies with homework.

An experiment is just that and although it will always lead somewhere we know not where. Goethe, Sensations are the raw data from which awareness emerges.

Technical advances can desensitize us from human contact with others and ourselves. Sense experience is our communication with the world. The relevance of the sensation or feeling for the individual experiencing it will depend upon where it surfaces in relation to the their situation. The phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty saw perception as intrinsically linked to sensate experience and invited us to consider each of our senses as constituting a small world within a larger one.

We have a felt sense of the world long before we are able to describe our experience. Stern theorizes on pre-verbal development and what is lost when the child enters what he refers to as the verbal domain of relatedness. The vast major- ity of therapies, including gestalt, have strong verbal and cog- nitive biases that lead to a valuing of what can be explained.

In gestalt we need to hold an attitude of uncertainty — a does not always lead to b even though it often does. We need to accept what is. Assisting a client in increasing their awareness of the meaning of their sensations could involve experimentation, such as inviting them to give a voice to a sensation and to speak from that sensation.

We live in a culture that de-emphasizes the unitary nature of human beings. I touch the world and the world touches me in a dialogue that changes both my world and me. We are all situated in the world and, in being situated, things, events and people press in upon us.

Kennedy Co-creation Our lives are a prolonged dialogue with those around us and with our phenomenal world. We do not live in a void. Merleau-Ponty, In every moment in my life I bring the totality of my past. The here and now does not stand in isolation, there is a story behind every current experience and that story, extending back to the beginning of life, shapes and moulds every current experience from the unremarkable to the bizarre.

Our histories shape our expectations in the present and our dreams for the future. The lived present holds a past and a future within its thickness. We enter the relationship in the service of the between of that relationship. The therapy relationship is not equal; the client is the focus of our attention and they seek help from us for which we may get paid — there is a power imbalance. However, we have a shared humanity and in our humanity we are equals, we are all beings-in-the-world.

If we use techniques to move our client towards our goal for the client, we are not practising gestalt and we are promoting vertical relating. If we act in this way we reduce the responsibility and support of the client L.

Perls, , thereby diminishing the client and elevating our- selves. In the horizontal relationship the therapist is willing to show herself and to be fully present with the client in the service of the dialogue. The principles of co-creation, temporality and horizontalism need to be fully embraced in order to practise gestalt therapy. To reiterate, those three pillars are: Spinelli, Although we are all inter- connected we each have our individual ways of perceiving and making sense of our world coloured and shaped by our past.

Intentionality was originally described as a mental phenom- enon. According to the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl an act of intentionality has two foci, what is experienced and how it is experienced — the mode of experiencing.

For example, I look out of the window and in the street I focus on a parked dark blue car. This is indica- tive of a movement from id functioning. Perception is an active act and contained within my reaching out to make sense of my world is interpretation without which my world would simply be a confusing mass of ground phenomena, even then I would be interpreting this as confusion. By intentionality Husserl meant that all our thinking, feeling and acting are always about things in the world.

All con- scious awareness is intentional awareness; all consciousness is consciousness-of-something. Levitsky and Perls, We stood back to admire our work. No one was wrong. In terms of perception and experience there are as many worlds as there are people on the planet. The phenomenologist Edmund Husserl — began as a mathematician before moving to study philosophy. He developed an interest in how humans make meaning and studied here and now experience, how things surfaced in awareness and the pat- terns we create from the plethora of information and perceptions that are available to us in any one moment.

In doing so Husserl focused on conscious processes, but he did so from a biological stance rather than from the relational stance adopted by existen- tial phenomenology see Point Transcendental phenomenology is so called because Husserl believed that through engaging in a three-step process of phenom- enological reduction, discussed in the following point, we are able to transcend assumed knowledge.

Husserl saw the process of phenomenological reduction as central to his philosophy. Once our knowledge had been transcended he considered that we were then in a position to gain an objective view of the world through our senses, as opposed to making interpretations of sensory data, enabling us to gather knowledge through what he described as original experience.

Curiosity arises from that experience of wonder around the events and this leads to the seeking of an explanation uncontaminated by previous experience. To make meaning Husserl believed that experience needed to be consulted repeatedly.

If a client goes to see a therapist, the therapist has become an inseparable part of his situation and vice versa. He argued that we could suspend our background and our perception of our phenomenal world van de Riet, Recent neurological research would support this. To discover more I invite you to turn the page.