What is Gestalt?

The dictionary defines Gestalt as….an integrated group of acts, experiences, which functions as a whole over and above the sum of its parts. Or, a structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts.

Gestalt is simply a word, like any other, with dictionary definition and real content. Gestalt to us is a principal. It is a way of living that values all of who we are: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. We believe each part constantly interacts with the other to produce a whole person and that shutting down any one or all of the parts leads to an unhealthy life. Gestalt is an awareness. It is a style. Gestalt Principles are skills or tools we can use to help us keep on track. As a tool, Gestalt is used by trained therapists to help, support, coach and maybe even cajole the client to become aware of themselves and make good, healthy contact in the world with themselves, their environment, and most importantly, themselves. By working with clients in this way, Gestalt therapists can get to the heart of the matter very quickly, helping us create solutions and new ways of thinking thereby freeing us of some of the excess baggage that we carry through life, and allowing us to be open to new experiences.

We define Gestalt therapy as…a lively and holistic experiential approach to healing and personal growth that emphasizes the development of awareness — emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual, and the capacity to make healthy contact with one’s self, others, and the environment.

And we think you’d be like this description of Gestalt by a former student.

Gestalt Is…

Gestalt...moment-to-moment awareness, slowing down grounding, living in my body. Feeling contact - my feet with the ground, my food in my mouth, my breath moving in and out, my hand on yours, my eyes and yours...together and apart...coming and going, in and out in this dance. Feeling what is here...pain, or fear, or joy or sorrow...knowing it is all human and real and necessary for the wholeness of life in this moment.

Receiving myself, tenderly, gently, with love. Receiving from others and the world...”a sponge not a sieve”. Emptying myself to receive others in wonderment, in awe, who will emerge?

Giving to me and to others...being with...encouraging the process...feeling open or blocked, whatever it is is okay. Embracing reality. No judgment. Whatever is here is right and will lead to wholeness.

Going in or out...either way will bring me home...into contact.

Moving with the energy, not against it. Allowing time, space, and not allowing abuse. Choosing what is right--what supports life. Responsibility for one’s own being. Protection for those who are too young, or too old, or too weak. Setting boundaries to keep us safe and then Opening to love. Softening to love. Learning to love. Love is here always, healing is here, how do we keep ourselves away? When did we split, and where did we leave our lost selves? Search and find them, reunite. Heal the separations. Laughing and crying can happen together. Love and hate and joy and sorrow, all mixed up inside us, we are complex and diverse----multi-faceted jeweled beings. Softness and hardness, masculine and feminine, giving and receiving, we need all parts of ourselves. Learning how to use ourselves appropriately--Ah!! That is the art...the part that takes time, experience, wisdom, integrity, knowledge, skill, the lifelong road we walk, one step at a time----one moment in time----and everyday I give thanks to the divine wisdom that when the journey gets too long, I can always come back home, here, to this instant, in this room, with you.

Nancy Shapiro
May 3, 1994