Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy is an approach that was first developed by Frederick S. Perls and his wife Laura Perls in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  It essentially brings into awareness what is happening in the moment or the “here-and-now”.  Gestalt therapy does not strive to change behaviours or symptoms, but strives to address past hurts within the present encounter between the counsellor and client; when we are dwelling on the past or fantasising about the future we are not living fully as we are not focused on our life and self in the moment.  When we are operating in the here-and-now, we are able to take complete responsibility for our responses and actions with increased excitement, energy and courage and begin to live life more directly and fully.

Some common Gestalt interventions include:


The use of psychodrama methods can be used in individual counselling by playing out differing roles or parts within.  The client speaks directly to the imagined person or part of self in a technique called empty chair work.  This allows the individual to experience the differing and aspects of oneself and learn about these aspects more fully.  Empty chair work can also be very helpful in completing unfinished business that one has with others in life.  The use of the empty chair can help complete business and help create a sense of closure.

Two-chair work is a similar strategy as empty chair work.  This is helpful when a split, or internal conflict, is causing difficulty.  One common split is often referred to as topdog/underdog.  The topdog is often the inner critic or bully who tells you what you should do.  The underdog is usually the part of ourselves that rebels against that bully and wants to stand up for ourselves.


The therapist has the client use language that allows them to say what they mean and mean what they say.  In other words, language that injects real feeling into words is encouraged.


All parts of a dream are important in Gestalt Therapy as they are seen as parts of the dreamer.  Dreams are considered very useful in counselling as they are the an uninhibited expression of what is occurring subconsciously.  In Gestalt therapy, the client retells the dream as though he were experiencing it in the here-and-now.  The therapist works to raise the client’s awareness of himself or herself throughout the retelling.


Movement, touch and sensory awareness help incorporate sensations and feelings with cognitive understanding.  This creates a more integrated experience and raises awareness about where in the body certain sensations are occurring, the nature of those sensations, the feelings associated with them, and their significance to the client.