What Is Gestalt Therapy?

What is Gestalt Therapy?

“The ‘Gestalt therapy’ is not a collection of techniques, but the transmission of an attitude, a form of being in life.”

Claudio Naranjo

Gestalt therapy belongs to the so-called humanistic therapies and shows influences of psychoanalysis and oriental philosophies. Just like the other humanistic therapies, the type of psychotherapy does not focus on the illness, but rather on creating health from the possibilities and strengths of one’s own person.

“The therapy works far too well to be limited to the sick.”

Erving and Miriam Polster

Authors such as the psychiatrist Fritz Perls, the psychologist Laura Perls and the sociologist Paul Goodman were the main founders of this humanistic psychotherapy, gestalt therapy.

Over time , Gestalt therapy split into two currents : one movement founded by Laura Perls, which focuses more on the theoretical process, and the other by Fritz Perls, which focuses on the lived process of personal development.

In this last movement there is currently an important personality, Claudio Naranjo, the clear successor of Fritz Perls. He is dedicated to the further development of Gestalt therapy and enjoys worldwide renown. As a pioneer in transpersonal psychology, he is also known for integrating psychotherapy and spirituality.

Basic rules of Gestalt therapy

Here and now : Gestalt therapy places great emphasis on the here and now, on the present moment. This means that everything happens in the now, since the past no longer exists and the future is not there yet.

The here (spatial) and now (temporal) are fundamental concepts from oriental philosophy. For Gestalt therapy, they mean maturation and growth at the same time , so that the individual takes responsibility for himself with the help of self-support.

Here and now

Respect and acceptance of the experience : Paying attention to the experience means a deep connection to the present moment. The acceptance of the experience can only take place by becoming aware of what has been experienced.

In gestalt therapy, respect means taking care of yourself, understanding the feelings that are evoked in a certain situation, so that there is no escape from the experience.

Regardless of whether you feel fear, anger, joy or rejection, it is important to first become aware of it (another key concept of therapy) so that what you are living in the moment can be accepted.

If this does not happen, something is suppressed and this sensation or feeling remains blocked and thus creates a strong discomfort and psychosomatic effects (influencing the body by psychological processes).

Responsibility : Responsibility is a fundamental principle in Gestalt therapy and requires that a person who is in the process of personal development should first and foremost take responsibility for all their actions and feelings, for everything that they experience in their experience. In this way, she does not seek guilt in others or in the circumstances of what just happened.

As soon as the individual is able to take responsibility for himself through becoming aware, he will be able to change something and spontaneously take the reins of his own life in hand.

“To be responsible also means to be present, to be here. And real presence means living consciously. Consciousness is incompatible with the illusion of irresponsibility that we want to avoid in our lives. “

Claudio Naranja

The following points are the basic rules of Gestalt therapy, established by Claudio Naranjo:

  1. Live now, that is, care about the present rather than the past or the future.
  2. Live here. Connect with what is present rather than what is absent.
  3. Stop dreaming. Experience the reality.
  4. Let go of unnecessary thoughts. Rather try to feel and observe.
  5. Try to express yourself instead of manipulating, explaining, justifying, or judging.
  6. Face displeasure and pain as well as pleasure; don’t limit your awareness.
  7. Don’t accept that anyone has to or should do more than yourself.
  8. Make yourself fully responsible for your actions, feelings, and thoughts.
  9. Accept being who you are.

These rules show the essence of Gestalt therapy, which sets a broad and deep process of personal development in motion.

The Gestalt therapists see their patients as people who arrive with a repertoire of potential that is sufficient to overcome any obstacle and to experience their own happiness.

“Remember that your patient is a capable and complete individual who can do difficult things without you doing them for him, who can face pain, who can go wrong, and learn from his own mistakes. Respect his resilience, his ability to deal with negative things independently, respect his healthy and adaptable part, his means, his self-support and his human potential. “

Fritz Perls, 1974


Peñarrubia, F. (1998). Terapia shape: La vía del vacío fértil . Published by Alianza Editorial. (not available in German)


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