Gestalt Therapy for Addiction Recovery

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Substance abuse impacts the lives of every individual in a family. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1), family members face a variety of challenges and complications when a loved one abuses drugs or alcohol. Finding the right treatment approach is crucial and allows the addicted individual to focus on personal treatment goals. Gestalt Therapy for addiction recovery is proving to be a viable option.

Gestalt Therapy is a holistic approach to the recovery process that allows a person to make positive changes by understanding the factors that contribute to an addiction.

What is Gestalt Therapy?

According to the California State University at Northridge (2), Gestalt Therapy refers to the process of treating an individual as a whole person rather than focusing on specific events or risk factors. The therapy recognizes that a variety of factors contribute to substance abuse and no single treatment plan works for every individual.

Since substance abuse stems from environmental and genetic factors, according to the Mayo Clinic (3), a treatment plan must address multiple concerns at the same time.

The factors that contribute to substance abuse include:

  • Mental health disorders
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Poor health, particularly when it causes physical discomforts
  • Physical injuries
  • Curiosity or experimentation, particularly among young individuals
  • Self-medication for specific symptoms, concerns or thought processes
  • Peer pressure
  • Previous history of substance abuse

Substance abuse stems from multiple factors and an effective treatment program recognizes that each person has different needs and goals. Gestalt Therapy encourages individuals to experience the situation in the present so that they address it in an appropriate manner.

It also recognizes that awareness of the underlying causes of an addiction provides the opportunity to make positive changes, explains the California State University at Northridge (2).

Using the Therapy in Addiction Recovery

The University of Central Florida (4) says that the goal of Gestalt Therapy in addiction recovery is the growth and maturation of the individual as a whole person. Essentially, it strives to assist a loved one through the process of taking responsibility for personal actions and behaviors so that the risks of substance abuse reduce over time.

The treatment program recognizes that several factors cause addiction and it actively strives to identify the underlying causes of substance abuse and then address those concerns by using experiments and experiencing the cause in the moment.

Gestalt Therapy also changes the individual’s perspective and thought processes by eliminating negative wording from the situation. According to the University of Central Florida (4), a therapist requires a loved one to avoid using words that imply that the individual does not have the power to recover.

For example, remove the words “can not” and replace them with the words “will not” so that a loved one believes in his personal ability to avoid drugs or alcohol.

Providing Hope and Gaining Health

Gestalt Therapy addresses every factor that contributes to addiction by looking at the individual as a whole person and treating multiple factors at the same time. The therapy offers hope by explaining that a loved one has the ability to recover and the ability to make positive changes.

It allows a loved one to improve personal health and well-being while also addressing trauma, mental health disorders, or emotional challenges that contribute to an addiction.

Substance abuse impacts a person’s life and health in several ways. It changes the individual and causes a sense of powerlessness that grows and develops over time. Gestalt Therapy strives to assist the individual by addressing several factors and providing hope for long-term recovery goals.


  1. Drug Abuse Hurts Families, The National Institute on Drug Abuse,
  2. Shella K. Grant, Ph.D., Gestalt Therapy, California State University at Northridge,
  3. Drug Addiction Causes, The Mayo Clinic, December 5, 2014,
  4. Luellen Ramey, The Use of Gestalt Interventions in the Treatment of the Resistant Alcohol-Dependent Client, The University of Central Florida, July 1998,

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