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Piero Dell'Anno

Author: Piero Dell'AnnoClinical Psychotherapist

The word Gestalt means ‘shape’ or ‘whole form’ and the aim of Gestalt therapy is to support a client to find their wholeness, with the final aim to embrace himself/herself fully.

What is Gestalt Therapy?

The roots of Gestalt approach date back to 1950 in the existential humanistic tradition of psychology. It is founder Frits Perls believed that Gestalt Therapy was a phenomenological approach – by working in the ‘here and now’ you can enhance a clients’ wellbeing.

The founder of Gestalt therapy – Perls – believed that people are best seen as being an entire entity – mind, body and soul. Perls believed that to successfully overcome difficult emotions emerging from the past, one needs to connect with the emotions and body sensations experienced in the present moment-by-moment and to become aware of how these are interconnected and contribute to shape their way of being.

What should I expect from Gestalt Therapy?

A Gestalt therapist, first and foremost believes that itis the quality of the encounter with his/her client, that enables the “healing process”.

Through a reciprocal commitment and emotional/embodied awareness, moment-by-moment, the Gestalt therapist invites their client to explore, with curiosity, their way of being, creative adaptation, core beliefs, self-judgment and any other phenomena that emerge as they sit together.

Rather than discussing why something happened in the past, the therapist encourages clients to connect with what emerges in the present moment and share how it feels right now. In other words, you will be asked to experience your feelings, rather than simply talk about them. The therapist might ask you questions such as, “What’s going on in this moment?” or “How does this make you feel right now?” “As you become aware of this particular emotion what are you thinking, what are you telling yourself?

The ultimate scope of a Gestalt therapist is to enable his/her client to be able to accept, with care and loving kindness, their thoughts, emotions and embodied feelings. Gestalt therapists aim to relate with their clients, supporting their awareness, through emotional attunement and empathy. This include their own personal process as clients share and deepen into their emotional world and experiences.

Through the Gestalt process, the therapist works collaboratively with the client and supports his/her awareness inviting to explore “what it is” versus what they believe “it should be”. Gestalt therapists believe that change occurs in the “here and now” when we profoundly and kindly accept who we are. This happens also by appreciating and valuing our coping mechanisms that helped us to survive, as we were dealing with difficult facts of life. In the past, these coping mechanisms might have been the only and best ways to deal with our difficulties and limited resources. Hence appreciating ourselves for who we are, is a way to look inward and to become empathic to our vulnerable self.

The goal of Gestalt therapy is awareness – improving the ability to manage automatic habits

What is Gestalt Therapy used to treat?

Gestalt therapy has been successfully integrated into treatment programs for adults and teens who are being treated for:

  • substance abuse
  • addiction
  • interpersonal difficulties
  • mood disorders
  • eating disorders
  • grief/loss
  • episodical and complex/developmental trauma
  • sex addiction
  • compulsive gambling
  • bipolar
  • depression
  • anxiety

Gestalt therapy has been a deeply important journey for me, I feel like I am 3 stone lighter as I now have a different outlook on life. Without the support I have had my therapist I would never have got this far – thank you.

Nina, London

Is Gestalt Therapy right for me?

The key indicators that Gestalt therapy is right for you include:

  1. Wanting to focus on present issues, and to explore how the unfinished past may hinder your ability to live fully in the present moment: Gestalt therapy looks at the ‘how’ a person is creating their life and how certain repeated patterns my hinder his/her wellbeing . The belief is that this enables the clients to discover their own natural ability to have successful and fulfilling relationships with others and within themselves.
  2. Willing to work ‘practically’: Gestalt therapy can involve working with emotional responses, body sensations and thoughts in creative ways – for instance using affirmations and repeating things in a different way to focus on the responsibility you have for your own actions for instance “I am worried my boyfriend is growing distant from me” might become “I am curious about my worries”.
  3. Are you clear about the issues and emotions you want to explore? Ideally, the client identifies current sensations and emotions, particularly those that are painful or disruptive. Clients are encouraged to become aware of their feelings and needs, and are supported to accept and assert those suppressed parts of themselves.

Why might Gestalt Therapy be the wrong therapy for me?

Before deciding to have Gestalt therapy, it might be helpful to think about the following:

  1. Are you in crisis? If the immediate, surface problem is a disabling or dangerous behaviour, such as constantly needing to check things, compulsive hand washing, bingeing or purging behaviour or self-harm, a behavioural approach may be the best starting point, such as CAT, CBT or REBT.
  2. Are you open to working creatively and relationally? For some people, the thought to explore, with curiosity, their emotions, embodied feelings and thought process, as they engage relationally with a therapist, or looking at their dreams is far out of their comfort zone, and that is ok. Possibly a therapeutic approach that focuses more on the “why” and less on the” how”, could be a valid alternative you may want to consider something like Psychodynamic.

Overall the scope of Gestalt therapy is to help clients to discover who they really are, who they can potentially become and to enjoy their life and their relationships with others more fully. By profoundly meeting ourselves fully, in our vulnerability, we can repair our ‘primal wound’, that contributes to limit our ability to flourish in our present life.
Piero Dell'Anno
BA, MA, MSc, Masters, Dip, PgDip, Cert.

Clinical Psychotherapist

Piero Dell’Anno is an experienced Clinical Psychotherapist, who has gained sound experience working both for the NHS and in private practice. During the past 25 years, Piero has worked as a clinical psychotherapist, psychotherapeutic counsellor,...

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