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Gestalt Therapy

Gestaltists use self-actualization and self-awareness to create an atmosphere in which clients understand that they are living for today and not from the past or future.    It is the counselor’s role in Gestalt Therapy to help the client acknowledge the present feelings and recognize that their reactions are not from reacting to happenings but rather they are acting in this life as present events surround them.   An important part of the Gestalt Therapy is for the client to understand that it’s their own opinion that matters the most.  The counselor should not assess or interpret the client’s life, the counselor should help the client assess or interpret their own life.  Since this is an ongoing process the role of the counselor should be to help their clients understand the patterns in their life and how to manage their drive by turning their actions to something positive.

Counselors need to be fully aware of themselves, upbeat, positive, and energetic.  They must also be sincere so that the client understands that they are being themselves as opposed to just doing their job.  There are a few rules when applying the gestalt theory and one of them is for the counselor and client to never talk about someone but rather teach the client how to address the person directly.   This is called an I and thou relationship.

There are four other rules.  The principle of now, the use of I, the use of an awareness continuum, and the conversion of questions.  The use of I is when the counselor helps the client change their way of thinking by using the word I when they are talking about themselves in any way, instead of using the word it.  The use of awareness continuum is when the counselor helps the client understand the specifics of what happened or how it happened instead of why it happened.  Also, the conversion of questions is the last rule in which the counselor helps the client use statements rather than questions.  All of these rules are important for the counselor to follow if they are using the Gestalt theory.  Furthermore, the counselors do not diagnose according to the DSM nor do they use standard psychological tests.


There are many goals for counselors and clients when using Gestalt Therapy.   The primary focus of the Gestalt Therapy is to focus on now so the goals are pretty specific.   When helping clients while using Gestalt Therapy the counselor sets goals that include the understanding that the most important thing to remember is that what matters the most is the present and that their life revolves around the choices they make now.

Another goal for the client is to become more mature about the choices they make and to do this they must become more aware of their past and resolve any past conflicts that reflect any not so good decisions that the client is making.   This helps the client grow up so to speak. The counselor sets many action goals which cause the client the feel their emotions.

Lastly, the client must be able to get rid of neurotic behaviors.  There are 5 layers of neurosis that are identified with keeping people from experiences a full and capable life which include; phony layer, phobic layer, impasse layer, implosive and explosive layers.   First, the phony layer is someone who pretends they are something they are not.  Next, the phobic layer is when someone denies something about themselves or their life by avoidance.  Then, the impasse layer is someone who does not have a set direction for their life.  Last, the implosive and explosive layers are connected in that implosive is holding something in for years and the explosive layer comes when finally explode as a result of pent up feelings.

Process and Techniques

When evaluating this theory, as with most theories, there are strengths and contributions as well as limitation and criticisms.  When talking about strengths, many people see the great in Gestalt therapy as it focuses on the whole picture of the individual seeking counseling.  The client will learn how to live in the present as well as resolve issues from their past.  This theory is very flexible and adaptive.  There are many exercises and techniques available to any counselor or therapist who chooses to use Gestalt Therapy.

The Gestalt theory comes with criticism as well.  Some critics believe that the Gestalt lacks theory.  While the theory does have ways for working out past experiences, some critics believe that there may not be enough attention in that area which some individuals may need.   While Gestalt therapists do screen their clients some critics don’t believe it is enough.  Like most theories, this theory focuses primarily on the individual but some feel it is a little too extreme and self-centered.