What is Gestalt Therapy?

Gestalt Therapy is an experiential form of psychotherapy that emphasizes personal responsibility and focuses on the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist-client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person's life, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation. Developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls, and Paul Goodman in the 1940s and 1950s, Gestalt Therapy integrates elements from psychoanalysis, existential philosophy, and Eastern mindfulness practices to foster self-awareness and support personal growth.

Core Principles of Gestalt Therapy

1. Here and Now: One of the fundamental principles of Gestalt Therapy is the focus on the present moment. Instead of dwelling on past experiences or future anxieties, clients are encouraged to explore their current thoughts, feelings, and actions. This present-centered approach helps individuals become more aware of their immediate experiences and the choices available to them.

2. Awareness: Gestalt Therapy places a strong emphasis on increasing awareness, or mindfulness, of oneself and one's environment. This heightened awareness is believed to be the key to understanding oneself and making conscious changes.

3. Holism: This approach views the individual as a whole, considering the mind, body, and spirit. Gestalt Therapy suggests that understanding a person requires consideration of their thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and spiritual beliefs as interconnected elements of the total self.

4. Unfinished Business: Gestalt therapists often work with clients to identify and resolve "unfinished business" – unresolved emotions and unmet needs from past experiences that affect current behavior and interactions.

5. Experimentation: Gestalt Therapy is known for its use of creative and experiential techniques, such as role-playing, guided fantasy, and the empty chair technique. These interventions encourage clients to experiment with new ways of thinking and behaving, facilitating insight and change.

The Process of Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt Therapy is a flexible and adaptive approach, tailored to meet the unique needs of each client. The therapeutic process is characterized by a collaborative and dialogical relationship between therapist and client, with an emphasis on direct experience and experimentation.

1. The Therapeutic Relationship: A key component of Gestalt Therapy is the relationship between therapist and client, which is used as a mechanism for exploration and growth. Therapists engage authentically with clients, providing feedback and sharing their own present experiences as appropriate.

2. Increasing Awareness: Through various techniques and dialogues, therapists help clients increase their awareness of their emotions, body sensations, needs, and desires. This process often involves exploring contradictions and avoiding generalizations to foster a deeper understanding of oneself.

3. Working with Polarities: Gestalt Therapy often explores the polarities within an individual, such as the introjected values versus true self-desires. By recognizing and integrating these polarities, clients can move toward a more unified sense of self.

4. Creative Experimentation: Therapists encourage clients to engage in experiments both within and outside of therapy sessions. These experiments are designed to challenge clients' habitual patterns of behavior and to try out new ways of being.

Effectiveness of Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt Therapy has been applied successfully to a wide range of issues, including anxiety, depression, self-esteem problems, relationship difficulties, and more. Its effectiveness lies in its ability to foster deep self-awareness, resolve past conflicts, and support individuals in living more fully in the present.


Gestalt Therapy offers a dynamic and holistic approach to psychotherapy, emphasizing the power of awareness, the present moment, and the therapeutic relationship in fostering personal growth and resolution of psychological distress. Its experiential and creative methodologies make it a deeply engaging and transformative process, capable of addressing a wide array of psychological issues.