Gestalt therapy is a type of psychotherapy developed during the 1940s and ’50s that concentrates on the experiences of the patient in the present moment, emphasizes personal responsibility, and uses the various contexts of a person’s life and the self-regulating adjustments made due to the patient’s overall situation. There are three primary principles behind gestalt therapy: the phenomenological method, the dialogical relationship, and experimental freedom.
The Phenomenological Method’s goal is to achieve awareness by reducing the effects of bias through multiple observations and lines of inquiry. The patient must set aside their initial biases in order to remove expectations and other assumptions. Once achieved, the patient attempts to occupy his or her thoughts with description instead of explanation, treating each item or thought as having equal significance and value.
A Dialogical Relationship is created between the patient and therapist through the therapist’s focus on becoming as inclusive as possible. That is, the therapist allows the patient to be in the moment as he or she is, without regard as to whether it is the best state for the patient to be in at the time. For example, an atheistic therapist telling a religious client that religion is nothing but a collection of myths would be counter-productive to the therapeutic goal, especially early in treatments when the relationship is still being established.
Experimental Freedom, the third principle underpinning gestalt therapy, builds on the idea that the most effective way to help patients is through the use of any experiments necessary, allowing the patient to actually experience something instead of simply talking about the experience. For example, if the therapist notices something in the tone of voice or non-verbal behavior of the client, the therapist might have the patient exaggerate those behaviors and focus on the experience.