Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy is a type of therapy that is used to deepen the awareness of the individual and their feelings in a less intellectual manner in comparison to other traditional forms of therapy. The word “Gestalt” means whole or implies wholeness. Gestalt therapy believes that in any experience there are feelings in the background and the foreground or front of it. The idea of gestalt therapy is that all people have had to repress or suppress aspect of them because they weren’t accepted or supported. It is those aspects of themselves that end up in the background and can become unfinished business or unresolved issues.

The Gestaltists say that individuals usually only identify with one side of an internal conflict. If individuals can get in touch with both sides of a conflict and own both different views of that conflict then the conflict can be resolved without having to force anything and the solution should just come naturally. Gestaltists believe that forcing improvement involves becoming obsessed or preoccupied with changing or failing. It keeps individuals from being able to fully experience the here and now and who they are here and now.

Gestalt therapy helps to shed light on those unresolved issues by helping the individual to focus their awareness on their feelings or lack of feelings moment to moment. Once an individual can recognize their unresolved problems, issues, business; for example uncomfortable feelings, patterns of behavior, ways that they seem themselves and others based on experience rather than reality, they are able to handle and understand them and to choose whether or not they want to make any changes.

One of the most common methods of gestalt therapy is known as the empty-chair technique. The empty-chair technique is a simple and yet profound tool to involve self-exploration. When an individual goes to see a Gestalt therapist the therapist will usually have an extra chair in the room, an empty chair. The chair actually serves an important purpose as a part of gestalt therapy. The gestalt therapist will ask the client to hold an imagined conversation with someone or something that is in the empty chair. The empty chair technique as a part of gestalt therapy stimulates thinking, highlighting emotions and attitude.

A good example of the empty chair technique used in gestalt therapy would be the therapist asking a daughter to picture their mother in the chair and to have an imagined conversation with her. Whatever or whoever the conversation is with, it is meant to clarify the feelings and reaction to the other person or thing and can increase the understanding of the other person as well giving insight. Gestalt therapy believes that all of the images, memories, emotions, judgments, expectations about the other thing or person in the chair belong to the individual. The conflict is inside the individual not the other person. The imagined conversation with the person or thing in the empty chair proves it. It is all imagined and created from the individual. Gestalt therapy believes in assuming responsibility for your own difficulties, owning them, exploring them, every side, feeling them to the fullest and making choices and finding your way out of your own messes.



History of Therapy: Wilhelm Reich

History of Therapy: Wilhelm Reich

History of Therapy: Wilhelm Reich

Wilhelm Reich was born on March 24, 1897 and lived until November 3, 1957. Wilhelm Reich is known for his work as an Austrian psychoanalyst. Wilhelm Reich’s work in the field of therapy came after Sigmund Freud but he was still one of the most radical figures in the history of therapy.

Wilhelm Reich wrote many books including Character Analysis, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, The Sexual Revolution, and contributed to the book The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, written by Anna Freud. Wilhelm Reich also shaped what we known as body psychotherapy with his idea that the expression of the personality is in the way the body moves. He was also very influential in Fritz Perl’s gestalt therapy, Alexander Lowen’s bioenergetics analysis and Arthur Janov’s primal therapy.

Wilhelm Reich influenced generations of intellectuals especially with his books. During a 1968 student uprising in Paris and Berlin students were throwing his book The Mass Psychology of Fascism at the police.

Wilhelm Reich got his start after graduating in medicine from the University of Vienna in 1922. Reich studied neuropsychiatry. Wilhelm Reich tried to settle psychoanalysis with Marxism. Wilhelm believed neurosis is rooted in physical, sexual and socio-economic conditions. Wilhelm was active in his work and went to see his patients in their homes to see how they lived. Reich developed therapeutic methods to help people give up their emotional armor, to become more emotionally alive; but he also approached the problem from the social and political side of things, working to pass laws against child abuse, opposing the rigid sex-repressions and legal powers of the Church, to give women equal rights and pay, and to make divorce and contraceptives more freely available. He openly criticized the Nazis and the Communist Party for their power-mongering and threats against individual freedoms. For this, he was severely attacked from all quarters.

From this point forward he became an extremely controversial figure in the field of therapy. During his entire life no one published his books except his own publisher. The promoting of sexual permissiveness did not sit well with the rest of the therapy community and his associates.

Wilhelm Reich moved to New York in 1939, in part to get away from the Nazis and in part to get a fresh start. Soon after he moved to New York he coined the term “orgone”-which he is still to this day most famously known for. What at first appeared to be only “bioelectricity” was later clarified by Reich as a much more powerful bioenergetics force — a form of life-energy at work within living organisms, expressing itself as emotion and sexuality, but also able to be seen in the microscope as a bluish-glowing field around living blood cells and other substances. This bluish-glowing energy, which he eventually called orgone energy, was later observed a glowing blue radiating from animals and people, from trees and even mountain ranges.  He said it was others referred to as God.

In 1940 he began building accumulators. Accumulators were devices that his patients sat inside of to gain health benefits by tapping into orgone energy. Newspapers told stories of Wilhelm Reich which described things such as sex boxes that cured cancer.

Following these boxes and his coining the term orgone, Wilhelm went to prison. After two articles about him were written in The New York Republic and Harper’s, the FDA got a hold of a shipment of orgone accumulators and the literature to go along with them. The FDA believed he was a fraud and so Wilhelm Reich was charged with contempt in 1956 and sentenced to two years in prison where he would die. In the August after he had been sentenced to prison, the United States burned many of his publications by order of the court-this is one of the most memorable examples of censorship in the history of the United States. Shortly after, Wilhelm Reich died in jail of heart failure