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Brian O'Neill July 23rd, 2004 06:44 PM

Questions and Answers on Gestalt Therapy
There are many students who visit this forum, usually in a rush to finish a paper on Gestalt therapy, so part of this forum's use is to answer questions about Gestalt therapy... so if you have any questions please ask away!

Brian :)

freyja September 18th, 2004 12:03 PM

Re: Questions and Answers on Gestalt Therapy
Hi there,
I am studying gestalttherapy and just started my second year. My teacher told us that as a gestalttherapist you can never do anything wrong, because you will allways get a reaction out of your client one way or the other.
Is that not much to simple, is it not a defence mechanism to hide behind if a client does not agree with something? Off course you will allways get a reaction and as a client you can do something with it, but is that a good therapist attitude? Can you come away with anything, as she says it?
That was my first question.

I also ask this because I feel manipulated by the staf of the school. When I wanted to choose the next schoolyear (the first three years you can take in any order) they said it was the best for me to take an other year than I wanted, and they also gave me a reason witch they later said was not the true reason (so they had actually given me a lie). They didn't advise me then, but told me that it was just the best for me, and told me that it was the best to take their advise. (nobody gave me an advise, or even spoke to me about it) When I asked for more clarity and also told them that this was not what I think an advise really is, they gave it back to me, and told me my reaction had something to do with not being able to take authority. I have sometimes problems with that so they know that, but that was not the case here. Then they gave me the reason why they thought it was the best for me. I could agree with them on that, so I finally have choosen for the year they wanted me to do. As a decission of myself, not out of a reaction, one way or the other.
When I told them that I didn't agree with them on them saying it was an authority thing they told me that it was just one big misunderstanding I had.
I feel that something is wrong with the way they handled the situation.
I think it is not fair of them to put it on something old within me, when they at first lied to me and then put it back on my lack of handling authority, while the thing I really did was asking for clarity. I also told them that, but they only said that they did not lie to me (before they cleary told me that they did) and again, that it was just me having misunderstandings.

So, how is it really in the gestalt vision, can you do a thing like that and can you, as my teacher says, never do anything wrong, because then I misunderstanded the whole thing of gestalt. I think that gestalt should be free of that kind of manipulation and that a therapist should be able to have true contact with the client or student, and be honest. I think you should be able to trust the teacher/therapist.
Or am I just confused in it, and I miss a point somewhere? :confused:

(my language may be a bit strange sometimes as I am not English ;) )

Anna Freud September 26th, 2004 12:41 PM

Re: Questions and Answers on Gestalt Therapy
Dear Freyja,

I am not a Gestalt therapist but i did want to encourage you to "trust your gut" as one of my supervisors told me in my counseling internship when working with clients. I think its safe to say that you might do that with your staff advisors in this school of Gestalt you attend. Just because they are "professionals" does not mean they have their stuff together. From what you wrote, these people seem dangerous to me. And as for me i would back away from them. It seems they are not owning up to their part in it and deflecting it onto you. That to me seems weird and dangerous. Almost cult-like.


freyja September 27th, 2004 09:27 AM

Re: Questions and Answers on Gestalt Therapy
Thanks Anna for your replie!
I am still confused about the whole situation and I think when I go back to school I will talk about that. It raises confusion in me, I wonder also if my reaction might have something to do with my problems of trusting people, there might be some kind of personal projection hidden under it. I am not sure if that is true or it comes out of their manipulation in wich they reflected it back to me.. Am I still angry on them or do my feelings go back to my own history? It's interesting for me to find out, because I know I have problems with trusting people anyway. But I think you are very right that I also should take my feelings towards them very seriously. The thing is, after I wrote them a letter to tell them that I was angry with them and that I think they didn't treat me right, I thought the whole issue was out of my head (and body). But now I had the first schooldays and she made statements like 'you can never do anything wrong as a gestalttherapist' I noticed that I got shakey in my body and my mind started to blur. That reaction of me gave me a lot of questions. I think you are very right that I should take that seriously.
This can also be what you refer to as dangerous, is it me having problems here, or is it them being vague and dishonest, and are my feelings of beeing manipulated right? I always have the tendencie to look at myself in the first place and I always want to grow and face myself if neccecary. This tendencie is not allways a good thing actually! Is it retroflection in this case I wonder? Or is it a good thing, and are my doubts part of a mechanisme of me trying to avoid something?
And that is so confusing to me now, because I want to be open so I can explore myself in the full extend, but I don't want to be messed around with!
I think I will tell about this the next time, and I allready payed for this year and can not efford to pay for an other school right now.. But if they are gonna be this vague, I will definately look further to an other gestalteducation for the next year!
I am very happy with your reaction, it helps me to take myself more serious! It is so nice to talk to somebody else who studies gestalt, in an other school!
O, one more thing, the school I do is existing for more then 30 years and is supposed to be a very good gestaltschool. But I recently found out that they can not join the EAGS (Europian Association for Gestalt Therapists), not because there education is bad because the standard is very good, but because of their (sometimes) lack of humanity...

I ask myself now, is it a good thing to confront them the next time with these feelings, as I think it gives me more freedom of being who I am, or is it better to keep my mouth shut, wich for me goes against what I believe in? For me, in true contact I should be able to say this and I want to get it out of my system, I just hope that it doesn't give me a lot of dishonest trouble with them. So, time will tell, I will confront them the next time.
Scary and in a way exiting.

Thanks again Anna! :)


Anna Freud October 2nd, 2004 09:43 PM

Re: Questions and Answers on Gestalt Therapy
Hello Freyja,

I think what I meant as dangerous is the part where your instructors are using manipulation on you and saying you have a problem with trusting people. Some trainers as i have heard are good and some are not good.

I am also wondering why you chose the school of Gestalt background for your training? What did you like about it that you chose to be trained as a Gestalt therapist? I am short for time and will be back another day to go through your post.



Brian O'Neill October 7th, 2004 10:38 PM

Re: Questions and Answers on Gestalt Therapy
Hi Freyja

In response to your posts I feel there are two questions I could respond to.

First re your experience in training.

I believe the best answer I can give to this is to encourage you to talk further with your trainer or trainers and if you feel you need support for that ask to have someone else come along with you for support. I believe if I responded further I would be talking about a situation where there are potentially other perspectives (ie the trainers) that also need to be heard in order to give a fuller picture.

The second question about Can We Do Wrong as therapists is very interesting.

I think of this is as levels.

Level One. (lets call this black and white)

If I think of dramatic things, such as killing the client or throwing a glass of water over them for example, then this clearly indicates we have a balck and white, clear cut sense of that there are things we can do wrong and the criteria lies in the outcome for the client... ie a negative outcome. And at this level we can set standards of ethics which proscribe how to be.

Level Two (lets call this the continuum level)

At this level I would say that this is more a contiuum of negative and positve effects to our interventions and that we need to be aware of these and what conditions promote positve outcomes for the client and what promotes negative outcomes. I would also call this area that of ethics and values.

People such as Joe Melnick. who is the Editor of the Gestalt Review, and Robert Lee who recently edited a Gestalt therapy text entitled "The Vaules of Relationship", have written extensively about ethics and Gestalt therapy and the importance of the relationship in this endeavour.

Also at this level we can also consider the context, and while it is hard to consider a context wherein killing a client will be positive, it is clear that there can be a context where pouring a glass of water on them is positive... like if they are on fire from smoking.

As the client and therapist here develop a relationship and the values that this ensues, the relationship by and of itself in a relational field can set the standard as we become connected to those we are in relationship with, in a dialogical sense.

In simple terms this is like what happens when we are about to squash an ant... if we think of it as an "it" we squash it which is a very negative outcome for the ant, I would suggest. However we probably all have experienced that moment where we realise the ant is a living being just like us... and we find it very difficult if not impossible to kill the ant.... we have entered what the mystic Martin Buber called an experience of I-Thou

Level Three (I would call this level Every Hair on Your Head is Numbered)

At this level we start to be aware, almost in a mystical sense, that nothing unconnected ever happens and what can seem like a bad thing originally may just be part of a wider process that produces a positive outcome. Yet it is easy and sometimes unfortunate to see this as meaning we can do what we want because it will all work out in the end.

The accomplished therapist at this level knows that their intention and skill are also an important part of the mix, so that at this level the paradox is that the good outcome in therapy doesn't happen through me as a therapist but it won't happen without me.

This level of existence, which can be termed Middle Mode in the Perls, Hefferleine and Goodman text, is a level often experienced by children and artists and has been reduced a little in modern times to be called Right Brain Thinking.

At this level the artist and child is not "trying" to be anything and is totally absorbed in the creative process and experiences a sense of self, so that there is reduced ego consciousness yet a highly aware sense of self at the same time. People such as Mozart have written about this where they sense they are part of something bigger and yet also themselves at the same time.

At this level we are not really oriented to things being judged as right or wrong and more oriented to being in the moment and responsive to the field we are in.

This can easily be mistaken for JUST being spontaneous alone, and this is not what I am talking about, because at this level of experience and existence we are also HIGHLY responsive to and connected to the field, as described in level two. So to exist from this state of being sounds similar to what your trainers are describing and I think this requires expanding ourselves beyond levels one and two and in fact including them as we move beyond them.

I know this is rather a long answer and I hope it is of use.


Veronika Duci April 20th, 2005 05:21 AM

Re: Questions and Answers on Gestalt Therapy
Hi! I' m Veronica. I am studying gestalt for my master degree. I have an essay about topdog - underdog. The literature that was given was not enough for me to understand the difference or interference of those two polarities with ego. I would be grateful if you could help me. Thank you! Bye!

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