Gestalt therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the present moment and the whole person. It was developed by Fritz Perls, a German-born psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and his wife Laura Perls, in the 1940s and 1950s. Gestalt therapy (and by extension, the 4 pillars of gestalt therapy) is based on the idea that we are not just a sum of our parts, but a complex and dynamic whole that interacts with our environment and others. Gestalt therapy aims to help us become more aware of ourselves, our feelings, our needs, and our choices, and to take responsibility for our actions and lives.
Gestalt therapists and their clients use creative and experiential techniques to enhance awareness, freedom, and self-direction. Some of these techniques include the empty chair, the paradoxical theory of change, and the experiment.
But how do gestalt therapists know what to do in each session? How do they guide their clients to discover their own truth and potential? The answer lies in the 4 pillars of gestalt therapy.
- Dialogical relationship
- Field theory
These four pillars are used holistically within the therapeutic setting and are interrelated and supportive of each other. Let’s take a closer look at each one of them.
Phenomenology is the study of immediate experience. It means that gestalt therapists focus on what is happening for the client in the here and now, rather than what happened in the past or what might happen in the future. Gestalt therapists ask their clients to describe their feelings, thoughts, sensations, and perceptions, rather than trying to analyze or interpret them. This helps the clients to become more aware of their own reality and how they make sense of it.
Phenomenology also recognizes that each person has their own unique perspective and that no one can be fully objective. Gestalt therapists respect the truth of their clients’ experiences and do not impose their own judgment or assumptions. They also acknowledge their own subjectivity and how it influences their interaction with the client.
Dialogical relationship is the way that gestalt therapists communicate with their clients. It is based on the principles of presence, confirmation, inclusion, and open communication. Gestalt therapists aim to be fully present with their clients, meaning that they pay attention not only to what the client says, but also to how they say it, their body language, their tone of voice, and their emotions.
Gestalt therapists also confirm their clients’ existence and potential by showing interest, respect, empathy, and understanding. They include their clients in the therapeutic process by sharing their own feelings, thoughts, reactions, and feedback. They also communicate openly with their clients by being honest, authentic, clear, and direct.
Dialogical relationship creates a safe and trusting environment where the client can explore their issues without fear of judgment or rejection. It also fosters a sense of connection and collaboration between the therapist and the client.
Field theory is the view that everything is interconnected and interdependent. It means that gestalt therapists look at the client as part of a larger system or field that includes their environment, their relationships, their culture, their history, and their situation. Gestalt therapists consider how these factors influence the client’s behavior, feelings, thoughts, and needs. They also examine how the client influences these factors in return.
Field theory helps gestalt therapists to understand the context of the client’s issues and to identify patterns of interaction that may be helpful or harmful. It also helps gestalt therapists to adapt to each client’s unique circumstances and needs.
Note: NLP Neurological Levels is a useful tool for understanding someone's personal context.
Experimentation is the method that gestalt therapists use to help their clients discover new possibilities and perspectives. It involves creating a situation or scenario that challenges the client’s habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, or behaving. The client is then asked to participate in the experiment and observe what happens. The experiment can be verbal or non-verbal, such as role-playing, imagery, movement, or expression.
Experimentation allows the client to experience something different from their usual way of being. It can help them to gain insight, awareness, clarity, or closure. It can also help them to develop new skills, behaviors, or attitudes.
Gestalt therapy is a holistic and humanistic approach that emphasizes the present moment and the whole person. It rests upon four theoretical pillars: phenomenology, dialogical relationship, field theory, and experimentation. These pillars guide gestalt therapists in helping their clients become more aware of themselves and their environment, more free to make choices and take responsibility for their lives, and more able to grow and change.
If you are interested in learning more about gestalt therapy, you can check out some of the following resources:
- The Four Pillars of Gestalt Therapy: A detailed explanation of the four pillars by Counselling Tutor.
- Gestalt Therapy: Definition, Techniques, Efficacy: A comprehensive overview of gestalt therapy by Verywell Mind.
- Gestalt Therapy - Counselling on the Coast: An introduction to gestalt therapy by a gestalt therapist.
- What are the 4 pillars of gestalt therapy?: A brief summary of the four pillars by Quick-Advices.
- What are the four pillars of Gestalt?: Another brief summary of the four pillars by Calendar UK.