What is Gestalt Psychotherapy?

Gestalt is an experiential talking therapy that works holistically with a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual experiences, and with an emphasis on how client and therapist are relationally ‘in contact’ during a session. Contact includes dialogue, but also thoughts, feelings and other non-verbal actions that the client and therapist notice during a session.

For example, if a client places their hand over their mouth while talking, the therapist might enquire as to what this gesture means for the client. Is it a sign of politeness, shyness, a need to be discreet, a clue about the difficulty of what is being said, or something else.

These gestures – or modifications – may provide insight into the client’s inner experiences and unexpressed needs, feelings or emotions; and some of the ways that self-expression is blocked or modified. This focus helps to surface how self-protective adaptations from our past may inhibit our capacity for self-awareness, choice and wholeness in the here and now. 

How does gestalt therapy work?

The goal of gestalt therapy is increased self-awareness and acceptance of how a client experiences themselves, others and their world, and therefore greater choice in how to respond. Through choice comes growth and self-direction. It is a philosophically informed therapy that foregrounds authentic relationship over interventions and technique. Gestalt sees the therapeutic process as a collaboration between two complex human beings – client and therapist – where the therapist is an active participant in the client’s healing process. It is not the therapist’s role to change the client.

Who is gestalt therapy suitable for?

Gestalt therapy can be suitable for anyone and is a good choice for people who want to enhance their self-understanding and to break free of patterns of thinking, feeling and responding that are no longer helpful. Gestalt therapists respect any labels or diagnoses that a client finds helpful – such as ADHD – while maintaining an interest in the client as a unique and whole person.

What issues or problems are suited to Gestalt Therapy?

Gestalt therapy focuses on the whole person rather than their issues or problems. It can support people with immediate / short terms concerns as well as those looking more understanding about deep and complex issues. It can be used for one-to-one therapy, relationship or couples therapy, as well as for therapeutic groups.

Gestalt brings to any therapeutic process a focus on immediacy, relation­ship and self-expression, while acknowledging the client’s wider social context, history and formative experiences.  This attention to the wider socio-economic-political context of clients’ lives offers a safe ground to explore complex questions around sexuality, gender, masculinity, femininity, ageing, intersectionality, culture, ethnicity, dis-ability, identity, belonging and outsiderness.

How many sessions will I have?

Gestalt is suitable as a short term (6-8 sessions) and longer-term therapy. It is advisable to agree a set number of weekly sessions with a therapist at the beginning, with an option to review progress and continue working together where this is beneficial.

Gestalt Psychotherapists at Southside Counselling and Therapy Centre: