Gestalt Techniques

Gestalt therapy uses an existential approach and considers a clients "here and now." The initial goal for a client is to gain awareness of what they are experiencing and doing at that time in their life. This type of therapy encourages the client to directly experience a situation rather than talk about it. For example, if they experienced childhood trauma, they will be encouraged to become the hurt child rather than just talk about it. Therefore the therapists goal is to assist their self-awareness of what they are doing and how they are doing it.
This awareness includes insight, self-acceptance, knowledge of ones environment, a responsibility for choices and an understanding of the concept of change. For the client - they will experience a discovery - they will realize new things about themselves, see old situations in a new light and look differently at significant others. As well, they will recognize that they have a choice in their lives and that they may behave differently, influence their own environment, deal with daily surprises and have the confidence to improve and

To succeed in bringing the client this awareness, the technique are used:
Ø      language exercises
Ø       Internal dialogue exercise
Ø      Making the rounds
Ø      Rehearsal exercise
Ø      Reversal technique
Ø      Staying with feeling
Ø      Exaggeration exercise
Ø      I take responsibility for
Ø      Guided fantasy
Ø      Playing the projection
Ø      The hot seat

Therapeutic Techniques of Gestalt Theory

1- language exercises:

Language exercises focusing on habits of speech to raise self awareness, living in present, and to be close to ourselves, and it consists;
·         You-ness exercise: “you” is a way to escape from taking responsibility, and we replace “you” into “I”
·         I/You: it is another way to escape from responsibility and we replace “you” into “I” too. For example; we don’t say it is frightening to come to the therapy, but we says; I’m afraid.
·         Language that deny the power: we replace I can’t into I don’t want to.
·         Replacing “must” by “I chose”
·         The questions: we don’t use “why” we use “what & how”.  

2- Internal dialogue exercise:

The Internal Dialogue experiment helps the client identify struggles in their lives for control. In order to do so they role play the conflicts they experience - being both the controlled and the controller at the same time, and to bring to the surface all the issues that are inside. Used to help the client get in touch with other views or other aspects of self.(psychologycampus.com)
There are two techniques in the internal dialogue;
  • Top dog (critical parent) and underdog (victim).
  • The empty chair. “client speaks to an empty chair as if it were another person or another part of the client”.
One chair will represent the ‘top dog’, which is to symbolize the archetype of the authoritarian and self-righteous ‘critical parent’ who is more focused on what we ‘should’ and ‘ought’ to do. The other chair will represent the ‘underdog’, which is to symbolize the archetype of the passive and helpless victim. Both the ‘top dog’ and ‘underdog’ represent the polarities of our personality that we have ‘introjected’ (aspects of others that we’ve incorporated into ourselves).
It’s also present ourselves and another person to make a conversation with him/her, like; father, mother, wife, husband, or any other person we deal with in our like and affects us in unpleasant way.  

3- Making the rounds:
The Making the Rounds experiment helps a person be able to make confrontations, take risks, disclose themselves and try new behaviors to grow and change. To do so, the client must go around a group of people and speak to each of them or do something with each of them.
Talk to them about something you don’t usually say in verbal way to the others, to discover and confront himself. And say “What makes it hard for me trust you is……”
Making the rounds may be appropriate in the middle of a working session for a quite different reason. Someone may be engaged in an empty-chair dialogue related to a present existential dilemma or a past source of a frustrating personal pattern and reach an impasse where she stops herself from moving farther. In some cases the facilitator will probably conclude that working with the pattern of blocking and stopping is apt to be most helpful, following Wilhelm Reich's dictum that "the resistance becomes the center of the work." In other cases the facilitator may intuitively feel that the person is right on the brink of being ready to move past the stopping point. In that case, a go-around can be a way of stepping back from the block and doing something else, which allows the person to relax her defenses. Then after the encounter with other group members, she may be willing to move right into dealing with the situation or pattern she avoided before the go-around. Metaphorically, this is a way of addressing an emotionally-loaded situation by going around to the back door when walking right in through the front door feels too threatening(Grant, 2004)

4- Rehearsal exercise:

Rehearsal exercise is to make a conversation with your self, you may get stuck when rehearsing silently or internally so share the rehearsals out load with a therapist, it help us to become more aware of things in our head.
The Rehearsal exercise involves behavioral rehearsal too, where the client role plays a new behavior that they have learned with a person or people in their environment. This is done to reduce stage fright, anxiety or fear that may be felt if they feel they are not performing their new behavior correctly. This encourages spontaneity and a willingness to experiment with new behaviors. (psychologycampus.com)

5- Reversal technique:

 In the Reversal Technique experiment, the client is asked to role play the opposite symptoms and behaviors from what they are suffering. This helps the client to accept the personal attributes that they have tried to deny (psychologycampus.com). Perls believed parts of us other than what people see.

6- Staying with feeling:
One of the things as a therapist we need to do is look for client’s emotions that want to go away so that we can emphasize it and call their attention to it not avoiding it so that you can work through the fears and helps to make way for new levels of growth, but it also takes courage and pain.

7- Exaggeration Exercise:
Counselor exaggerates mannerism of client or asks client to exaggerate mannerism in order to make client aware of true feelings.  The Exaggeration exercise consists of exaggerating mannerism, movement or gesture repeatedly to intensify feelings attached to behavior to make inner meanings clearer and in order to make client aware of true feelings. For example - they will be asked to make a frown or a facial grimace.

8- “I take responsibility for”:
Clients need to take responsibility and not shift it on anyone can be added to one of the client's statements.

9- Guided Fantasy:
Client is encouraged to visualize here & now experiences, we can use fantasy when the client feel threaten in dealing with his/her problems, the client can imagine them selves have assertiveness and to explore their feeling of shame or guilt. Thus, the client will live all this feeling now and here.

10-  Playing the Projection:
Client is asked to play the role of the person who they are not connecting with or hate to see or meet. For example: “I don’t trust that guy” so; can you play the role of the guy who don’t deserve to be trusted?.

11- The Hot Seat:

            The hot seat is a group therapy’s technique used to raise self awareness, which the leader ask the member who want to set on the hot seat to start talking about a problem facing his life in present tense “here & now” and it takes from 10 to 30 minuets, the leader works on provocation the client in aggression way to help the client reach to the  real problem, it’s advantages:
  • Raise sense of community on the client
  • Give him a chance to make self disclosure not only to the counselor but also to the group members.
  • The group members learn from each others about themselves.( (الزيود، 2002  


1)      Grant K. Sheila, (Psychology 460 Counseling and Interviewing) handout. California State University, 2004.

 (3الزيود، نادر، نظريات الارشاد والعلاج النفسي: ط2. دار الفكر، عمان، 2002

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