Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Gestalt Therapy, Anyone?

Gestalt Therapy, one of today's popular psychotherapy approaches, is founded by psychotherapist Dr. Fritz Perls. The following well-known Gestalt prayer written by Dr. Perls in the 1960s captures the spirit of this therapeutic approach:

"I do my thing and you do your thing,
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations
And you are not in this world to live up to mine,
You are you and I am I. If by chance, we find each other, it's beautiful.
If not, it can't be helped."

I see a number of strengths in Gestalt Therapy that's helpful in personal healing. Some of these are its emphases on being real and authentic, confronting self-deception and layers of neuroses, taking responsibility for one's self and choices, intense emotional processing, and the need to experience truth in order to be set free. Its focus on the "here and now" can also be a good corrective to being stuck in the past.

However, from my own perspective, I also noted weaknesses in Dr. Perl's Gestalt Therapy.  For instance, Gestalt Therapy holds too positive a view of human nature with its assumption that humans are only inclined towards growth and self-actualization. It misses to consider the inherent darker, "shadow" side of human nature, which is fallen and capable of evil and dysfunction. Also, like other humanistic therapies, Gestalt Therapy does not deal with larger existential questions about death and the meaning to life - the "why" dilemma. It's largely situational, subjective or self-centered focus as foundation for one's life negates absolutes of right and wrong.

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