Gestalt Counselling in a Nutshell
New to the bestselling Counselling in a Nutshell Series, this pocket-sized book is the beginners guide to the essentials of Gestalt Therapy, from its principles to practice. Assuming no previous knowledge of the subject, the book introduces: The origins of the approach; The key theory and concepts; The skills and techniques important to practice
Written in an accessible, jargon-free style, this book includes vivid case examples, end of chapter exercises and a glossary of terms to help aid understanding.
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
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© Gaie Houston 2013
First published 2013
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[Page v]This book is gratefully dedicated to all the supervisees who over the years have shared their knowledge and experience with me, and given me much of the material for the highly edited case vignettes throughout this book.[Page vi]
About the Author
This book sets out to be an account of gestalt therapy theory and practice. Over the years and in different cultures, there has inevitably been Darwinian change and development in both these areas. Though emphases have changed in different trainings and countries, a core of assumptions and methods persist. These I hope to describe here, with reference to a number of the many other variations that are current. In this short account I have quoted few writers, and of necessity left out the names of many of the worldwide contributors to the evolution of this still under-researched but undeniably effective form of psychotherapy.
As quoted more than once in the following chapters, Laura Perls, one of the co-founders of gestalt therapy, said that every new patient requires a new therapy. The best I would hope from your reading this is that you feel well informed about this optimistic and co-operative form of psychotherapy. If you are a practitioner, I hope you will be empowered to respond, within a clear theoretical discipline, yet freely and creatively, to your clients, and so create another new therapy. In this way gestalt can continue to encourage excitement and growth, and what the Buddhists term ‘right living’, in all parties to it.[Page x]
- Aggression In gestalt therapy theory, the word is used in its root Latin sense, to mean all outwardly directed activity. In everyday language it more often means hostile activity.
- Confluence Flowing together, with loss of boundary clarity.
- Contact-boundary Perls and Goodman were fascinated with the mutually constructed boundary between self and other, or, as they termed it, organism and environment. To them, this was the locus of awareness and experience.
- Egotism The tendency to be self-observing rather than fully present.
- Field A dynamic play of forces that forms a whole, perceived as a shifting figure against a background.
- Formation, gestalt This is the configuring or organising process of moving from some disequilibrium or need, through to taking action, and then withdrawing either into gratification or the learning that the action did not achieve what was needed. The four stages of successful gestalt formation are:
- Fore-contact The state of quest, unease, disequilibrium which leads to the emergence of a clear figure against a background. A hopeful shopper's discovery of ‘Help, I forgot my purse’ is a simple example.
- Contact Following this inner realisation, some action in the world follows. Run home? Borrow from a friend? Explain to the shopkeeper? [Page 103]
- Final contact This in the probably brief moment of sensing ‘I did it!’ as the friend or shopkeeper smiles, or you get home and find your purse. Money is in your hand again.
- Post-contact Now there is an unwinding. Whew! The relief or gratification of what you have done. The there can be learning: ‘I won't go out again without checking my pockets.’ And the whole episode starts to fade down and lose interest. You are on an even keel again until the next figure surges into awareness.
- Gestalt The German word is used because there is no exact equivalent in English. It means pattern, or organisation into a form or pattern. The underlying idea is that we all constantly organise fields of data into patterns with transient figures against a particular background.
- Introjection Swallowing whole of what is presented, the way an infant swallows milk. That is a useful introjection. Swallowing whole the idea that other people always know best, or that dancing is the work of the devil, can be worth re-considering and chewing through.
- Proflection Doing to someone else what you would like done to you. Many of us in the caring professions are doing this at least some of the time.
- Projection A cinema projector throws an image forward on to a screen. Seeing something only in another person when it is also part of you is projection.
- Retroflection This word covers two ideas. Literally it means turning back, as when a self-harmer turns anger on himself rather than attacking another person. It is also used to mean what has come to be called proflection.
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