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A Humanistic approach

Gestalt therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach that places a strong emphasis on fostering awareness, exploring one's present experiences, and gaining insights into patterns of behavior and thought. It finds its roots in various philosophical and psychological currents, with notable influences from Gestalt psychology, pragmatism, existentialism, and holism.

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No. 14, 1960 by Mark Rothko

Gestlat Psychologie 

  • Gestaltism is a current of psychology, developed in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century, mainly thanks to the work of Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler. They emphasized how individuals perceive and organize their experience in terms of "gestalts" or meaningful configurations. The key idea was that perception is more than the sum of its parts.

Pragmatisme

Pragmatism is a philosophical perspective that emphasizes the practical consequences and real-world implications of beliefs, actions, and ideas and finding what works. In Gestalt therapy, this translates to focusing on the here and now, experimenting with different behaviors, and discovering effective ways to cope with life's challenges.

Holism

  • At the core of Gestalt therapy is the concept of holism, which means considering individuals as interconnected with their environment. It's like viewing a puzzle as a whole picture rather than separate pieces. This holistic approach helps clients understand themselves better within their broader context.

Existentialisme 

  • Existentialism is a philosophy that explores the nature of human existence, individual freedom and responsibility. Existential concepts such as authenticity, anxiety and freedom have been integrated into Gestalt therapy to help individuals become aware of their existence and their choices.

Phenomenology

Gestalt therapy embraces a phenomenological perspective, which means it examines how the individual experiences and interprets the world from their unique point of view. This approach encourages and compels the therapist to adopt a stance of non-judgmental suspension, closely observing "their" perception. It also empowers the client to become aware of their subjective experience

Gestalt therapy, originating in the United States after World War II, has undergone several key stages in its development and evolution over the decades. It adapts to its time and is a constantly evolving approach, actively engaging with research and today, incorporating and benefiting from advances in neuroscience.

Gestalt therapy history and evolution

From 1940 to 1950

Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy, was a German Jewish psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who was compelled to go into exile in South Africa in 1933. He drew inspiration from various philosophical currents of the 20th century, including Existentialism, Holism, and Gestaltism. Over time, he distanced himself from psychoanalysis.

In 1951, in collaboration with a team in New York, which included his wife Laura Perls and Paul Goodman, Fritz Perls delineated the foundational principles of Gestalt therapy. They published the seminal work "Gestalt Therapy," which established the groundwork for a therapeutic approach where the individual (referred to as the organism) is viewed as inseparable from their environment.

This approach introduced an innovative paradigm in psychotherapy, emphasizing the concept of "contact." In contrast to approaches that focus primarily on the patient's personality, structure, internal conflicts, or cognitive patterns, Gestalt therapy places a central emphasis on how individuals relate to others and their immediate surroundings.

From 1960 to 1990

Gestalt therapy has been steadily gaining popularity, in large part due to its alignment with the counterculture movement. It has earned a reputation as a therapeutic approach that places a strong emphasis on authenticity, personal growth, individual responsibility, and heightened self-awareness. The approach resonates with individuals seeking a deeper connection to their inner selves and a sense of empowerment.

This surge in popularity has been facilitated by the publication of writings and the establishment of training programs aimed at disseminating Gestalt therapy principles. It has also led to the emergence of new schools of thought and influential practitioners within the field. Additionally, specific adaptations of Gestalt therapy, such as group therapy sessions, have been created to meet the diverse needs of clients.

Following its expansion in North America during the 1970s and 1980s, Gestalt therapy found its way to Europe and France. This diffusion was made possible through two primary avenues: firstly, the arrival of experienced North American Gestalt therapists who shared their expertise in Europe, and secondly, the commitment of European individuals who chose to initiate and undergo training in North America, particularly in the United States and Canada. This cross-cultural exchange helped solidify Gestalt therapy's presence on the international therapeutic landscape

2000 to present

Gestalt therapy is evolving to incorporate elements from neuroscience and research in psychology. This integration draws upon the growing body of knowledge about the brain and how it processes human experience. Gestalt therapy is being updated with insights from neuroscience in several ways:

  1. Understanding Brain Mechanisms: Gestalt therapists are increasingly interested in comprehending the brain's mechanisms related to perception, memory, emotions, and emotional regulation. This understanding helps therapists better grasp how individuals experience the world and how they can modify their thought and behavior patterns.

  2. Integration of Bodily Processes: While Gestalt therapy has always integrated the body into its approach, this integration is strengthened by enhanced knowledge of how the body and brain interact. Techniques for emotional regulation based on somatic (bodily sensation) experiences are increasingly utilized.

  3. Focus on the Here and Now: Awareness and exploration of the present experience remain at the core of Gestalt therapy. Neuroscience supports this approach by demonstrating how attention to immediate experience can facilitate personal transformation and change.

  4. Integration of Mindfulness Approaches: Mindfulness practices are increasingly integrated into Gestalt therapy, with an emphasis on mindfulness meditation and mindful presence.

By incorporating insights from neuroscience and psychology research, Gestalt therapy continues to evolve, offering a richer understanding of human experience and more effective tools for personal growth and transformation.

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