About Gestalt



Working from a Gestalt perspective in therapy is an extremely effective and humane way to take care of psychological pain. Because Gestalt places a high value on the therapeutic relationship, we will work together, as I meet you where you are on your journey. This type of therapy does not involve the therapist telling the client what should be, rather through the therapeutic relationship, you discover this for yourself.

Gestalt philosophy honors early childhood and the past as remarkable events that shape our behavior, attitudes and beliefs, as well as contribute to our personalities. As children, we quickly learn what behaviors will bring our parents’ favor and which are unacceptable. Without realizing it, we deny certain parts of ourselves in order to fit into our role in the family. This is normal. Later in life, it is not uncommon for adults to question some of the beliefs and attitudes handed down from our families of origin. For some folks, it is quite easy to adapt to new ways of thinking or believing. For others, it is more of a struggle, and for some a crisis. Gestalt therapy can help make sense of the confusion.

In therapy, we work together to discover what long held beliefs and/or patterns of behavior are contributing to your life now. Sometimes people discover that behaviors or beliefs/attitudes that worked 5, 10 or even 20 years ago, no longer serve them now. We use creative experiments in therapy to “test the waters”, so to speak, and you will discover new, more effective ways of being.

Gestalt therapy does not focus on pathology, or diagnosing illness. You will never hear me say “you are depressed,” or “you have an anxiety disorder.” I may ask if you are “depressing yourself,” or “how is it that you contribute to your feelings of anxiety?” All humans go through periods of sorrow and joy, difficulty and ease, stress and relaxation. Having both ends of the spectrum is one way to differentiate one from the other. How do we know it is daylight without the dark? In therapy we pay attention to both ends of the spectrum.

Another key aspect of Gestalt philosophy is its emphasis on the present moment. This may seem paradoxical given the significance placed on early childhood experience, yet change comes only in the present moment. I encourage you also to mentally remain in the present moment. Much of our angst, anxiety and distress shows up when our minds are not resting in the present moment. Rumination about the past (for which there is no remedy) and worry over the future (which is unknown) causes untold amounts of misery. In therapy, we will work on training the mind to rest peacefully in the present and work with what appears at this moment in time.

Living the Gestalt lifestyle


To live the Gestalt lifestyle means to acknowledge a way of being that honors the work I do with my clients and which models the important foundations of Gestalt thinking.

What does this look like? For me, it means taking responsibility for my experience. It means owning it with the language I use. For example, using “I” statements instead of “you”. Instead of saying, “you know how sad movies make you cry?”, I will say “I cry when I watch sad movies.” Change in language is very small, and very powerful.

Another way to own my experience is to understand that everything I do is ultimately a choice, even when it doesn’t seem like it. I hear you, dear reader, saying, “but I have to pick up my kids after school!” Yes, agreed. And, you can choose to say “I am going to pick up my kids from school.” This version allows for the choice you have. If you chose not to pick up your kids from school, you might not like the consequences. Again, ultimately you get to decide. This is an area we explore quite a bit in therapy, because many people want help owning their experiences and acknowledging their choices.

Intention is another important aspect of the Gestalt lifestyle. It is not always easy to be intentional! To be so, means to think carefully about words and actions. To be choiceful about the way I live. This often means slowing down, and is a contradiction to most of our busy lifestyles today. It can be done. Intention can be prioritized and paid attention to.

The final point I wish to make about living the Gestalt lifestyle is about acceptance and letting go. Along with owning my experience, I understand that I cannot control another person’s actions, thoughts, reactions, likes or dislikes. I may wish to. I may think I can. (This does not apply to parents of babies and small children, who’s behavior can be somewhat controlled because they are dependent upon us). The only person who’s actions and reactions I can control are my own.

It is so tempting to feel responsible for someone else’s experience, or to expect a certain behavior from someone we love and care for. When we can accept and let go of the need to expect, we free ourselves from useless suffering. When I can let go of an expectation and rest in the present moment, I free myself from worry and anger.

It is also much easier to write about living the Gestalt lifestyle than to actually live it! AND, it is so rewarding on the days when I think I get it. My mission as a therapist is to spread the peace and compassion that can be found by learning and living these principles.

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