Gestalt Therapy (O'Neill)
by Philip Brownell, 2/12/97
I am happy for the direction of this thread. It seems that there is opportunity
for leaving the dead behind. Not that we have to leave their ideas behind,
but we needn't do unecessary homeage. Whether it be Mary Henle, who objected
to Perls, or Perls himself, arguing over their clothing is not very interesting
to me, especially since I believe enough time has elapsed to allow people
interested in the field, versus devotees to various splinter sections of
it, to forge a new and more robust community.
You have stated, "The discussion I am hoping to generate is ways in
which Gestalt psychology continues to inform Gestalt therapy. How do advancements
in the Gestalt psychology research of the past 40 years affect the theory
and application of Gestalt theory? Or do they? Does Gestalt therapy pay
any attention to Gestalt psychology?" In the current issue of Gestalt!,
Hans-Juergen Walter, of the GTA, discusses
a contemporary understanding of the relationship between Gestalt psychological
theory and cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. This would seem to be
the kind of thing you are looking for. I welcome, and will look forward
to the article Joe Wysong mentions that will be forthcoming at The Gestalt
Journal's web site, in which the relationship between Gestalt Psychology
and Gestalt Therapy is treated, but as for now I can say that in all my
interactions with Gerhard Stemberger, who posted the Henle article (first
on the AAGT web site through an act of professional courtesy and support
while GTA was in the process of getting their own site up on the web, and
later where it's now located) he has displayed an eagerness to engage with
the community of Gestalt practitioners (and has actually done so by entering
into discussion with practicing Gestalt therapists on the AAGT email discussion
group) who have traditionally followed the development of Gestalt therapy
according to the Perls School. There is a new, open spirit among people
who used to be characterized by the antipathy seen in Henle. By the way,
your url for the GTA is incorrect, and the current one is http://rdz.stjohns.edu/~gerhard/gta/gtax.html.
That site has some tremendous links to Gestalt-related work, including
the work of Lewin on field theory, and the application of Gestalt theory
to organizational work in the United Nations-very exciting stuff, and all
related to the thrust of your question, namely, is there any current action,
dialogue, relating being done between Gestalt Psychology and Gestalt Therapy.
I would say there is indeed, and it's just beginning to get interesting.
As I mentioned in a previous post, some object to the idea of the word "therapy"
being dropped in discussing Gestalt principles; however, to me these things
are all related and help inform one another. One sees, for instance, included
among the workshops for conferences held by both the GTA and more Perlsian
groups presentations on the application of Gestalt theory to organizational
development. It would seem that those busy applying classic Gestalt psychology
to the clinical arena are making many of the same kinds of applications
as those working with Perls, Hefferlein, and Goodman.
I might add that I am excited by the emergence of several very viable electronic
presences devoted to Gestalt principles: there is this discussion forumat
at BOL, the site for The Gestalt Journal, the electronic journal, Gestalt!,
the web site for the Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy
(AAGT), the site for the GTA, and several sites for Gestalt institutes world
wide, to say nothing of the email discussion groups related to the AAGT
and Gestalt!. All of this can only help promote a greater understanding
of Gestalt principles, evidence of the field, and connection within and
among the various Gestalt communities.
--Phil Brownell, Sr. Editor, Gestalt!