The modality I work in is called Gestalt, which is a German word suggesting ‘Wholeness’ or ‘Completeness.’ It was at one point going to be called ‘Phenomenological Existential Therapy’, but perhaps wisely the shorter ‘Gestalt’ was coined. The originator of Gestalt therapy, Fritz Perls, was very influential in his writing and working in the 1940s and 50s. Over the years Perls’ influence has become balanced by a constant flow of ideas by contemporary practitioners and theorists.
The kind of Gestalt therapy that I practice is focussed on the dialogue between two people in a room. That relationship is central to the success of the work and in my approach it is the beating heart of it too. Suddenly, during the process of working together, insight or new awareness can spring up, as though from nowhere. I do feel this is one of the wonderful mysteries of this work. However I also have a sense that these ‘Aha! moments’ are founded on the creative alliance – the trust and openness in the therapeutic relationship that fosters creative exploration.
Gestalt is a very holistic approach, seeing the individual as part of a much wider field that influences feelings and behaviour at an incredibly subtle level *(eg. see Wheeler 2004). This interconnectedness of the individual and his/her environment represents a whole new way of seeing the issues that arise for a person. With this approach we can let go of the weight of carrying our struggles as though we created them all by ourselves!
There has been a relatively recent growth in understanding of the human being, of which Gestalt is in the forefront, that thought and feeling are fundamentally inseparable *(eg Damasio 1994). This awareness relieves us of the problems created by tackling issues at an inappropriate level. Instead we have to discover actual experience. One way we do this in Gestalt is through detailed exploration of sensations in the body, particularly as emotions are experienced. This helps us untangle what can seem like intractable knots in our being. As we delve more into our lived-experience instead of staying in the conceptual realm of who we think we are, issues become clearer. The figure of our pain becomes clearer against the background of our life. We see it for what it is and can learn to step back from identifying with it.
In the Gestalt perspective, therapist and client together create something that is bigger than each of them individually. It is a relationship that is built on trust, and takes time to develop, but it can lead to healing insight and understanding. We can learn a lot about our patterns of relating with people by examining how we relate with the other person in the therapy room i.e. the therapist!
My experience of Gestalt is that it is also about aliveness. It is what makes Gestalt such a dynamic and exciting a modality. As well as an interest in awareness of what is being experienced I am interested in energy: where the energy is arising; following the energy can lead to vital discoveries. I have had some profound insights, such as when a therapist reflected back to me how my voice was diminishing when I talked about certain things, and how my energy was following suit. In seeing this there was the opportunity to take some of that energy – my power – back!
Some practitioners focus on awareness as the key tool of Gestalt. It is a fundamental principle in Gestalt that one is always growing and always aware. What we are doing in the talking is exploring deeper inside into what is really being experienced (not just the idea or thought about what is being experienced which often is taken for the same thing), and hence our awareness is being focussed in a particular way that in my view is always beneficial. There is no awareness that is not beneficial. If I become aware of an itch in my sock which I can’t do anything about right now I may initially wish that I hadn’t even put my attention there. But then I am now in a position of choice. I can then choose to ignore it or stop what I am doing to sort it out right away, or do something about it later.
Our bodies hold information through time like batteries. We can follow the signals of our bodies (we call this phenomenology – the exploration of sensory experience in detail) and learn more about what is going on.
Damasio, A (1994). Descartes error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain. NY Putnam
Wheeler G. (2004) in Lee R. The Values of Connection: a relational approach to ethics. Gestalt Press Cambridge MA
Issues or Complaints
I adhere to the aims and values of my training insitution – the WPI (Welsh Psychotherapy Institute) and the ethical principles of the UKCP and the NCS. There is a complaints procedure through WPI and the UKCP should any issue arise.
Data Protection Notice
(in accordance with GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018)
Written Notes and Contact details
As part of my work I need to keep written notes of sessions. I anonymise these and keep them locked away. I use them for my own reference and when working with my supervisor. Notes, contact details and emails will be kept for 7 years after work has ceased after which they will be securely destroyed or deleted. This is a general rule as required by UK case law and recommended business practice. Telephone numbers and first names are stored on my mobile phone whilst we are working together. These details and text messages will be deleted within 3 months of ending work together.
Contact details and GP details as given in the Contact Form are kept separately from written notes. These details may be used to contact a client’s GP or other public services in certain circumstances, for example if I believe they are at risk of harming themselves or others. I would always discuss this with my client first and only under exceptional circumstances would I consider contacting a client’s GP without their consent.
In the case of my sudden death or incapacity, I have appointed a Counselling Executor. This person has agreed to inform my clients of the situation and to destroy case notes, documents or recordings.
I keep a record of payment and attendance on a spreadsheet (I do not store any bank details) so I can keep track from a business point of view. I keep this file on a digital storage device locked in a filing cabinet. This document will be stored for 7 years in alignment with recommended practice.
You have the right to access your information, to rectify mistakes, and within certain limitations, to restrict it or erase it. If you have any complaint about the handling of information you may in the first instance let me know and give me the chance to address the issue and if that is not satisfactory you may complain to the ICO (Information Commissioners Office)
Header quote of unkown origin