Creative experimentation

Gestalt therapy is both creative and experimental. The creativity of gestalt is all about identifying support in the current situation. Blue Peter taught a generation of people how much support they could get from toilet roll tubes and double sided sticky tape. Gestalt does the same with every situation, asking ‘what does this situation give support to?’. The experimentation of gestalt is all about showing instead of telling, and doing instead of talking about.

An experiment in gestalt is ultimately about trying something that will make the subject matter more immediately available for experience. A classic example is called ‘the empty chair’. Instead of telling me about how you feel about someone who isn’t in the room, I might invite you to pretend that person is in the empty chair and tell them directly how you feel. This immediately shifts us from considering the there and then of wherever this person is, to the here and now of immediate experience. Crucially, it means showing those feelings and making full contact with them instead of talking about them and making only partial contact with them.

Fritz Perls described therapy as a ‘safe emergency’. I think this is the best way of explaining what a gestalt experiment is about. It’s an emergency because it means doing something that stretches your comfort zone, taking you into unknown territory. It’s safe because the therapy situation is a well-contained space, and the experiment is facilitated by a supportive therapist. When I suggest experiments, I ensure they are graded so that your comfort zone is only pushed to a degree that you can tolerate. Pushing someone beyond their tolerance is not only unethical but pointless because the learning can’t be assimilated.

An experiment can be as simple as me suggesting that you make a statement (e.g. ‘what would it be like for you to state how angry you are?’ would be a challenging experiment for someone who has difficulty expressing anger). Or it can be as complex as becoming a character from a dream you’ve had and speaking as if you were them for a while.

This safe emergency can then become a space in which you develop new behaviours and ways of being by rehearsing them in a supportive environment, with valuable feedback from your therapist. All that’s needed for an experiment to take place is for us to look around the room and consider what support is available for whatever we’re wanting to explore.

The world becomes a vastly different place when seen with experimental eyes!

Here and now

Gestalt therapy focuses on the here and now. That’s not because the past and future are unimportant; they just don’t exist. When you and I meet in a therapy room, the experience takes place in the here and now. Every experience takes …

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Your experience

Gestalt draws heavily on an area of philosophy called phenomenology. Essentially, this means the study of experience. My concern as a gestalt therapist is the exploration of how you experience your reality. This is in contrast with psychoanalytical …

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Field theory

Gestalt therapy has a world view that is field theoretical. Field theories are world views that see reality as being essentially holistic and inter-related. It’s not that everything affects everything else, it’s more that everything exists …

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Contact and creative adjustment

Contact A critical concept in gestalt therapy is contact. This actually refers to a constant process rather than a specific state of being. At every moment of our lives, we are involved in the process of making contact with …

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About gestalt

There is no better way of explaining gestalt therapy than through demonstration. And the best way of demonstrating gestalt therapy is for you to meet me for an initial session. Of course, that doesn’t help you know ahead of time whether …

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Organismic self-regulation

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Paradoxical theory of change

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