Gestalt counselling is a holistic therapeutic approach that is informed by psychodynamic and humanistic theories. This means that the practitioner takes into consideration the impact of early childhood on current emotional, cognitive and behavioural processes. They believe in the creativity and intelligence of the individual to know what is best for them. By facilitating you to gain awareness of behavioural patterns, you start to feel empowered to make beneficial changes. Whilst considering the past, Gestalt counselling is a phenomenological approach and in your session the practitioner focuses on the ‘here and now’ experience of how you express yourself. Attention is paid to thoughts, imaginings, feelings, behaviour, body movements and sensations, as well as to how you interact with the therapist. All of these elements are viewed as revealing clues about how you learned unhelpful behaviour and how you can go about making beneficial changes.
Brief Gestalt counselling is very focussed on helping you to identify and then work out how to meet specific goals. In your first session your counsellor will enquire sensitively yet thoroughly in order to understand your situation. They will help you clarify your objectives. They will assist you to explore as fully as possible what it is you want to change until you arrive at specific, tangible goals to work towards for example being more assertive with your employer. They invite you to rate where you are now with your goal and where you would like to be so that you achieve a sense of progression as the sessions continue. This also helps you and the counsellor to evaluate how the sessions are going and to adapt them if necessary. In each subsequent session the two of you explore the goal from different angles including discussion, role-plays, safe behavioural experiments, and exploration of your reactions to the work. A Gestalt counsellor helps you to take more ‘response-ability’ for how you live your life so you feel empowered and more aware of the possibilities to change aspects of it. The counsellor cannot wave a magic wand and make instant changes and the onus is very much on you as the active participant in Gestalt brief counselling. However at the very least you will leave with a greater perspective and more awareness of your own ability to make creative changes.
Numerous research studies (Saadati & Lashani, 2013; Man Leung, Ki Leung, and Tuen Ng, 2013; Kelly and Howie, 2011) have shown the efficacy of Gestalt Therapy in improving a sense of self-agency and efficacy; ability to think creatively and envisage hitherto unseen possibilities for positive changes to behaviour or perception; decreased anxiety, depression and increased relational skills.
Those who have a specific issue, perhaps triggered by an outside event such as a redundancy, new job, separation etc. and who want to feel better skilled to deal with it. It is not suited to those with more long-standing or complex issues such as abuse or deeply engrained relational patterns in which case psychotherapy may be more useful.
From six to twelve sessions.
Alexandra Schlotterbeck trained for six years at the Gestalt Centre, London which is affiliated to London Metropolitan University. She has a PGCert, a PGDip and an MA in Gestalt Therapy Theory Studies. As well as being an accredited UKCP one-to-one psychotherapist she has a unique training as a group process psychotherapist. She is also a board member, process group facilitator and newsletter editor for the Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy. She combines care and sensitivity with gentle challenge and perceptiveness to guide you towards making the changes you require. She is happy to answer your questions on 02027 118 0407.
Kelly, T. & Howie, L. (2011) Exploring the influence of gestalt therapy training on psychiatric nurse practice: stories from the field. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 20, 296–304. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0349.2010.00729.x
Saadati, H. & Lashani, , L. (2013) Effectiveness of gestalt therapy on self-efficacy of divorced women. Procedia–Social and Behavioral Sciences, 84, 1171-1174.
Man Leung, G. S., Ki Leung, T. Y., Tuen Ng, M. L. (2013) An outcome study of gestalt-oriented growth workshops. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 63(1), 117-125.