Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy is an experiential and humanistic approach to supporting human growth and development; gestalt therapy pays close attention to the quality of relationship between a person (or group), and their situation. The therapy involves a focussed exploration of the ‘here and now’ present moment as experienced in the relationship between psychotherapist and patient. This process supports the patient in three ways: firstly, by enabling them to connect with and own their feelings, thoughts and physical sensations; secondly, by deepening awareness of habitual patterns of thinking and relating, which may not be serving them well, and therefore perpetuating any emotional distress; and finally, in the case of more severe suffering (and psychopathology) enhancing their awareness of how their suffering is triggered in certain situations, and enabling them to develop a repertoire of social-emotional and behavioural responses to re-establish their equilibrium.

The roots of Gestalt therapy make it an essentially dialogical and relational approach, where despite their knowledge and expertise, the psychotherapist does not place themselves in the position of expert; positioning themselves instead as an engaged companion supporting a mutual exploration of what is going on in the patient’s life.

Since Gestalt therapy is flexible, creative, and works directly with fixed patterns of behaviour, it is well-suited to short-term as well as long-term therapy. This adaptability is an asset when dealing with managed care and issues related to funding mental health treatment for individuals, couples, families and groups.

Many Gestalt practices have been assimilated by other psychotherapy modalities (e.g. Schema therapy), and comparative studies of psychotherapy have provided evidence that the effects of Gestalt therapy are at least comparable to those of other forms of therapy – or in some cases more effective and enduring.

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Psychotherapists are required to engage in extensive personal psychotherapy during their training which is up to seven years duration. Psychotherapists usually have a first degree followed by a professional, highly specialised, theoretical and clinical training which includes research methodology and continuous professional development. The EAP promotes the recognition of common standards of training throughout Europe, and will ensure their mobility across member states.