Gestalt Therapy

Psychological .

Gestalt Therapy


Gestalt therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the here and now, emphasising personal responsibility, self-awareness, and the integration of mind, body, and emotions. The therapy was developed by Frederick “Fritz” Perls in the 1940-1950s, drawing on existential and phenomenological philosophies to create a holistic approach to therapy.

Background and History:

Fritz Perls, along with his wife Laura Perls, developed Gestalt therapy as a response to the traditional psychoanalytic approaches of the period. Perls believed in the importance of focusing on the present moment and the interconnectedness of mind, body, and emotions in achieving personal growth and self-awareness.

The term “gestalt” comes from the German word meaning “whole” or “form,” emphasising the importance of viewing individuals as complete and integrated beings. Gestalt therapy emphasises the importance of taking responsibility for one’s own thoughts, actions, and emotions, and encourages individuals to explore their experiences in the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. The theory behind Gestalt Therapy is based on the idea that individuals are best understood in the context of their immediate surroundings and relationships. The aim is to help individuals become more aware of their experiences and how they are shaped by their thoughts and behaviours. This awareness is believed to bring about personal growth and change.

How A Typical Session Looks Like:

In a typical Gestalt therapy session, the therapist works with the client to explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in the present moment. The therapist may use techniques such as role playing, dream work, and guided imagery to help the client gain insight into their experiences and patterns of behaviour.

The therapist may also use techniques such as “empty chair” work, where the client interacts with an empty chair as if it represents someone else in their life or a different aspect of themselves. This helps the client to explore and work through unresolved emotions and conflicts.

In Gestalt Therapy, the therapist and client work together to explore the client’s present experience in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. A typical session of gestalt therapy might begin with the client discussing their current concerns and goals with the therapist. The therapist may then guide the client in exploring their thoughts and feelings through various exercises or conversations, to help the client to identify patterns of behaviour or thinking that may be contributing to their difficulties.

Why people might need it and who might need it:

People may seek Gestalt therapy for a variety of reasons, including anxiety, depression, relationship issues, trauma, and personal growth. Gestalt therapy is particularly beneficial for individuals who are looking for a holistic approach to therapy that focuses on the inter-connectedness of mind, body, and emotions. The therapy is also helpful for those who are open to exploring their experiences in the present moment and taking personal responsibility for their thoughts, actions, and emotions.

Criticisms of the therapy:

  • One criticism of Gestalt therapy is that it may not be suitable for individuals who are looking for a more structured or directive approach to therapy.
  • Another critique of the therapy is that the focus on the present can feel limited. Although re-visiting the past is an important part of identifying what needs to be healed, Gestalt Therapy is an approach that focuses more on the “here and now” experience of the client.
  • Additionally, depending on how the exercises are approached, the concentration on body language and emotions can leave some people feeling uncomfortable, vulnerable, and defensive rather than safe and supported.

Benefits of the therapy:

The benefits of Gestalt therapy include increased self-awareness, improved communication skills, enhanced emotional regulation, and the ability to make healthier choices and changes in one’s life. Gestalt therapy can also help individuals develop a greater sense of empowerment and personal agency in their lives.

Applications and Usage:

Gestalt therapy is used to treat a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction, and relationship issues. The therapy is also used in personal growth and self-exploration, helping individuals to gain insight into their experiences and patterns of behaviour.

Essential elements:

The essential elements of Gestalt therapy include the focus on the present moment, the integration of mind, body, and emotions, personal responsibility, and self-awareness. The therapy also emphasises the importance of exploring experiences in a non-judgmental and accepting way, allowing for greater self-discovery and personal growth.

A case study:

In a case study, a client may seek Gestalt therapy to address feelings of anxiety and self-doubt in their personal and professional life. Through working with a Gestalt therapist, the client is able to explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in the present moment, gaining insight into the underlying causes of their anxiety.

The therapist helps the client to develop strategies for managing their anxiety and increasing their self-confidence, leading to greater personal empowerment and a sense of agency in their life.


Overall, Gestalt therapy offers a unique and holistic approach to therapy that can be beneficial for individuals seeking personal growth, self-awareness, and empowerment in their lives. By focusing on the here and now and the interconnectedness of mind, body, and emotions, Gestalt therapy offers a powerful tool for individuals to explore their experiences and make positive changes in their lives.


Crocker, S.F., 2013. A well-lived life: Essays in Gestalt therapy. Gestalt Press.

Perls, F., Hefferline, G. and Goodman, P., 1951. Gestalt therapy. New York64(7), pp.19-313.

Raffagnino, R., 2019. Gestalt therapy effectiveness: A systematic review of empirical evidence. Open Journal of Social Sciences7, pp.66-83.

Yontef, G. and Jacobs, L., 2005. Gestalt therapy.

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