Therapy Corner With Gestalt Therapy

Close-up photo of a man's green eyes locked in thought
Image credit: photo by Quinten de Graaf on Unsplash.

How many of us feel like we are on a swing set of thought, one that pulls us back into memories of our past, then forward into thoughts of the future? All our time is spent thinking of what was or could be. This narrow path leaves one feeling trapped. On this swing set, you don’t have the room to be here in the present.

Learning To Be Here, Now

When Fritz and Laura Perls developed Gestalt therapy in the 1940’s, they had just this issue in mind:

  • Gestalt therapy is built around the idea of stopping that swing and being present in the here and now.
  • It encourages the client to tune into their own sensations as they experience them.

Rather than passively talking about an issue, the individual talks about their feelings as they discuss what is troubling them. The focus is on bringing the unresolved past into the present, and dealing with all of the grief, anger, sadness, abandonment, and loss now.

It is not uncommon in Gestalt therapy to hear the words, “Feel it out.” Therapists encourage their patients to sit with their feelings and talk about where the emotions are experienced and what they are saying.

In the instance of a young divorcee, she may feel anger when talking about her ex as a tightness in her chest. Awareness is placed on the physical expression of emotions.

The Whole Picture

Gestalt therapy reflects an idea that the mind, body, and spirit are all important to one’s health, and must be viewed as a whole, rather than in parts:

  • A person’s dreams, thoughts, feelings, behavior, and body sensation all represent the bigger picture.
  • By integrating these parts, a person can better understand who they are, as well as how they interact with others.

Because a person’s whole self is valued so highly in Gestalt therapy, the therapist treats the client as an expert on themselves. After all, who knows you better than you do?

Rather than interpreting, the therapist encourages the client to discover themselves. This brings about heightened self-awareness and ultimately, greater self-acceptance.

Benefits Of Gestalt Therapy

The benefits of being in the present moment are enormous:

  • For those suffering from anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD,) or borderline personality disorder, learning to integrate and be whole can relieve a tremendous amount of tension.
  • Experiencing oneself can be liberating and ultimately healing.

Therapists who practice Gestalt therapy do so with great respect for the person they are working with. They empower the client to learn mindfulness (a deeper level of awareness), ownership of their feelings, skills to self-support, and a path to peace of mind.

Getting Off The Swing

Because Gestalt therapy is based off the idea that unresolved or unexpressed feelings result in the behaviors, thoughts, compulsions, and patterns we find ourselves stuck in, experiencing these feelings can help us break free of the back-and-forth between past and future.

Being present is the first step toward feeling whole. With awareness, we all can step off that swing set and be in the here and now.


Many of our therapists at Nassau Guidance & Counseling integrate Gestalt therapy into the wide range of techniques and approaches they practice. Our client care consultants can match you with one of our Long Island psychotherapists who will be a great complement to your individual needs. Call us at (516) 221-9494 for more information.

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