An exquisitely process oriented, phenomenological and relational therapy, Gestalt Therapy maintains its flexibility to integrate new ideas and perspectives from clinical experience as well as laboratory research. It is this forward looking attitude while not losing touch with its roots in psychodynamic thought, dialogic existentialism (Buber), embedded in Lewinian field theory that is increasingly making Gestalt Therapy the umbrella under which the integration of psychotherapy is happening. As such it welcomes contributions from diverse perspectives ranging from contemporary psychoanalysis, cognitive behavior therapy, as well as emotionally focused approaches. Gestalt Therapy is an experientially (from the phenomenological perspective of Brentano, Husserl, and Heidegger) and empirically based psychotherapy that assumes that one can only understand the individual’s behavior by taking into account the mutual adaptation involved in the individual as an integral part of his or her current context or ecosystem. This wholistic approach takes seeks to simultaneously hold the Field, experience or phenomenology, body state and quality of contact with others or dialogue in view. It assumes that in much the same way that development is the outgrowth of adaptive and self organizing experience, change and therapy is best brought about experientially.
Gestalt Therapy, theory, and practice, emphasize a number of important principles:
- Both individual and the field or ecosystem of which he or she is a part, are considered to be self-regulating, adaptive, and growthful. Thus what is commonly thought of as psychopathology is seen as creative adaptive behavior appropriate to the environment in which it was developed but not to current situation.
- The Gestalt approach embraces the whole of a person’s life experience — physical, psychological, intellectual, emotional, interpersonal and spiritual.
- The Gestalt approach is more interested in the awareness of process (thinking, feeling and doing) or “what” and “how” a person does what he or she does than in “why” a specific action takes place. How action is created is more important than why it is created if one is interested in facilitating change. Awareness of “how” gives the person genuine choice and hence the option of change and responsibility.
- The relationship between the Gestalt therapist and the client has enormous potential because it is a laboratory which can be observed directly. The Gestalt therapist is more interested in the verifiable experience of the client than in the interpretation by the therapist.