Gestalt Therapy

Fritz Perlz(1893 – 1970)

Gestalt Psychology was founded and developed by Fritz Perls, “and collaborators Laura Perls and Paul Goodman.” (Sharf, 2015, p. 241).  Fritz Perls was born in 1893 in Berlin to older Middle-Class German Jewish Parents. He had three siblings, one of whom was killed in the Nazi concentration camps.  He completed a medical degree in 1920 after volunteering as a medic during World War One.    Early on in his medical career Perls worked with brain-damaged soldiers at the Goldestein Institute and met his wife Laura there.  After his wife completed a Phd. in Psychoanalytic training, Perls was motivated to do the same.  He established a Institute of Psychoanalysis in South Africa and New York as well as training centers throughout the united states.  His first book “The Gestalt Approach” was published in 1973 and his second book “Legacy of Fritz” was published in 1975.

An Overview…

Gestalt is a German word which means “The configuration of an organized whole, (Rosenthal, 2005).” Gestalt theory sees individuals as whole and self-regulating.  The focus of Gestalt Therapy is the individual’s way of perceiving reality.  Problems are defined as a a result when we reject or devalue certain aspects of ourselves.  Healing this fragmentation is a goal of treatment and involves helping individuals become aware of all their senses, emotions, observations, beliefs needs, and thoughts (Corsini & Wedding, 2011).

A Quick Definition

“Gestalt therapy enhances awareness, which leads to reintegration and allows the whole person to regulate and be responsible for his life, (Sommers-Flannagan et al, 2004, pg. 143).” It is an “existential and phenomenological process-based approach created on the premise that individuals must be understood in the context of their ongoing relationship with the environment, (Corey, 2015, p. 190).”

Gestalt vs. Other Methods

Freud vs. Fritz

“Although Fritz Perls was influence by psychoanalytic concepts he took issue with Freud’s theory on a number of grounds. Whereas Freud’s view of human beings is basically mechanistic, Perls stressed a holistic approach to personality. Freud focused on repressed intrapsychic conflicts from early childhood, whereas Perls valued examining the present situation, (Corey, 2015, p. 199).”

In psychoanalysis, the client’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs are not considered reliable since they are reflective of unconscious elements. (Corsini & Wedding, 2011).  In contrast, Gestalt therapy holds a phenomenological perspective of reality that does not readily dismiss the legitimacy of a patient’s inner world.  According to Fritz, “the patient’s awareness is not assumed to be merely a cover of some other, deeper motivation, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 347).” As a result, while Gestalt therapy utilizes the therapeutic relationship to examine an individual’s direct experience, psychoanalysis limits the development of a relationship in order to prevent countertransference.   Finally, while Gestalt focuses on the present, psychoanalysis looks at one’s past.

Rogers vs. Perls

Both Rogers and Perls held a believe in the mans potential for personal growth and utilized the therapeutic relationship as a fulcrum for change.  Additionally, both approaches hold a phenomenological view, by appreciating the subjective nature of a patient’s reality.  However, Rogers approach is non-directive in nature while Perls utilizes a more active approach that involves increasing awareness of one’s experiences.

Ellis vs. Perls

While REBT conceives the problem as a matter of irrational thinking, gestalt therapy conceives problems as matter of fragmentation, due to denial of certain aspects of oneself.   Consequently, REBT utilizes techniques that confront a client’s irrational ideas, while gestalt focuses on the what and how of one’s present experience.  Additionally, the focused awareness experiments utilized in gestalt therapy are useful as an alternative to REBT’s confrontational approach.  In this respect, REBT is conceives the therapist as holding a reality-based perspective, while gestalt rejects the notion that the therapist’s perspective is objective.

Theory Assumptions

The Goal = Creative Adjustment

tumblr_mu6goosrvm1rvkvumo1_500In well-functioning individuals, gestalt theory assumes that they have achieved organismic regulation. Healthy individuals are able to respond to their wants and needs because all the parts of the self are integrated.  They are able to assess their life situation, and initiate actions in agreement with who they are.  They have no problem taking responsibility for their actions and are able to live in the present moment.   Gestalt Therapy calls this healthy functioning creative adjustment.  Corsini & Wedding, (2011), defines it as a byproduct of resolved fragmentation.  It reflects a “creative balance between changing the environment and adjusting to current condition, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 355).”

The Problem = Stuckness

“an impasse is experienced when a person’s customary supports are not available and new supports have not yet bee mobilized. The experience is existentially one of terror. The person cannot go back and does not know whether he or she can survive going forward.  (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 358).”

1314561Gestalt Theory defines psychopathology as a form of stuckness”.  This stuckness reflects an inability to “identify with one’s moment-to-moment experience (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 355)”.   Symptoms of psychopathology arise as a result of rigid boundaries between the self and environment that cause us to engage in creative editing.  We are fragmented with both accepted and denied aspects of ourselves.  Our ability to engage in creative adjustment is disrupted since our fragmented self produces an incomplete picture of reality.  The solution to stuckness heppens when we work through this resistance and live authentically.  Denial perpetuates our problems since we tend “forget” that any “creative editing” ever took place.   We first deny and then deny to ourselves that we have denied.

Resistance = Causing Stuckness

“In Gestalt Theory, resistance is an awkward but crucially important expression of the organism’s integrity.  Resistance is the process of opposing the formation of [something] that….is judged to be dangerous, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 356-357).”  In other words, resistance has a protective function, holding out of our awareness aspects of ourselves and our experiences that we prefer to deny.  Gestalt theory asserts that we forget this resistance exists as an adaptive mechanism.  Resistance causes stuckness since it prevents us from “identify[ing] with [our] moment-to-moment experience [fully] (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 355)”.

Unfinished Business

Perls describes unfinished as unacknowledged feelings “emotional debris that clutters present-centered awareness, (Corey, 2o15, p. 204).  According to Gestalt Theory, this unfinished business is like an oppressed negative energy that seeks resolution.  It underlies our self-defeating behaviors, and feelings of stuckness.   Until we face these unresolved emotions, they re-emerge repeatedly throughout our lives like a “monkey wrench” of sorts.

A Process of Reowning

rebornGestalt is a process of “reowning” parts of the self that have been disowned.  When we learn to accept those aspects of ourselves we have rejected, we become strong enough to proceed on a journey of personal growth.  The client needs to be whole in their current position, aware of what and who they are, rather than focusing on what they are not.  Change can only happen once we go of a need to wish for what aren’t.  This allows us to attain wholeness and function more effectively in present day-to-day life events.

A View of the Past & Present

Gestalt theory assumes that our “power” is in the present and the only significant moments are in the present, (Sommers-Flannagan et al, 2004) The past is gone and the future has not arrived yet. In order to be fully aware, a person must live only in the present.  Many people focus on their past mistakes by looking for resolutions, or planning for their future rather than focus on the present. (Sommers-Flannagan et al, 2004).  Since the past often influences our present attitudes and behavior, resolving them is essential for growth.  Feelings associated with past memories and fantasies will linger in background and interfere with effective contact if not dealt with, (Sommers-Flannagan et al, 2004).   Failing to resolve these inner conflicts, self-defeating behaviors, as well as manifesting physical symptoms. (Corsini & Wedding, 2011).


Gestalt theory assumes people are in charge of  how they behave and must take responsibility for what they say and what they do. When we blame something or someone outside yourself, we are deceiving ourselves, (Kirchner, 2000).  Taking responsibility for one’s actions allows us to understand clearly the consequences of our decisions.

View of Human Nature

“Authentic change occurs more from being who we are than from trying to be who we are not, (Corey, 2015, p. 201).”

Gestalt therapy assumes that individuals are able to engage in self-regulation and have an innate desire to work towards self-actualization.  It is a perspective that defines human nature as “rooted in existential philosophy, phenomenology and field theory, (Corey, 2015, p. 200).”  Problems are a byproduct of fragmentation due to disowned parts of our personality.   Overcoming this problem requires us to become fully aware of our environment as well as our inner world.  Claiming ownership of previously denied aspects of ourselves, allows us change to happen.  This involves letting go of who we believe we “should be” and instead accepting fully who we are.   “By becoming aware, clients become able to make informed choices and thus to live a more meaningful existence, (Corey, 2015, p. 200).”

Basic Concepts


“Holism asserts that humans are inherently self-regulating, that they are growth oriented, and that persons and their symptoms cannot be understood apart from their environment, (Corsini & Wedding, 2p11, p. 343).”

Gestalt Therapy asserts that the whole is not equal to the sum of its parts.  What does this mean? FIRSTLY, it acknowledges the fact that human beings are oriented to exist as as holistic and self-regulating organisms.  SECONDLY, this means clients can only understood in terms of one’s own individual direct experiences.  Symptoms are meaningless apart from the context in which they are occurring.  “Gestalt is a German word that meaning a whole or completion, or a form that cannot be separated into parts without losing its essence, (Corey, 2015, p. 201).”

FIGURES – “Those aspects of the individual’s experience that are most salient at any moment (Corey, 2015, p. 201).”
GROUND – “Those aspects of the client’s presentation that are often out of his or her awareness, (Corey, 2o15, p. 201).”  
FIGURE-FORMATION PROCESS – “tracks how some aspect of the environmental field emerges from the background and becomes the focal point of the individual attention and interest (Corey, 2015, p. 202).”  

Field Theory

The “Field Theory” concept can be found in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and describes the nature of reality and our relationship with it (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 343).  Essentially, this concept notes the importance of context as a crucial factor upon which reality is constructed and understood.  In Gestalt Therapy, field theory is a guiding principle that asserts individuals must be understood in the context of their environment and lived experiences.  Fields can be understood as the entire situation including the interaction between an individual and his environment, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011; Corey, 2015).  In this respect, it is an ever-changing concept that exist as a byproduct of this interaction.

In the context of a therapy session, the field comprises “the therapist, the client, and all that goes on between them… (Corey, 2015, p 201).”
In the context of a client’s life story, what you get is not a view of what happened, But it can tell you how the patient experiences his history in the here and now, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 343).”  

Field theory carries with it key propositions on the way one views and interacts with his world.  What follows are five principles that describe the nature of reality creation according to this theory.

The Principle of Organization

Since everything is in life is interconnected, meaning can be ascertained by looking at the whole situation. For example, rather than examining symptoms, or individual characteristics, gestalt therapy looks at the interdependence between internal and external factors in one’s life situation (Parlet, 1991).

The Principle of Contemporaneity

“This principle points to the fact that it is the constellation of influences in the present field which ‘explains’ present behavior, (Parlet, 1991, p. 5).”  In other words, cause is found in the present field of one’s field of one’s experience.  The past does not determined the present, instead it exists as a reinterpretation of past events.  The future is simply our current anticipations of what we expect to happen.

The Principle of Singularity

“Each situation, and each person-situation field, is unique, (Parlet, 1991, p. 6).”  In other words, Field Theory cautions against developing laws of human nature since each individual and situation are unique.  When we utilize generalizations, we create a premature conceptions of reality. We create findings in the situation that coincide with our generalizations (Parlet, 1991).

The Principle of Changing Process

“While the Principle of Singularity emphasizes the need for unique perspectives for unique occurrences, the Principle of Changing Process refers to the fact that experience is provisional rather than permanent, (Parlet, 1991, p. 7).”  In other words, field theory notes that our constructed reality exists as an ever-changing concept.  It is not a static, inert, or stable concept.

The Principle of Possible Relevance

“Everything in the field is part of the total organization and is potentially meaningful, (Parlet, 1991, p. 7).”  In other words, all elements in the field of one’s experience are important and worthy of examination.

Organismic Self-Regulation

“Organismic self-regulation is a process by which equilibrium is ‘disturbed’ by the emergence of a need, a sensation, or an interest, (Corey, 2015, p. 202).”    This self-regulation can involve changing in response to our environment, or utilizing resources to maintain an equilibrium.  The figure-formation process (discussed earlier) is utilized to help clients increase their ability to engage in self-regulation.  Growth starts with conscious awareness of the complex interdependent relationship between oneself and the environment.

“Individuals move toward wholeness by identifying with ongoing experience, being in contact with what is actually happening, identifying and trusting what one genuinely feels and wants and being honest with self and others about what one is actually able and willing to do, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 343).”

Phenomenological Inquiry

Gestalt therapy encourages us to live fully in the present moment.   Focusing on past or future events can take us away from the power which can only exist in the present to alter our lives.  “Phenomenological inquiry involves paying attention to what is occurring now…. (Corey, 2015, p. 202).”  Therapists use what and how questions while avoiding why questions in order to promote present awareness.

Theory of Personality

“Gestalt therapy is a radical ecological theory that maintains there is no meaningful way to consider any living organism apart from its interaction with its environment, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 351).”  In other words, there is no self independent of one’s circumstances.  Additionally, an individual’s circumstances can’t be understand outside of their unique perspective.  Gestalt therapy focuses on the contact we have with others and our environment as essential in the formation of our life experiences and personality, (Sharf, 2015).  The field of our lived experiences are mediated by boundaries that help connect us with others, while providing a sense of separation:

“People grow through contact with and withdrawal from others….by separating and connecting, a person establishes boundary and identity….One identifies with that which is nourishing and rejects that which is harmful.  This kind of differentiated contact leads to growth, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 352).”


Contact between oneself, others, and the environment is essential for the creation of life experiences, however often occurs outside our awareness.  “Contact is made by seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and moving.  Effective contact means interacting with nature and with other people without losing one’se sense of individuality (Corey, 2015, p. 205).”  Moments of contact seem to involve a reciprocal transformation in which one is changed as a result of contact with the outer world while transforming it as well.  “Contact means being in touch with what is emerging here and now, moment-to-moment, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 344).” It produces a creative adjustment to one’s environment, and often requires moments of “withdrawal to integrate what has been learned, (Corey, 2015, p. 205).”


“Conscious awareness is a focusing of attention on what one is in touch with in situations requiring attention. Awareness, or focused attention, is needed in situations that require higher contact ability, situations involving complexity or conflict, and situations in which habitual modes of thinking and acting are not working, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 344).”

Awareness is a vital aspect of personality development in Gestalt theory. It refers to the quality of one’s attentiveness to the present.   “Gestalt therapy focuses on the awareness process….the continuum of one’s flow of awareness, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 344).”  Helping clients recognize interruptions in their awareness and what they hold outside it is critical for growth and transformation.  Sharf, (2015) describes “four types of awareness: (1)…awareness of sensations and actions; (2)…awareness of feelings; (3)…awareness of wants; (4)…awareness of values and assessments, (p. 250).”  As I understand it, awareness comprises the moment-to-moment editing process of our experiential reality.  By becoming aware of how we’re aware, we can learn we’ve acted as a creator of our life experiences.

Contact Boundaries

“Contact boundaries are the process of connecting to or separating from other objects, (Sharf, 2015, p. 245).”  Boundaries serve to help us manage our contacts with the outer world.   Guided by our ego’s need for a positive self-evaluation, we identify with that “which is nourishing and reject that which is harmful, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 352).”  A delicate balance of separation and contact is essential for healthy functioning.  Sharf, (2015) describes several types of boundaries:

Body Boundaries restrict our sensory experiences, such as a sensation to pee or rest, when you’re struggling to complete homework.
Value Boundaries refer to values we hold that are resistant to change, such as the idea that Donald Trump is an asshole and doesn’t deserve to be president.
Familiarity Boundaries refer to things we do automatically and repetitively that go unchallenged.  A convenient example might include my husband’s daily drive to work.
Expressive Boundaries  are learned early and involve limitations on what is appropriate.  In my family of origin stoicism was the norm and I learned to internalize my emotions.

Boundary Disturbances

“Often the boundaries between self and others become vague, disintegrate or…disturbed….causing the individual to keep out nourishing aspects of object and others, (Sharf, 2015, p. 348).”  Unhealthy boundaries between oneself and the outer world include: introjection, projection, reflection, deflection, and confluence.   These unhealthy boundaries exist as a form of resistance tend to operate outside our awareness as deficient coping mechanisms that limit our ability to engage in creative adjustment


“Introjection refers to swallowing whole or accepting others’ views without reviewing them, (Sharf, 2015, p. 348).”  This sort of passive acceptance causes us to filter through information in accordance with our personal wants or needs (Corey, 2015).  We fail “to make discriminations about what to take in and what meaning to attach to it, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 254).”


“Projection is the reverse of introjection…we disown certain aspects of ourselves by assigning them to the environment, (Corey, 2015, p. 204).”  When we falsely attribute phenomenon that occurs within us to other individuals, we fail to adopt a full awareness of our experiences.  The short term payoff, includes an avoidance of responsibility. However the long-term price we pay for this is that we remain the helpless victim.


“Retroflection consists of doing to ourselves what we want to do to someone else, or it can refer to doing things for ourselves that we want others to do for us, (Sharf, 2015, p. 249).”  This involves inhibit one’s reactions to life experiences out of fear that others might respond negatively.  Corey (2015) uses the example of self-mutilation here as act in which we direct inward expression the anger we feel towards others.


Deflection is an unhealthy boundary mechanism that causes us to become easily distracted, or avoiding an sustained sense of contact with others (Corey, 2015).  For example, we can deflect in conversations by beating around the bush and being overly polite.  Deflection can also involve an avoidance of physical contact.


“Confluence occurs when the boundary between one’s self and others becomes muted or lessened, (Sharf, 2015, p. 249).”  Healthy confluence can be thought as an empathetic understanding of others.  Unhealthy confluence reflects a strong need of acceptance as we relinquish our true feelings.  Our ability to withdraw is block and we lose a sense of separate identity and become isolated (Corsini & Wedding, 2011).


In contrast to the above unhealthy boundaries, Corsini & Wedding, (2011), describe the concept of assimilation as a “process of experiencing what is to be taken in, deconstructing it, keeping what is useful, and discarding what is not, (p. 354).  It is a healthy boundary in is useful as a comparison to the boundaries described above.

Five Layers of Neurosis

In Gestalt theory, healthy individuals adopt a fluid identity that engages in an ongoing creative adaptation to the outer world.  In contrast unhealthy individuals respond by developing a character that exists as an adaptive response to the expectations of others.  This character becomes an idea of who we think we are, or “should be”, and becomes frozen and resistant to change.   According to Perls, a neurotic personality can be thought of as comprising layers like an onion (Corey, 2015; Sharf, 2015).  In order to achieve personal growth, people must fulfill their potential the  layers of neurosis must be pealed away. There are five layers of neurosis which exist as a levels of contact with the outer world.

THE PHONY LAYER – refers to inauthentic or shallow forms of interaction.  I understand this as involving a “going through the motions” mentality.  We are not fully present.  
THE PHOBIC LAYER – This refers to a form of interaction defined by a desire to avoid psychological pain.  The world becomes a land-mine in which we work to actively avoid what we believe might hurt us.  
THE IMPASSE – is a feeling of stuckness in which we are either afraid or unwilling to change.  I discussed this above in greater detail….
THE IMPLOSIVE LAYER – This point often occurs in therapy and involves an emerging awareness of our feelings and true self, with little knowledge of what to do about it.  
THE EXPLOSIVE LAYER – This level of contact is described as “authentic and without pretense (Sharf, 2015).”  It is the goal of Gestalt Therapy.  

Application of Theory

Goal of Therapy

“Fritz Perls…practiced Gestalt therapy paternalistically. Clients have to grow up, stand on their own two feet, and ‘deal with their life problems themselves’. Perls’s style of doing therapy involved two personal agendas: moving the client from environmental support to self-support and reintegrating the disowned parts of one’s personality, (Corey, 2015, p. 200).”

Perls believed that growth is an inevitable and lifelong process, that is occasionally derailed causing stuckness, resistance and fragmentation.  “The only goal of Gestalt therapy is awareness, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 359).”  Rosenthal (2005) describes this as a reclaiming of fragmented parts with a “major emphasis on experiential awareness.”  Corsini & Wedding, (2011) describe awareness of awareness as “the patient’s ability to use his or her skills…to rectify disturbances in his or her awareness process, (p. 259).”  The therapy process is engaged as a process of exploration and doesn’t involve a “direct attempt to change behavior, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 260).”

Best Case Match

Gestalt therapy lacks a clearly defined theory of human development. Because there is no theory on how a person develops into adulthood, there is no clearly defined framework that therapists can use to assist people with the problems that occur during the developmental stage. (Kirchner, 2000)  Client’s must also have a high self-awareness for this mode of therapy to work.   Gestalt therapy would not work well for individuals suffering from more severe disorders, such as psychoses, schizophrenia, personality, or mood disorders,   Clients who are in need of crisis intervention techniques would also not do well with Gestalt therapy.  However, this method works well with individuals who are self-aware and desire to institute change in their lives.

What & How; Here & Now…

Gestalt Therapy avoids “WHY” questions, since they cause us to look to our past to understand why our life is as it is.  Instead, Perls suggests asking clients “WHAT” they do, and “HOW” they do it.  “Direct experience is the primary tool of Gestalt therapy and the focus is always on the here and now, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 360).”  Perls describes failures to remain present as disturbances in our awareness.  Any exploration of the past is done while anchored in the present, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011).

The Therapist’s Function & Role

“The therapist’s job is to invite clients into an active partnership where they can learn about themselves by adopting an experimental attitude toward life in which they try out new behaviors and notice what happens, (Corey, 2015 p. 207).”  Methods utilized are aimed toward increasing awareness of the present moment.  Gestalt therapists pay close attention to nonverbal cues incongruent with what is being said.  In Gestalt therapy, communication patterns exist as an expression of our feelings, thoughts, and attitudes. Therapists utilizing this approach often call attention to a client’s communication patterns to increase awareness.


Gestalt Therapy does not have a specific systematic diagnostic or assessment process.  However, Sharf, (2015), describes a cyclical approach that correlates with the five phases of an experiencing cycle: “sensation/awareness, mobilization, contact, resolution/closure and withdrawal, (p 254).  Essentially this process seems to involve determining where the points of stuckness and resistance lie.  For example, PTSD can be associated difficulty with resolution and closure while phobias might have difficulty mobilizing (or taking action).


“Perls, was adamant that awareness in and of itself is curative, (Rosenthal, 2005).”   For this reason, Perls utilized experiments that served the purpose of creating frustration and heightening awareness (Rosenthal, 2005). Experiments serve the purpose of helping clients acting out points of stuckness and internal conflict (Corey, 2015).  It forces clients to express themselves behaviorally and shifts the focus away “from talking about a topic to an activity that will heighten the client’s awareness and understanding, “(Corey, 2015, p. 212).”  The purpose of an experiment is to bring something a client is struggling with to life in the present moment.

The Role of Confrontation

While Perls utilized a highly confrontational approach, this is not representative of Gestalt Therapy as it is currently practiced.  In this therapy method, confrontation tends to involve an “invitation to examine behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes, (Corey, 2015, p. 215).”  By encouraging clients to confront incongruencies while remaining empathetic and supportive, a client can achieve heightened awareness.

A Few Miscellaneous Techniques….

Focusing – Staying with the Feeling

“The most common techniques are the simple interventions of focusing.  Focusing ranges from simple inclusion or empathy to exercise arising largely from the therapist’s experience while being with the client, (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 364).”  My course textbook provides an example of an exchange between a therapist and client.  The client looks sad, and the therapists asks “what are you experiencing right now” (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 365).”  When they respond by noting they feel sad, the therapist asks them to stay with the feeling, and describe everything they are thinking, feeling and experiencing somatically (Corsini & Wedding, 2011).  The goal of this is to increase the awareness of their emotions and what brought it up.

Exaggeration & Repetition Game

Rosenthal, (2005) describes the this technique as useful when the client makes an important statement casually.  “The therapist then asks the client to repeat it, saying it louder with more emotion, (Rosenthal, 2005).”  The goal is to make the client aware of the statement’s significance and take responsibility for their feelings and behaviors (Rosenthal, 2005).

Internal Dialogue Experiments

This exercise is aimed at integrating fragment parts of our psyche.  One example provided in several resources for this post include the Top Dog vs. Underdog Dialogue. “The Top dog is righteous, authoritarian, moralistic, demanding, bossy and manipulative…the underdog manipulates by playing the role of victim, by being defensive, apologetic and helpless, (Corey, 2015, p. 216).”  Introjection exists as the mechanism that causes this fragmentation, (Corey, 2015).  Utilizing an empty chair technique, the client is asked to play both roles and create a dialogue between these two fragment selves (Rosenthal, 2005).

Making the Rounds

This technique is often utilized in Gestalt Therapy groups and involves an experiment with each member of your group.  For example, if you have trouble sharing your honest feelings about people, the therapist would ask you to do so with each group member.  “The purpose is to confront, to risk, to disclose the self, to experiment with a new behavior, (Corey, 2015, p. 217).  This can hopefully create an opportunity for growth or change

The Reversal Exercise

“Certain symptoms and behaviors often represent reversals of underlying or latent impulses.  Thus the therapist could ask a person who claims to suffer from severe inhibitions and excessive timidity to play the role of an exhibitionist, (Corey, 2015, p. 217).”

The Rehersal Exercise

This exercise simply involves rehearsing a new behavior as a means of bolstering our success “in real life”. Through this process of rehearsal, “we become increasingly aware of how to meet the expectations of others, of the degree to which [we] want to be approved, accepted, and liked, and of the extent to which [we] will go to attain acceptance, (Corey, 2015, p. 217).”


Gestalt therapy does not interpret dreams in order to uncover some aspect of the unconscious.  Instead, the content of one’s dreams are acted out in the goal of becoming part of the dream.  “Each part of the dream is assumed to be a projection of the self, and the character creates scripts for encounters between the various characters or parts, (Corey, 2o15, p. 218).”  Therefore, Perls suggests clients utilize the empty chair technique and play out various roles in our dream.  Rosenthal, (2005), notes that: “dreams are the royal road to integration…contain[ing] existential messages to the self.”


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