Gestalt Therapy Approach

Gestalt Therapy Approach

The basic goal of Gestalt therapy is for the individual to attain awareness of what he is doing and experiencing. Through the process of awareness, the individual gains an understanding of himself and his environment. He recognizes the potential for change and his capacity to make choices, so that he may live an authentic, meaningful life.



In essence, the Gestalt approach to therapy is:

  • Phenomenological, aimed at identifying and reinforcing direct experience, by heightening the individual’s awareness and reality through the process of describing, bracketing and horizontalising.
  • Existential, based on the ‘here and now’, the emphasis being on the right of each individual to have choices when faced with existential issues, and to be responsible for where these choices will lead him.
  • Experiential, incorporating dialogue and experiment, the focus being on "what" and "how" a person thinks, feels and does in his interaction with his environment.
  • Dialogical, based on the principle of existential encounter (Martin Buber). The individual is interested in building authentic dialogue in the therapeutic relationship, regarding it as a component of growth and healing, And finally,
  • Relational, supporting the viewpoint that individuals are interconnected and are in a continuous process of mutual influence.


More specifically, Gestalt therapy, founded by Fritz Perls and Laura Perls in the 1940’s constitutes a relational, phenomenological, existential and holistic approach to therapy. It is based on Gestalt Psychology and it developed as a result of its founders’ interactions with a number of other scientific developments and social trends.


Phenomenology, Field Theory, Existential Dialogue


The principal pillar of Gestalt therapy is Phenomenology. Phenomenology is the science of experience (Edmund Husserl, 1931). It endeavours to make sense of human existence and consciousness. It examines the process of awareness in an attempt to distinguish between real experience, speculation and expectations.


The phenomenological method focuses on the observation and study of the phenomena of consciousness and it is a frame of reference for possible receptivity to change. Therefore, therapy focuses on the process of "what" is happening and "how" it is happening.


The second Pillar of Gestalt Therapy is Field Theory (Kurt Lewin, 1952). According to this theory, the field is a whole whose parts are in direct relationship and interaction with each other. The parts of a field change depending on the relationship that exists between them. Therefore, experience is explored in the context of the situation so that each phenomenon which occurs during the therapeutic process is co-created and altered by the therapist and the patient


Therapy involves the mutual exploration of how the field is organized since it is not static but in continuous flow. Emphasis is placed on observation, description, focus and experimentation.


The third pillar of the theory of Gestalt therapy is existential dialogue (M. Buber, 1970). Buber argues that all life is an encounter. "I" does not exist alone. People exist within a relational dynamic that affects the sense of self.


Every moment of therapy is a moment of interpersonal contact through existential dialogue, existential dialogue which is consistent with the principles of presence, inclusion and affirmation in the experience of existence. The therapeutic relationship in the Gestalt approach is defined as horizontal rather than hierarchical, where emphasis is on full, authentic commitment and cooperation between the therapist and the patient.


The therapeutic relationship is based on genuine contact and interaction and not on the use of interpretation and/or sterile techniques. The therapist receives and mirrors what is happening in the interaction with his patient, so that it becomes part of the therapy.


The Gestalt therapist is not a neutral figure. He is present in the healing process by inviting the patient to be in active co-operation. He does not remain neutral but becomes "the therapeutic tool in his work".


Contact and Awareness


Gestalt therapy is organized around the central concepts of awareness and contact. According to the above, one's ability to make contact with the world is of vital importance.


Contact refers to the kinesthetic process that takes place between the individual and the environment. Awareness is a form of contact, and awareness of something always exists. It affects and is affected by the environment.


Awareness in therapy involves a holistic process of the individual's capacity for contact: his ability to utilize his sensory, emotional and spiritual experiences to gather and process information and use it in his interaction with the world. This involves having knowledge of his choices and taking responsibility for these choices. Phenomenological focus and creative experimentation are the primary tools in the process of enhancing awareness and contact.


The Body


The founder of Gestalt Psychotherapy, Fritz Perls, was greatly influenced by Wilhelm Reich and his views on body therapy. Furthermore, Laura Perls was influenced by various forms of kinesiology and drama therapy, and introduced a number of therapeutic tools for working with the body in gestalt therapy.


One of the most essential principles of Gestalt Therapy is the flow of experience, and awareness of this through observation and working with what is called in Gestalt therapy "Felt Sense". By focusing on the awareness of the contact functions in the "here and now" experience, we discover the history of the body and its relationship with the world. We explore the ways in which contact with the environment takes place and the obstacles that exist, as well as perceptions, redundant elements of functioning, patterns in relationships, poles, unfinished business, and so on. The aim is a somatic way of being and living.


Goal of Gestalt therapy


According to F. Perls, Ralph Hefferline and Paul Goodman (1951), the goal of therapy is integration, increasing awareness and contact, because these inevitably lead to change and growth. Gestalt therapy uses awareness and experimentation to achieve insight. Awareness, as content and as a process, moves to deeper levels as therapy progresses. Awareness involves self-knowledge, environmental awareness, responsibility for one’s choices, self-acceptance and the ability to make meaningful contact.


The Gestalt therapist rejects the role of ‘changer’. Through his experience and knowledge, his skills in phenomenological observation, his belief in Organic Self-regulation and the Paradoxical Theory of Change (Arnold Beiser, 1965), the therapist finds a place of Creative Indifference (Sigmund Friedlander, 1918). This is a place where the therapist can approach the "whole" of the patient with care and interest without being solely invested in the outcome and change. Change and growth are the natural results of a person facing himself and the nature of his existence through ongoing awareness and commitment.




  • Individual Psychotherapy
  • Group Psychotherapy
  • Gestalt Therapy with Couples
  • Gestalt Therapy with Children and Adolescents
  • Gestalt Therapy and Trauma
  • Gestalt Therapy and Education
  • The Application of Gestalt Therapy in Businesses and Organizations