Going through treatment for mental health conditions or addiction can be a roller coaster of difficult emotions. Learning how to not only feel them, but process them in a healthy way as they surface is an important life skill. Relying on past patterns of behavior in an attempt to understand a present response can oftentimes be unhelpful in addressing the overwhelming sensations these feelings are currently creating.
Gestalt therapy takes an unconventional approach to help clients lead healthier, happier life. This article will discuss the principles of gestalt therapy, why it is beneficial, and examples of the forms therapy could take.
A Person-Focused Approach
Gestalt therapy, which was established in the 1940s, is a form of experiential and humanistic therapy. That means that clients learn and grow through active participation; essentially, they learn by doing. Gestalt therapy is also based on the idea that a person’s subjective experiences are central to their behavior. Everyone perceives and feels things differently, and as such, few assumptions are made about the individual and their unique challenges.
Gestalt therapy shifts the individual’s attention away from their past and present emotions and focuses inward on who they are right now. This German word describes the essence or life force of something, suggesting a deep and personal approach to addressing mental disorders and addiction. Clients can face their struggles with loving acceptance through the client-therapist relationship and emphasis on self-discovery.
Key Concepts of Gestalt
Context. The circumstances around a client’s concern are central to fully understanding it from the view of both the client and therapist.
Present. Rather than focusing on memories in the distant, clients focus on the present, which allows them to modify their tone and gestures while in session, thus ultimately addressing underlying emotions.
Perception. Each person experiences events differently, influencing the way they think and behave. This idea is revisited throughout the therapeutic process.
Self-Awareness. Losing touch with one’s sense of self makes it easy to ignore current needs and goals. Reforging that connection can allow a person to respond more appropriately to challenges as they occur.
Acceptance. Learning how to tell the difference between what a person can and cannot alter brings peace and clarity. It also helps a person gain a sense of control over their life.
Who Could Benefit From This Approach?
Sometimes, people overlook how their thoughts and behaviors contribute to their troubles. A lack of self-awareness can, for instance, hinder a person from identifying and managing emotional triggers. They may continue to feed into their anxieties without recognizing that there are effective ways to stop a distressing train of thought.
Gestalt can be beneficial for those who have a desire to gain a greater understanding of themselves and the way their environment affects their health. The following are some conditions and circumstances where gestalt therapy can be used:
- mood disorders
- anxiety disorders
- process addictions
- substance use disorders
- relationship problems
- personal insecurities
The Role of the Therapist
The therapist has the job of guiding clients through sometimes difficult discussions regarding their journey in recovery. They are there to facilitate a trusting environment where clients can explore themselves and make sense of their experiences. Therapists use techniques to accomplish these goals.
The critical point is that clients should be able to share without being judged or corrected. As perception is a significant point of reflection, therapists must also consider how they impact the client and therapy progression.
Techniques Used in Therapy
In therapy, the client is guided through a series of exercises and experiments to bring their experiences to life to assess them. A bit of trial-and-error may be required to see what the client finds helpful. The following are some techniques the therapist may use:
- suggest the use of “I” statements and assertive language and tone when expressing feelings
- ask questions about observed body language (e.g., foot tapping, facial expressions) to interpret their meaning and associations
- ask the client to exaggerate and repeat a movement to connect with the emotions driving the behavior
- suggest the client have an imaginary discussion with another person or part with themselves to reveal new information or perspectives and help them open up
How Gestalt Therapy Helps
The mechanisms by which gestalt therapy improves a person’s condition are varied. One review study found that the treatment helped clients increase the acceptance of their mental health symptoms, allowing them to function despite having undesirable sensations or emotions. Researchers also found that clients developed better coping strategies and positive expectations regarding treatment and were able to gain a greater sense of control over their symptoms.
Gestalt therapy helps clients find the resolve to face challenges and healthily address them. Those struggling with addiction or a mental health disorder may avoid dealing with situations that contribute to their current troubles, including those in which they played a significant role. Instead of highlighting how the past has led to what is occurring now, gestalt therapy assists clients in building up their capacities to deal with current issues. Avalon Malibu is a California-licensed treatment facility for mental health disorders and addiction. We provide gestalt therapy because it stimulates the client’s imagination to cope with their environment. Our therapist’s techniques are creative compared to other modalities, and gestalt sessions are not very structured. For some clients, this is like a breath of fresh air. Discover and accept your true self through gestalt therapy. Call (844) 857-5992 to learn more.