If you are familiar with the saying "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts," then you are on your way to understanding the basic concept behind Gestalt psychotherapy. It focuses in on all human experiences; being not just the processing of immediate sensations or stimulation in the environment, but also as our mind creates a picture of the whole based on what has been experienced in the past.
The most common example provided to explain this concept is that of a string of flashing lights around a neon sign. Each light goes on and off in sequence, never physically moving, but we perceive a patterned movement in the lights. We are striving to make 'whole' out of what may appear to be random. We want meaning and understanding, so we take what is in our environment and literally fill in the blanks.
We may also be doing the same thing in our emotional lives and in the way we react to different events in the world around us. In addition, we may not be aware of the blanks that are being filled in by our mind, so we assume what we perceive to be complete truth, not our perception of the situation.
WHAT GESTALT PSYCHOTHERAPY DOES
Gestalt psychotherapy allows the client and the therapist to bring out emotions and feelings that may be suppressed, or very difficult for the client to recall or acknowledge. By creating a current experience, the client and the therapist are able to gather a better understanding of the emotions that may be causing the client distress or inaccurate perceptions.
This Gestalt therapy is highly individualised and relies on a strong relationship between the therapist and the client. Trust, reflection, and effective communication is required on the part of the psychotherapist to assist the client.
The result of using Gestalt therapy is that the client is able to gain a better understanding of what they do in relationship to their environment. It is also a way to express emotions, develop self-awareness, and to develop the skills to assume personal responsibility for behaviour.
IN THE NOW
Gestalt psychotherapy is not about focusing just on the past or the future; it is about looking at what is being experienced in the now. There are various techniques that the psychotherapist will use to help clients to become aware of the emotions they are experiencing, and developing effective ways to react and to accept the events in a positive fashion.