Gestalt Therapy: Overcoming the Challenges of Childhood

Feb 28, 2023
Gestalt Therapy: Overcoming the Challenges of Childhood

 “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, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful."
― Fritz Perls 

We've all been there. That moment in our lives where we wish we could go back and change things. We would take back that hurtful thing we said to our best friend. We would stop ourselves from making that impulsive purchase that we now regret. if only we could have a do-over. Unfortunately, life doesn't work like that. But what if I told you there was a way to relive those moments? A way to change the outcome? To have the do-over you've always wanted? Enter Gestalt therapy.

Gestalt therapy is "a form of psychotherapy which emphasizes personal responsibility and focuses on an individual's experience in the present moment, opting for real-life experiments over talking about past experiences" (Wikipedia, n.d.). In layman's terms, it's a type of therapy that allows you to revisit past traumas and change the way you react to them. It's a chance to have that do-over you've always wanted.

The historical background of Gestalt therapy is rooted in the ideas of Fritz Perls, Laura Perls, and Paul Goodman. These three individuals were major contributors to the field of humanistic psychology, which is "concerned with helping people achieve their fullest potential" (Plante, 2007). Gestalt therapy was born out of their efforts to create a more holistic approach to mental health treatment.

Esalen played a pivotal role in the development of Gestalt therapy. Esalen is "a nonprofit American retreat center and communal studying located at Big Sur in California" (Esalen Institute, n.d.). It was here that Fritz Perls led some of the first Gestalt therapy sessions in 1962. These sessions were so well-received by participants that Perls ended up leading numerous workshops at Esalen over the next few years. These workshops helped spread the word about Gestalt therapy and solidified its place in the world of psychology.

One of the most powerful tools used in Gestalt therapy is called "the empty chair." The empty chair technique is when "the therapist has the client imagine that someone important in his or her life is sitting in an empty chair across from him or her, and then invites the client to speak directly to this person as if he or she were actually present" (Plante, 2007). This technique allows individuals to confront their fears and speak their truth without actually having to face the source of their trauma head-on. It's a way to safely explore difficult emotions and start working through them.

Another common technique used in Gestalt therapy is called "using the here and now." This technique "requires clients to focus on present experiences rather than worrying about past events or future outcomes" (Plante, 2007). This helps individuals stay present and focused on what they're experiencing in the moment instead of getting lost in their thoughts about what has happened or what might happen.


Gestalt therapy is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to help people heal from past traumas. If you're looking for a way to have a do-over on some of your life's most painful moments, Gestalt therapy may be right for you.

 Photo credit: Tolga Ulkan @Unsplash

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