Category Archives: Continuing Education

Four Guidelines for Implementing Gestalt Therapy – Timing & Individual Differences

Guideline #1 -Timing
Clearly, the ideal time to implement Gestalt therapy approaches is early in the counseling relationship, when the client’s expectations for the therapy and the therapeutic relationship are still being established.  When the therapeutic relationship is well established, and the client is used to a specific style of interaction, introducing Gestalt approaches at the wrong time can be damaging.  One of my supervisees, Allan, became very excited about Gestalt therapy, and was eager to implement the approaches he had learned with his clients.

During our weekly session, Allan stated, “I don’t know what went wrong. I was in my session with Betty, and she was mentioning her new boyfriend, and I just got really in sync with the discrepancies between her verbal and nonverbal communications. So, I brought them up, just like we learned how to do. All of a sudden, she’s hostile and defensive… she just shut down on me!”  Track 6 will outline four ways in which a therapist can respond to a client’s nonverbal behavior using Gestalt therapy.

I stated to Allan, “Well, your perceptions of her behaviors certainly seem accurate.  But there seem to be two factors that contributed to Betty’s being defensive.
First, you had never responded to her nonverbal behavior in a session before. 
— Second
, you didn’t introduce the approach you were using, so Betty did not know what to expect.
In the future, you might want to consider carefully introducing the ideas of Gestalt therapy, and starting by implementing only one or two approaches at a time.  Implementing complicated or multiple approaches early on might overload Betty.”

For Guideline #2, #3 and #4 go to Gestalt Course

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