The Gestalt Approach and the “New York Group”
The Gestalt approach was founded and developed by the ‘New York Group’ of psychoanalysts in the early nineteen fifties. Dr (Frederick) Fritz Perls was the dynamic, charismatic co-founder of Gestalt Therapy in 1951, along with Paul Goodman, Ralph Hefferline & Laura Perls. Fundamentally, Gestalt practice has also evolved to become a foundational way of ‘being in the world’ and is a creative and engaging means of personal development as well as therapy.
Gestalt practice is based upon a field-oriented framework and methodology that appreciates the individual in their entirety. From this holistic perspective, the Gestalt Practitioner understands the interconnected nature between how the individual makes contact with the environment, and the unique field of experience (past, present and future) that organises them in that interaction.
Fundamentally, the aim of Gestalt Therapy is to heighten awareness ‘phenomenologically’ (the immediate experience). This principle in and of itself is profound in promoting healing and growth. The Gestalt Practitioner essentially provides a space free of judgment or a need to ‘fix’ the client, and respectfully allows ‘what is’ to be explored and experienced more completely. Furthermore, the Practitioner trusts the process of the client to guide the work, relinquishing any agenda as to the direction of the session. The Gestalt approach encourages individuals to experience themselves and life more fully in a supportive, empowering and growthful way.
Experimentation is another core principle in the Gestalt approach, where new ways of relating and living are explored in the ‘here and now’ experience. It is a practice that is ‘lived’ by the client in the present moment through creative experimentation; to explore, heighten awareness and try out new ways of authentic relating. Hence, the Gestalt approach is predominantly experiential rather than being a ‘talking about’ practice. Creative experimentation in Gestalt practice is considered a dynamic and effective tool for awareness, exploration and integration.
The Gestalt Practitioner enters into a relationship with the other that is based on respect and equality (I-Thou relationship).
The other is considered ‘the expert’ on themselves – rather than the Gestalt Practitioner; hence the innate wisdom of the other is encouraged and brought to the foreground. The experience of the Gestalt Practitioner in relation to the other is present and available, which in turn becomes a rich resource in the healing process. This relational approach creates the way for an authentic and meaningful meeting, and a fertile ground from which to grow and explore.
The personal development of Gestalt Practitioners is quintessential to the practical application of its theory. This places personal development as a central importance within the curriculum. Gestalt therapy is quite unique in this respect; with the Gestalt Practitioner having to ‘walk the talk’ of self-awareness and authenticity.
Gestalt Therapy is of an holistic, awareness-centred, relational, and experiential nature that has much to offer. It is a practice that has stood the test of time, having numerous institutes and training centres across the world. It has evolved over sixty five years into a practice that is deeply respectful, holistically defined and dynamic in its promotion of self-awareness and growth.