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.