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Gestalt FAQ's / Help Center

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Five principles that a gestalt therapist follows

A gestalt therapist follows the following 5 principles:

  • Standing for particular values and skills

Nevis suggests that a Gestalt therapist will develop and employ these values and skills: staying in the present, trusting the process, tuning into your emotions, keeping a non-judgemental approach, awareness of intentions, seeing and accepting where the client is right now, facing emotional situations with minimum personal defensiveness, and making positive social contact.

  • Modelling a way of solving problems and of dealing with life in general

Nevis also insists, however, that "it is important to try to identify concrete, specific behaviours that form the basis for client and gestalt therapist effectiveness" (p. 90). For example, by listening without judgment to all aspects of the client's experience, the gestalt therapist models the notion of listening impartially to oneself. By being accepting and non-judgmental of the client's feelings, the gestalt therapist models non-judgmental self-acceptance in the client. By being real and congruent and genuine, the therapist models that kind of behaviour for the client (Baldwin, 2000, p. 31).

  • Helping to focus the client's energy on the problems, not on preferred solutions

The gestalt approach to consulting downplays problem-solving in favour of helping the client to conceptualize that problem in new ways. Information and expertise are not withheld from the client, of course, but the gestalt therapist tirelessly focuses on the what is the here and now, while descriptively assessing the problem and its context as these unfold. The descriptive assessment offers breadth and depth to a problem definition, with the anticipation that sheer awareness of this expanded and enhanced definition may lead to a solution that was not available until that moment of awareness. The goal is to foster an "'emergent reality' that unfolds from a conversation structured by . . . curiosity about the client's ideas, attitudes, and speculations about change" (Duncan & Miller, 2000, p. 182).

  • Teaching basic behavioural skills

Presence is not manufactured; it is something everyone displays at all times, whether one is aware of what others respond to or not. However, presence is most powerful when it embodies a compelling model or theory of learning. While some learning models are more useful than others in influencing adult behaviour change, the important point is that the gestalt therapist has internalized one that has proven useful over time. (Nevis, 1987, p. 75).

  • Evoking conditions that enable experimentation

The gestalt therapist's presence aims to evoke some form of change in the system by creating awareness. Such awareness is gained not only through experience, but can also "evolve out of . . . experimentation" (Goodman, 1999, p. 63), or in the more commonly used organizational terms, through creating a "pilot."

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