Psychotherapeutic technology is informed by Gestalt Therapy theory, not techniques. Although Gestalt Therapy is popularly associated with a variety of striking technical interventions, its major contribution to psychotherapy is its metatheoretical ground.
As the director of the within-the-walls substance abuse treatment programs in Kansas, I am required, by contract, to provide cognitive-based therapy to inmates; as a Gestalt thinker I am oriented to apprehending the phenomenological world of my clients in terms of Gestalt theory.
Like you, I see no troubling conflict between these orientations or, for that matter, among any variety of theoretical bases. What I find interesting is that I am more likely to encourage a Gestalt understanding as ground to cognitive techniques than, well, the other way around. What is important is that there is commerce between us – and that we do not misunderstand each other.
Historically, the practice of Gestalt Therapy and its theoretical ground has been a critical issue. That is, it’s important that we do not define Gestalt in terms of techniques but that, rather, we understand Gestalt in terms of its theory, at least more so than in terms of any technical practice.
A specific example, one that marks my entry into the Gestalt discussion: Gestalt theory is rich with ethical direction, as I eloquently described in the last Fall issue of The Gestalt Journal. Cognitive theory, it strikes me, has an a priori (and therefore largely unspoken) condition for ethics. (I expect some argument at this point to elevate my awareness of the contribution cognitive theory has made to axiology.) In working with drug users, ethical direction begins the discussion. Perhaps it begins the discussion in other areas of human experience.