Gestalt therapy

Gestalt therapy is an existential and experiential psychotherapy that focuses on the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist-client relationship, the environmental and social contexts in which these things take place, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of the overall situation. It emphasizes personal responsibility. Gestalt therapy was co-founded by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940s–1950s.

Overview of main premises

Edwin Nevis described Gestalt therapy as "...a conceptual and methodological base from which helping professionals can craft their practice" (Nevis, E., 2000, p.3). In the same volume Joel Latner asserted that Gestalt therapy is built around two central ideas: that the most helpful focus of psychology is the experiential present moment and that everyone is caught in webs of relationships; thus, it is only possible to know ourselves against the background of our relation to other things (Latner, 2000). The historical development (see below) of Gestalt therapy shows the influences that have resulted in these two foci. Expanded, they result in the four chief theoretical constructs (see below under the theory and practice section) that comprise Gestalt theory and guide the practice and application of Gestalt therapy.

Gestalt therapy was forged from various influences in the times and lives of the founders: physics, Eastern religion, existential phenomenology, Gestalt psychology, psychoanalysis, theatrical performance, systems and field theory (Mackewn, 1997).

Gestalt therapy rose from its beginnings in the middle of the 20th century to rapid and widespread popularity during the decade of the 1960s and early 1970s. During the 70s and 80s Gestalt therapy training centers spread globally, but they were, for the most part, not aligned with formal academic settings. As the cognitive revolution eclipsed Gestalt therapy in psychology, many came to believe Gestalt was an anachronism. In the hands of Gestalt practitioners, Gestalt therapy became an applied discipline in the fields of psychotherapy, organizational development, social action, and eventually coaching. Until the turn of the century Gestalt therapists disdained the positivism underlying what they perceived to be the concern of research, and so, largely, ignored the need to utilize research to further develop Gestalt therapy theory and support Gestalt therapy practice. That has begun to change.

Gestalt therapy focuses more on process (what is happening) than content (what is being discussed). The emphasis is on what is being done, thought and felt at the moment rather than on what was, might be, could be, or should be.

Gestalt therapy is a method of awareness, by which perceiving, feeling, and acting are understood to be separate from interpreting, explaining and judging using old attitudes. This distinction between direct experience and indirect or secondary interpretation is developed in the process of therapy. The client learns to become aware of what they are doing psychologically and how they can change it. By becoming aware of and transforming their process they develop self acceptance and the ability to experience more in the "now" without so much interference from baggage of the past.

The objective of Gestalt therapy, in addition to helping the client overcome symptoms, is to enable him or her to become more fully and creatively alive and to be free from the blocks and unfinished issues that may diminish optimum satisfaction, fulfillment, and growth. Thus, it falls in the category of humanistic psychotherapies.

Contemporary Gestalt therapy theory and practice

Gestalt therapy theory rests atop essentially four "load bearing walls:" phenomenological method, dialogical relationship, field-theoretical strategies, and experimental freedom – Citation
title=Handbook for Theory, Research, and Practice in Gestalt Therapy
first=P. (ed.)
publisher=Cambridge Scholars Publishing
. Although all these tenets are present in the early formulation and practice of Gestalt therapy, as described in Citation
title=Ego, Hunger, and Aggression
.and in "Gestalt Therapy, Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality" (Perls, Hefferline, & Goodman, 1951), the early development of Gestalt therapy theory emphasized personal experience and the experiential episodes understood as the "safe emergencies" of experiments; indeed, half of "PHG" consists of such stylized experiments. Later, through the influence of such people as Erving and Miriam Polster (Polster & Polster, 1973), a second theoretical emphasis emerged: contact between self and other, and ultimately the dialogical relationship between therapist and client. Later still, field theory emerged as an emphasis (Wheeler, 1991). At various times over the decades since Gestalt therapy first emerged one or more of these tenets, and the associated constructs that go with them, have captured the imagination of those who have continued developing the contemporary theory of Gestalt therapy. Since 1990 the literature focused on Gestalt therapy has flourished, including the development of several professional Gestalt journals. Along the way, Gestalt therapy theory has also been applied in Organizational Development and Coaching work. Thus, currently, Gestalt therapy training institutes often offer programs in both clinical and organization tracks.

Phenomenological method

The goal of a phenomenological exploration is awareness (Yontef, 1993). This exploration works systematically to reduce the effects of bias through repeated observations and inquiry (Yontef, 2005).

The phenomenological method comprises three steps: (1) the rule of epoché, (2) the rule of description, and (3) the rule of horizontalization (Spinelli, 2005). In the rule of epoché one sets aside one's initial biases and prejudices in order to suspend expectations and assumptions. In the rule of description, one occupies oneself with describing instead of explaining. In the rule of horizontalization one treats each item of description as having equal value or significance. The rule of epoché sets aside any initial theories with regard to what is presented in the meeting between therapist and client. The second rule implies immediate and specific observations, abstaining from interpretations or explanations, especially those formed from the application of a clinical theory superimposed over the circumstances of experience. The third rule avoids any hierarchical assignment of importance such that the data of experience become prioritized and categorized as they are received. A Gestalt therapist utilizing the phenomenological method might find him or herself typically saying something like, “I notice a slight tension at the corners of your mouth when I say that, and I see you shifting on the couch and folding your arms across your chest … and now I see you rolling your eyes back.” All this is not to say that the therapist never makes clinically relevant evaluations, but that he or she, when applying the phenomenological method, temporarily suspends the need for that (Brownell, 2008a, 2008b, in press).

Dialogical relationship

To create the conditions under which a dialogic moment might occur, the therapist attends to his or her own presence, creates the space for the client to enter in and become present as well (called inclusion), and commits him or herself to the dialogic process, surrendering to what takes place between them as opposed to attempting to control it. In presence, the therapist “shows up” as the whole and authentic person he or she is (Yontef, 1993) instead of assuming a role, false self, or persona. To practice inclusion is to accept however the client chooses to be present, and that may be in a defensive and obnoxious stance as well as an overly sweet but superficially cooperative one. To practice inclusion is to support the presentation of the client, including his or her resistance, not as a gimmick but in full realization that that is how the client is present. Finally, the Gestalt therapist is committed to the process, trusts in that process, and does not attempt to save him or herself from it (Brownell, 2008a, 2008b, in press).

Field-theoretical strategies

“The field” can be considered in two ways. There are ontological dimensions and there are phenomenological dimensions to one’s field. The ontological dimensions are all those physical and environmental contexts in which we live and move. They are the office in which one works, the house in which one lives, the city and country of which one is a citizen, and so forth. The ontological field is the objective reality that supports our physical existence. The phenomenological dimensions are all mental and physical dynamics that contribute to a person’s sense of self, one’s subjective experience, but are not merely elements of the environmental context. This could be the memory of an uncle’s inappropriate affection, one’s color blindness, one’s sense of the social matrix in operation at the office in which one works, and so forth. It is in the way that Gestalt therapists choose to work with field dynamics that makes what they do strategic (Brownell, 2008a, 2008b, in press).

Experimental freedom

Gestalt therapy has distinguished itself by moving to action, away from mere talk therapy, and is considered an experiential approach (Crocker, 1999). Through experiments, the therapist supports the client’s direct experience of something new instead of the mere talking about the possibility of something new. Indeed, the entire therapeutic relationship could be considered experimental, because at one level it is the provision of corrective, relational experience for many clients, and it is the "safe emergency" that is free to turn this way and that. An experiment can also be conceived of as a teaching method that creates an experience in which a client might learn something as part of their growth (Melnick & Nevis, 2005).

Notable issues


In field theory, "self" is a phenomenological concept, and is a comparison with 'other'. Without other there is no self, and how I experience other is inseparable from how I experience self. The continuity of "selfhood" (personality functioning) is something achieved rather than something inherent "inside" the person, and has its advantages and disadvantages. At one end of the spectrum, there is not enough self-continuity to be able to make meaningful relationships or to have a workable sense of who I am. In the middle, personality is a loose set of ways of being that work for me, commitments to relationships, work, culture and outlook, always open to change where I need to adapt to new circumstances, or just want to try something new. At the other end, it is a rigid defensive denial of the new and spontaneous. I act in stereotyped ways, and either induct other people to act in particular and fixed ways towards me; or I redefine their actions to fit with the fixed stereotypes.

In Gestalt therapy then, the approach is not the self of the client being helped or healed by the fixed self of the therapist, but the exploration of the co-creation of self and other in the here-and-now of the therapy. There is not the assumption that the client will act in all other circumstances as he or she does in the therapy situation. However, the areas that cause problems will be either the lack of self definition leading to chaotic or psychotic behaviour, or the rigid self definition in some area of functioning that denies spontaneity and makes dealing with particular situations impossible. Both of these show very clearly in the therapy, and can be worked with in the relationship with the therapist.

The experience of the therapist is also very much part of the therapy: since we are co-creating our self-other experiences, the way I experience being with the client is significant information about how the client experiences themselves. The proviso here is that I as therapist am not operating from my own fixed responses, and this is why Gestalt therapists are required to undertake significant therapy of their own during training.

From the perspective of this theory of self, the theory of neurosis can be seen as fixed predictability, and the theory of therapy can be seen as "the ability to facilitate the client to become unpredictable". Thus, if the therapist is working from some theory of how the client should end up, this defeats the aim of the therapy.


In what has now become a "classic" of Gestalt therapy literature, Arnold Beisser (1970) described Gestalt's paradoxical theory of change. The paradox is that the more one attempts to be who one is not, the more one remains the same (Yontef, 2005). Conversely, when people identify with their current experience, the conditions of wholeness and growth support change. Put another way, change comes about as a result of "full acceptance of what is, rather than a striving to be different" (Houston, 2003).

Historical development

Fritz Perls was a German Jewish psychoanalyst who fled with his wife Lore to South Africa to escape Nazi oppression. After the war the couple emigrated to New York City, which had become by the late 1940s and early 1950s, a center of intellectual, artistic, and political experimentation.

Early influences

Frederick Perls was educated as a Medical Doctor in Germany. He was trained in Psychoanalysis and became a psychiatrist. He assisted Kurt Goldstein at the Frankfurt University where he met his wife Lore Posner (Laura) who had a doctorate in Gestalt Psychology. They fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and settled in South Africa. During their years in South Africa they also became influenced by Jan Smuts and his "holism".In 1936 Fritz Perls attended a psychoanalyst's conference in Marienbad, Czechoslovakia, where he presented a paper on oral resistances, mainly based on Laura Perls' notes on breastfeeding their children. Perls and the paper were turned down.

In 1948 Fritz moved to New York (Laura and their children came a year later) where he soon was included in an intellectual group of Jewish people.

The seminal book

The seminal work was "Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality", published in 1951; co-authored by Fritz Perls, Paul Goodman, and Ralph Hefferline (a university psychology professor, and sometime patient of Fritz Perls). As it turns out, most of the original Part II of the book was written by Paul Goodman from the notes of Fritz Perls, and contains the meat of the theory. It was supposed to go first. The publishers decided that Part II, written by Hefferline, fit more into the nascent self-help ethos of the day, and made it Part I, making for a less interesting introduction to the theory. Isadore From, a leading early theorist of Gestalt therapy, taught Part II for an entire year to his students, going through it phrase by phrase.

First instances of practice

Fritz and Lore (now Laura) founded the first Gestalt Institute in New York City in 1952. Isadore From became a patient, first of Fritz and then of Laura. Fritz soon anointed Isadore a trainer and also gave him some patients. Isadore lived in New York until his death, at 75 in 1993, and was known worldwide for his philosophical and intellectually rigorous take on Gestalt therapy. A brilliant, witty and sometimes caustic man, From was very much the philosopher of the first-generation Gestalt therapists. Acknowledged as a supremely gifted clinician, he was unfortunately phobic of writing and the few things committed to paper are transcriptions of interviews. []

Jim Simkin was a psychologist who also became a client of Perls and then a co-trainer with Perls in California. Simkin was responsible for Perls coming to California where he attempted to begin a psychotherapy practice. Ultimately, being a peripatetic trainer and workshop leader was a better fit for Fritz' personality. Simkin and Perls co-led some of the early (for California) training groups at Esalen.

The schism

In the 1960s Perls became infamous for his public workshops at Esalen Institute in Big Sur. Isadore From referred to some of Fritz' several day workshops as "hit-and-run" therapy because of its emphasis on showmanship with little or no follow-through, but Perls never considered these workshops to be true therapy. Jim Simkin went from co-leading training groups with Fritz to purchasing a property next to Esalen and starting his own training center, which he ran until his death in 1984. Here he refined his precise laser-like version of Gestalt therapy, training psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors and social workers within a very rigorous residential training model.

When Fritz Perls left New York City for California, there began to be a split between those who saw Gestalt therapy as a therapeutic approach with great potential (this view was best represented by Isadore From, who practiced and taught mainly in New York, and by the members of the Cleveland Institute, co-founded by From) and those who saw Gestalt therapy not just as a therapeutic modality but as a way of life. The East Coast, New York-Cleveland axis was often appalled by the notion of Gestalt therapy leaving the consulting room and becoming a way-of-life (see Gestalt prayer) in the West Coast of the 1960s.

The split continues between what has been called "East Coast" GT and "West Coast" GT. However, the way-of-life view seems to be fading as people move on from the 1960s. Esalen is still functioning in Big Sur. The widow of Esalen's co-founder Dick Price, Christine Price, continues to hold Gestalt workshops there.


In 1969 Fritz Perls left the USA to start a Gestalt community at Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island, Canada. He died almost a year later on 14 March 1970 in Chicago. One member of the Gestalt community was Barry Stevens. Her book about that phase of her life, "Don' t Push the River", became very popular. She developed her own form of Gestalt therapy body work, which is essentially a concentration on the awareness of body processes.

The Polsters

Erv and Miriam Polster started a training center in La Jolla, which also became very well known; the Polsters became well known through the publishing of their book, "Gestalt Integrated", in the 1970s.

They had an influential role in advancing the concept of contact. A disturbance described by Miriam and Erv Polster was "deflection": referring to a means of avoiding contact by jumping around from one thing to another and never staying in the same place for very long. All the instances of the disturbance have a pathological and a non-pathological aspect. It is appropriate for the infant and mother to become confluent, for example, or two lovers, but inappropriate for client and therapist. When the latter pair becomes confluent, there can be no growth because there is no boundary at which the one can contact the other; the client will not be able to learn anything new because the therapist is simply an extension of the client, so to speak.

Influences forming Gestalt therapy

Notable examples

Gestalt therapy had a variety of psychological and philosophical influences, and in addition was a response to the social forces of its day. It is a therapeutic approach that is holistic (mind/body/culture) present-centered, and related to existential therapy in its emphasis on personal responsibility for action, and on the valuing of the I-thou relationship in therapy. (In fact, its creators considered calling Gestalt therapy existential-phenomenological therapy.) "The I and thou in the Here and Now," was one Gestalt therapist's semi-humorous mantra.

Both Perls were students and admirers of the neurologist Kurt Goldstein. Gestalt therapy was based on Goldstein's understanding called "Organismic theory". Goldstein viewed a person in a situation in terms of a holistic and unified experience. He encouraged a big picture perspective, taking in to account the context of a person's experience. The word Gestalt means whole, or contextual. Goldstein taught the Perls that self actualization could only be achieved by self transcendence, that is, viewing the self as part of a greater whole.Laura Perls, in an interview denotes the "Organismic theory" as the base of Gestalt therapy.

There were additional influences from existentialism, particularly the I-thou relationship as it applies to therapy, and the notion of personal choice and responsibility.

The late 1950s–1960s movement toward personal growth and the human potential movement fed into and was itself influenced by Gestalt therapy.

Gestalt therapy somehow became a "coherent Gestalt", which is the Gestalt psychologists' term for a perceptual unit that holds together and forms a unified form.


Gestalt therapy was influenced by psychoanalysis. It was part of a continuum moving from the early work of Freud, to the later Freudian ego analysis, to Wilhelm Reich and his notion of character armor, where they gave attention to nonverbal behavior (This was consonant with Laura Perls' background in dance and movement therapy). To this was added the insights of academic Gestalt psychology about perception, Gestalt formation and the tendency of organisms to complete the incomplete Gestalt, to form "wholes" in experience.

Central to Fritz and Laura Perls' modifications of psychoanalysis was the concept of "dental or oral aggression". In "Ego, Hunger and Aggression" (1944), Fritz Perl's first book, to which Laura Perls contributed [ [ Edward Rosenfeld: An Oral History of Gestalt Therapy Part 1. A conversation with Laura Perls – In her own words: "at least two chapters which I wrote completely: the chapters on the dummy complex and the one on insomnia." Laura Perls was credited in the preface to the first edition, but in subsequent editions her name was left out.] ] , the Perls suggested that when the infant develops teeth, he/she has the capacity to chew, to break apart food, and by analogy experience, to taste, accept, reject, assimilate. This was opposed to Freud's notion that only introjection takes place in early experience. Thus the Perls made "assimilation", as opposed to "introjection", a focal theme in their work, and the prime means by which growth occurs in therapy.

In contrast to the psychoanalytic stance in which the "patient" introjects the (presumably more healthy) attitudes/interpretations of the analyst, in Gestalt therapy the client must "taste" his/her experience, and either accept or reject, but not introject, or "swallow whole". Hence, the emphasis is on avoiding interpretation and encouraging discovery. This is the key point in the divergance of GT from traditional psychoanalysis — growth occurs through gradual assimilation of experience in a natural way, rather than by accepting the interpretations of the analyst; thus, the therapist should not interpret, but lead the client to discover for him or herself.

The Gestalt therapist contrives experiments that lead the client to greater awareness and fuller experience of his/her possibilities. Experiments can be focussed on undoing projections or retroflections. They can work to help the client with closure of unfinished Gestalts ("unfinished business" such as unexpressed emotions towards somebody in the client's life). There are many kinds of experiments that might be therapeutic. But the essence of the work is that it is experiential rather than interpretive, and in this way distinguishes itself from the psychoanalytic.

Principal influences: A summary list

* Otto Rank's invention of "here-and-now" therapy and Rank's post-Freudian book "Art and Artist" (1932), both of which strongly influenced Paul Goodman.
* Wilhelm Reich's psychoanalytic developments, especially the concept of "character armor" and its focus on the body.
* Jacob Moreno's Psychodrama, principally the development of enactment techniques for the resolution of psychological conflicts
* Max Wertheimer's Gestalt Psychology , which this therapy derives its name from, influences the application of the concepts about perception to a broader theory about human needs and the relation of persons with their surroundings
* Kurt Goldstein's holistic theory of the organism, based on Gestalt theory.
* Martin Buber's philosophy of relationship and dialogue ("I - Thou")
* Kurt Lewin's field theory as applied to the social sciences and group dynamics
* European phenomenology of Franz Brentano, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty
* The existentialism of Kierkegaard over that of Sartre, rejecting nihilism
* Carl Jung's psychology, particularly the polarities concept
* Some elements from Zen Buddhism
* Differention between thing and concept from Zen and the works of Alfred Korzybski
* American pragmatism of William James, George Herbert Mead, and John Dewey

Influences on other approaches

* IBP Integrative Body Psychotherapy by Jack Lee Rosenberg (originally called "Gestalt Body Psychotherapy" and only in the 1980s named "Integrative Body Psychotherapy IBP"
* Sensitive Gestalt Massage (R) of Margaret ELKE and continued by Ulla Bandelow, Paris, France

Current status

Gestalt therapy reached a zenith in the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since then its influence has spread out into other fields like organisational development and teaching. Its contributions have also become assimilated into current schools of therapy, sometimes in unlikely places.Fact|date=August 2008 For example, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) shares much with Gestalt therapy, but is considered to be a cognitive behavioral approach.

Dan Rosenblatt led Gestalt training groups in Japan for 7 years and Stewart Kiritz followed with public workshops and training workshops in Tokyo from 1997 through 2005. Rosenblatt (b. 1925) was part of the early group around Laura. A Harvard-trained psychologist and intellectual, he practiced Gestalt therapy for over 35 years in Manhattan, seeing 30 patients a week in individual therapy and doing groups almost every evening. He did training workshops in Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, Italy for many years. Rosenblatt, who also wrote several books on Gestalt therapy, exemplifies the Gestalt therapist as practicing clinician, rather than would-be guru.

All of these therapists had their own distinctive styles, but always with Gestalt therapy's focus on immediate experience as a central theme. And unlike Fritz Perls, whom Isadore From persisted in calling Frederick Perls, these first generation Gestalt therapists maintained thriving therapy practices, mostly in one location, for many years. Gestalt therapy is a very useful process for therapists-in-training of any persuasion because of its focus on the person of the therapist, barriers to full contact with others, and self-awareness.Fact|date=August 2008 Graduate students still seem to seek it out, even though in the United States it is not as recognized by the establishment as it once was.Fact|date=August 2008

Outside of the United States, however, in places like France, Italy, Scandinavia, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Russia, gestalt therapy is thriving.Fact|date=August 2008 At a conference for gestalt therapists, held in 2007 in Cordoba, Argentina, more than 800 gestalt therapists were in attendance, and they were largely representing the young and enthusiastically passionate of mind.Fact|date=August 2008 Gestalt is one of the leading choices for a therapeutic perspective in France and Russia.Fact|date=August 2008 The European Association for Gestalt Therapy (EAGT) draws hundreds to its internationals conferences.

Furthermore, the growing interest among gestalt therapists for professional dialogue across disciplines (as evidenced in a new journal, "Studies-in-Gestalt-Therapy: Dialogical Bridges", edited by Dan Bloom, Margherita Lobb, and Frank Staemmler) and the increasingly significant involvement of gestalt people in research, suggests that a resurgence in the United States cannot be far away.Fact|date=August 2008 The publication in 2005 of the first major English text on gestalt therapy in decades (Woldt and Toman's "Gestalt Therapy: History, Theory, and Practice"; Sage Publications) and the pending publication in 2008 of a text on research, philosophy of science, and gestalt therapy practice (edited by Brownell: "Handbook for Theory, Research and Practice in Gestalt Therapy"; Cambridge Scholars Publishing)form only two in a growing wave of developing literature focused on gestalt therapy.Fact|date=August 2008

Training of Gestalt therapists

Pedagogical approach

Ansel Woldt asserted that Gestalt teaching and training are built upon the belief that people are, by nature, health seeking. Thus, such commitments as authenticity, optimism, holism, health, and trust become important principles to consider when engaged in the activity of teaching and learning - anything, let alone Gestalt therapy theory and practice. (Woldt, 2005)

Training organizations

*The New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy (NYIGT) [] , founded in 1952, is the original Gestalt therapy institute begun when in the late 1940s Frederick (Fritz) and Laura Perls emigrated to the United States and settled in New York City. Here they continued their work begun in South Africa, developing a novel theory and method of psychotherapy. In 1951, the therapy was presented to the world in "Gestalt Therapy, Excitement and Growth" by Frederick Perls, Ralph Hefferline, and Paul Goodman. Members meet monthly.

*The Gestalt Institute of Cleveland (GIC) [] was established in 1954 by some of the earliest students of Fritz Perls, Laura Perls, Isadore Fromm, and Paul Goodman. In 1966, GIC began introducing pioneering training programs applying Gestalt theory to groups. It offers programs in coaching, training and human development, and organizational and systems development.

*The Pacific Gestalt Institute (PGI) [] in Los Angeles supports trainees in small groups where competency usually evolves over the course of several years.

*"'Gestalt Therapy Training Center Northwest (GTTCNW) [] offers a two-year weekend training program in Gestalt therapy through a series of three weekend workshops each year, with an option of continued training.

*Portland Gestalt Therapy Institute (PGTI) [] offered training in the Pacific Northwest from 1992. Case consultations are included in the ongoing training program.

*The Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) [] was stablished 50 years ago. The Center uses the Cape Cod Model.

*The Gestalt Center of Gainesville [] was established in 1976 in Gainesville, Florida. Directed by co-founder Pat Korb, the center provides therapy, workshops, and supervision for advanced therapists and others in related fields.

*The Gestalt Psychotherapy and Training Institute (GPTI) [] was founded in 1986, and became a limited company in 1995. It provides training and accreditation of Gestalt psychotherapists in the UK.

*Manchester Gestalt Centre for Psychotherapy and Counselling [] is a group of psychotherapists, trainers, supervisors and organisational consultants. MGC emphasises awareness, relationship and integration.

*Gestalt psychotherapy at Metanoia in London in the UK [] is based on field theory, dialogic existentialism and phenomenology, holding that human beings have the ability to regulate themselves optimally in their environment but that unfinished business and fixed patterns from the past can impair an individual's ability to be fully in contact with others or sustain a balanced body/mind system.

*The Gestalt Centre, London offers a full programme of part-time accredited training in Counselling and Psychotherapy, Training programme also includes introductory workshops and short courses, experiential groups and Continuous Professional Development short courses for qualified practitioners.

;Australia and New ZealandA full list of GANZ accredited training institutes can be found here []

*The Gestalt Training Institute of Bermuda (GTIB) [] provides training in Gestalt therapy and organizational consulting and coaching from a Gestalt perspective. Its international core faculty includes Talia Levine Bar Yoseph (Israel and the UK), Seán Gaffney (Sweden), Philip Brownell (Bermuda and the USA), Sue Congram (UK), John Leary-Joyce (UK), Brian and Jenny O'Neill (Australia), Dan Bloom (USA) and Charles Bowman (USA).


The Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy, (AAGT), is a non-profit organization to promote Gestalt therapy and its applications. The AAGT holds one biennial international conference in various locations – first in New Orleans, LA, USA, in 1995 and most recently in 2008 in Manchester, England, UK. The program is available at the conference web site. The biennial international conference will for 2010 will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylviania, USA. [ [ AAGT 2010 Conference in Philadelphia ] ] In addition, the AAGT holds regional conferences. The immediate president of the board is Peter Philippson, from the UK, and the current vice-president is Australian Brian O'Neill. Dan Bloom, from New York, USA, is currently president-elect.

The European Association for Gestalt Therapy (EAGT) was founded in 1985, to gather European individual Gestalt therapists, training institutes and national associations, to exchange knowledge and resources, foster high professional standards and encourage research. More than 20 European nations are part of it.

Gestalt Australia and New Zealand (GANZ) for practitioners was formally established at the first "Down Under" Gestalt Therapy Conference held in Perth in September 1998. GANZ promotes the study and practice of Gestalt therapy as a specialty area of psychology, and advances ethical practice in the field.



Beisser, A. (1970) The paradoxical theory of change, in J.Fagan & I Shepherd (eds) "Gestalt Therapy Now: Theory, Techniques, Applications". Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.

Brownell, P. (2008a) Gestalt therapy in "The Professional Counselor's Desk Reference", Mark A. Stebnicki, Ph.D. and Irmo Marini, Ph.D. (eds.), New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Brownell, P., ed.(2008b) "Handbook for Theory, Research, and Practice in Gestalt Therapy", Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Brownell, P. (in press) "Gestalt Therapy: A Guidebook for Mental Health Professionals", New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Crocker, S. (1999) "A well-lived life, essays in Gestalt therapy". Cambridge, MA: Gestalt Press.

Ginger, S. (2007) "Gestalt Therapy, The Art of Contact". London, UK: Karnac Books.

Houston, G. (2003) "Brief Gestalt Therapy. London, UK: Sage Publications.

Latner, J. (2000) The Theory of Gestalt Therapy, in "Gestalt therapy: Perspectives and Applications", Edwin Nevis (ed.). Cambridge, MA: Gestalt Press.

Mackewn, J. (1997) "Developing Gestalt Counselling". London, UK: Sage publications.

Melnick, J., March Nevis, S. (2005) Gestalt Therapy Methodology in "Gestalt Therapy, History, Theory, and Practice". Ansel Woldt & Sarah Toman (eds). London, UK: Sage Publications

Nevis, E. (2000) Introduction, in "Gestalt therapy: Perspectives and Applications." Edwin Nevis (ed.). Cambridge, MA: Gestalt Press.

Perls, F. (1969) "Ego, Hunger, and Aggression: the Beginning of Gestalt Therapy". New York, NY: Random House (originally published in 1947)

Perls, F., Hefferline, R., & Goodman, P. (1951) "Gestalt therapy: Excitement and growth in the human personality." New York, NY: Julian.

Polster, E. & Polster, M. (1973) "Gestalt therapy integrated: Contours of theory and practice". New York, NY: Brunner--Mazel.

Spinelli, E. (2005) "The interpreted world, an introduction to phenomenological psychology", 2nd edition. London, UK: Sage Publications.

Woldt, A. (2005) Pre-text: Gestalt pedagogy: Creating the field for teaching and learning, in Ansel Woldt & Sarah Toman (eds), "Gestalt Therapy, History, Theory, and Practice". London, UK: Sage Publications.

Wheeler, G. (1991) "Gestalt reconsidered: A new approach to contact and resistance". New York, NY: Gardner.

Yontef, G. (1993) "Awareness, Dialogue, and Process, essays on Gestalt therapy". Highland, NY: The Gestalt Journal Press, Inc.

Yontef, G. (2005) Gestalt Therapy Theory of Change, in "Gestalt Therapy, History, Theory, and Practice". Ansel Woldt & Sarah Toman (eds). London, UK: Sage Publications

Suggested reading

*"Gestalt Therapy: History, Theory and Practice" — Ansel Woldt and Sarah Toman (eds)
*"A Well-Lived Life, Essays in Gestalt Therapy" — Sylvia Fleming Crocker
*"Awareness, Dialogue, and Process, Essays on Gestalt Therapy" — Gary Yontef
*"The Healing Relationship in Gestalt Therapy" — Richard Hycner and Lynne Jacobs
*"Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality" — Frederick Perls, Ralph F. Hefferline, Paul Goodman
*"Gestalt Therapy Verbatim" — Frederick S. Perls
*"Ego, Hunger and Aggression" — Frederick S. Perls
*"Gestalt Therapy Integrated" — Erving and Miriam Polster
*"Gestalt Therapy, The Art of Contact" - Serge Ginger
*"Gestalt Reconsidered" — Gordon Wheeler
*"Developing Gestalt Counselling" — Jennifer Mackewn
*"Brief Gestalt Therapy" — Gaie Houston
*"Living at the Boundary" — Laura Perls
*"Growing Up Absurd" — Paul Goodman
*"Communitas" — Paul and Percival Goodman
*"Nature Heals" — Paul Goodman
*"Here, Now, Next: Paul Goodman and the Origins of Gestalt Therapy" — Taylor Stoehr
*"The Growing Edge of Gestalt Therapy" — Edward Smith
*"Gestalt Therapy: The Attitude & Practice of an Atheoretical Experientialism" — Claudio Naranjo
*"The Gestalt Therapy Book: A Holistic Guide to the Theory, Principles, and Techniques of Gestalt Therapy" — Joel Latner
*"Self in Relation" - Peter Philippson

See also

*Gestalt effect

*Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy

*Barry Stevens (therapist), whom Fritz Perls called "a natural born therapist."

*Cognitive therapy

*Topdog vs. Underdog


*Existential therapy


*Martin Buber

*Kurt Lewin


*Philip Brownell

External links

* [ "Borders & Bridges: Differentiation in Contact" – 2008 AGT Conference]
* [ Gestalt Therapy: An Introduction] by Gary Yontef, Ph.D.
* [ Paul Goodman's Gestalt Therapy: An Advertisement and Introduction] by Ken Winter, Ph.D.
* [ Validating Gestalt. An Interview with Researcher, Writer, and Psychotherapist Leslie Greenberg by Leslie Greenberg and Philip Brownell; in: Gestalt!, 1/1997.]
* [ Gestalt Review (journal)]
* [ Fritz Perls: What is Gestalt Therapy? (Interview)]
* [ The Gestalt Therapy Page] sponsored by The Gestalt Journal Press.
* [ Gestalt!] is an electronic journal with full-text articles, interviews, and information about Gestalt therapy, theory, practice, and practitioners.
* [ Gestalt therapy discussion] at Behavior OnLine
* [ Big Sur Tapes] , audio recordings of Fritz and Laura Perls, James Simkin, etc.
* [ Achim Votsmeier-Röhr's English version of his (German) website about Gestalt therapy]
* [ GANZ Gestalt Australia & New Zealand] GANZ Community Newsletter — a quarterly hard copy publication
* [] online community of Gestalt practictioners, with an emphasis on the Esalen Institute's branch of Gestalt
* [ Manchester Gestalt Center Online Articles] by John B. Harris and Peter Philippson
* [ Touching the Soul in Gestalt Therapy: Stories and More] by Erhard Doubrawa

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gestalt Therapy —     Gestalt, meaning in this context wholeness of form, became a kind of therapy associated with the human potential movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Although the concept of wholeness of form and the persistence of the whole despite changes in it …   Historical dictionary of Psychiatry

  • Gestalt therapy — or Gestalt psychotherapy noun A therapy that works towards self discovery and liberation through a combination of existentialism, realism, self expression, self acceptance and regular self analysis • • • Main Entry: ↑Gestalt …   Useful english dictionary

  • Gestalt therapy — ▪ psychology       a humanistic method of psychotherapy that takes a holistic approach to human experience by stressing individual responsibility and awareness of present psychological and physical needs.       Frederick (“Fritz”) S. Perls, a… …   Universalium

  • Gestalt therapy — An older psychotherapeutic concept that stresses understanding mental processes as holistic entities (gestalts) rather than discrete steps. Gestalt therapy often uses group therapy techniques to help patients gain this type of insight. See also… …   Medical dictionary

  • Gestalt therapy — n. method of psychological therapy emphasizing the current experiences of the patient rather than the past …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Gestalt therapy — /gəˈʃtælt θɛrəpi/ (say guh shtalt theruhpee) noun a type of psychotherapy that relies on Gestalt psychology …   Australian English dictionary

  • gestalt therapy — noun An existential and experiential psychotherapy that focuses on the individuals experience in the present moment …   Wiktionary

  • gestalt therapy — noun a psychotherapeutic approach focusing on insight into gestalts in patients and often using role playing …   English new terms dictionary

  • Гештальт-терапия (gestalt therapy) — Г. т. представляет собой экзистенциальный и феноменологический подход, осн. на принципах фокусирования сознания на актуальной действительности и на непосредственном опыте. Индивидуум в ходе терапии побуждается к возможно большей полноте… …   Психологическая энциклопедия

  • Founder of Gestalt Therapy — Fritz Perls …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

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