Treatments & Therapies

Gestalt therapy – treatment, effects and risks

Gestalt therapy

Many people have psychological problems for which they need psychotherapeutic help. Gestalt therapy is an option for clients who want to focus primarily on the present and are willing to take on personal responsibility.

What is gestalt therapy?

Gestalt therapy is one of the holistic, integrative and experience-oriented methods of humanistic psychotherapy . It was founded by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman and has largely evolved out of psychoanalysis .

Perls believed that every human being is responsible for their actions and is also able to use their potential. Gestalt therapy deals primarily with emotions and experiences in the present, even if they may have a connection to the past. The central concern for the Gestalt therapy work is “I and you in the here and now”. The therapeutic work is intended to promote psychosocial skills that serve to live a self-determined life with personal values ​​and to relate to one’s environment.

Function, effect & goals

Gestalt therapy has a wide range of applications and is suitable for all ages. It can be carried out as individual, group, couple or family therapy and helps with various problems:

  • psychosomatic problems

It sees itself as a form of therapy that includes not only soul, body and spirit but also the socio-cultural and ecological context of life in the therapy. She wants to achieve a more humane interaction between people and encourage more environmental awareness. That is why it is not only a psychotherapy method , but also a philosophy of life and world view. Fritz Perls saw mental disorders as the result of contact disorders between people.

All people need social contact and closeness to other people, but some people develop defense mechanisms out of fear of rejection and cannot indulge their feelings. In such a case, the aim of Gestalt therapy would be to be able to allow living feelings again and to revitalize them in therapy in the here and now. The past is also important and formative, but unlike psychoanalysis, Gestalt therapy does not see its task in digging into the past, because coming to terms with the past does not necessarily help with problems in the present. It works with 3 principles:

  • Experience
  • Perceive
  • self support

In order to be able to experience, fellow human beings and the environment must be consciously perceived. People with neurotic problems fear getting into arguments and contacts because they fear rejection. Their defense mechanisms prevent them from feeling, experiencing and perceiving. In order to become more free inside, it is necessary for them to detach themselves from the symptoms and problems with which they force others to act and instead take responsibility for themselves.

In the classic course of a Gestalt therapy group session, the group members move through the room in which there is an empty chair (“hot seat”). If you want to work on a topic, you sit in this “hot seat”. The therapist offers subtle suggestions, the group provides support and feedback, while the person in the “hot seat” allows all emotions and does not suppress anything. In this group experience, the whole range of feelings can be experienced, from appreciation and security to being at the mercy and being criticized.

Dreams and fantasies also play a role in Gestalt therapy. They work with creative methods. Individual therapy can last from 20 to 200 hours, group therapies are offered in open or closed form.

Risks, side effects & dangers

Gestalt therapy can be an effective form of therapy for various problems, but there is no scientific research that can provide evidence that Gestalt therapy interventions have a positive effect and that they guarantee lasting success.

Because dramatic techniques are used, it is less suitable for people who tend to have a hysterical personality structure, because working with the “hot seat” can encourage people to just live out their feelings. This can lead to emotional overstrain reactions. Experienced therapists are needed who deal responsibly with the group experiences and help the clients to then appropriately classify these experiences in their mental life. There are some undertrained therapists who practice a very confrontational style, which frustrates clients even more.

The alternative scene also uses techniques with which feelings are provoked and in a “voice dialogue” the various parts of mental conflicts are given a voice. They should then talk to each other. For people with social anxiety, the group experience in the hot seat can be counterproductive, because in the group where they are under constant observation, they certainly do not dare to let their feelings run free.

That way, they can close themselves off even more. A responsible therapy must always keep an eye on the individual shame limits of the group members and should not want to override the personal limits. Everyone has psychological protection mechanisms that are justified. It is therefore very important that Gestalt therapists have received serious training and proceed with appropriate care and caution so that they do not solidify the client’s defense mechanisms.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.