Gestalt therapy: what it is, concepts, goals, how it works

The main theorist in the field was Fritz Perls. In the 1950s, he combined concepts from gestalt psychology with other theories and philosophies to give rise to a therapeutic approach focused on the development of the individual’s potential.

The approach is focused on the current moment (time) and space (environment), which are basic concepts of care. The goal is to build the person’s understanding and maturity.

Thus, it is not the therapist who solves or alleviates the problems, but rather leads the person to acceptance and responsibility for himself.

What is gestalt therapy?

Gestalt therapy is a therapeutic approach based on gestalt psychology, a school of psychology that studies phenomena of human perception and has as its maxim the phrase “the whole is not equal to the sum of its parts”.

The method does not focus on the patient’s illness and problems. In addition, in service, the person is called a client, emphasizing that it is not a process of disease and cure, but of development.

It can be used both in individual and group therapy. It can also be used in the service of couples, family orientation and even in the corporate environment.

In this approach, the individual as a whole is worked on, following the philosophy of gestalt psychology that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

In this sense, the individual’s emotions, perceptions and behaviors come together to form his personality, unique and with different characteristics of its separate parts.

It is also called contact therapy, referring to contact with yourself, your needs and the environment.

In gestalt therapy, the client’s disorder is not seen as a disease that needs to be cured, but as a part of his personality that can be developed to ensure a better quality of life.

A person who is suffering from depression , for example, together with the psychotherapist, will work the different spheres of life so that the parts of his personality develop to their full potential. As a result, depressive symptoms tend to disappear.

Therefore, we do not work to reinforce or deny the causes of the problems, but we try to help the client to be aware of what is happening. In this way, it facilitates the development of the person’s ability to change their own reality.

According to gestalt therapy, the subject himself is capable of transforming what bothers him, but often does not. Thus, the person ends up acting incoherently in the face of his needs, desires, thoughts and feelings due to a lack of awareness of himself.

What is the purpose of gestalt therapy?

The goal of gestalt therapy is to assist the client in developing their potential to live a full life. Focusing on the here and now, we seek to improve the client’s relationship with himself and with the environment around him, helping him to understand and deal with his own emotions and solve his problems.

Through gestalt therapy, a global awareness of the client is promoted in relation to himself / herself and the world in which he / she lives. In this way, the person effectively acquires responsibility for himself and favors his own development.

Gestalt therapy concepts

Some important concepts worked on in gestalt therapy are:

Here and now

Gestalt therapy is an approach focused on the here and now, seeking to examine situations as they appear in the present.

The past is not all denied, but it is investigated by the way it manifests itself in the present moment.

It is only in the present moment that the person can act, so all the work is done starting from the current moment so that the client can modify what causes discomfort.

Awareness ( awareness )

Awareness is one of the key points of gestalt therapy. It is through it that the necessary transformations for the development of each person are possible.

For there to be awareness, it is first necessary to understand what happens in life, both inside and outside. For that, attention is needed.

Then, in order to be able to change and develop, it is necessary to accept. You can only change what is accepted as truth. What is not accepted is not dealt with, as its existence is denied.

When a person realizes and accepts the factors that cause his unhappiness, he becomes aware of what happens in his life.


For gestalt therapy, the individual is always developing. Because of this, he needs to take responsibility for what he does and feels, for his experiences, for the things he fails to do, without trying to blame other people for the things that happen in his life.

It is not a matter of blaming the client completely, but of facilitating the perception of things that can be changed. Thus, it helps the person to seek and achieve their own goals.

How does it work?

A gestalt therapy session can be similar to other psychotherapies for those who do not know, but there are some significant differences.

There is no average treatment time, but the client can already see the effectiveness of the therapy in a few months, depending on each case. The frequency of meetings should be at least once a week.

First of all, the relationship between therapist and client is fundamental and needs to happen in a genuine way.

The relationship between client and therapist is more like two people talking on equal terms, so that the client can broaden their perception and assign their own meanings to the content worked on in therapy.

The therapist may ask the client’s life story with specific questions in the first session, but will be more concerned with the way that story is told in the present moment than with the events themselves.

From the second section on, the therapist stops asking specific questions and encourages the client to say what bothers him / her at the present moment, without attaching himself / herself to a pre-programmed script.

The way of communicating has a lot to say about the person’s contact and awareness of their environment.

When a client makes a complaint about a particular situation, for example, the therapist tries to help him suspend his perceptions and feelings, which are often distorted. Thus, it is possible to see the situation as it really is.

This focus on things as they are promotes an expansion of the client’s awareness, which in turn starts to take responsibility for their mistakes and successes.


Psychology approaches are quite varied and aim, in general, to improve people’s well-being. Gestalt-therapy is one of them, which works to understand clients and their experiences and feelings.

Treatment should always be carried out by trained specialists, seeking to stabilize or improve mental and physical health .

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