According to Corsini: “The only goal of therapy is awareness.” (Corsini, Wedding, p.345.) By this he means to emphasise the crucial importance of becoming truly self-aware. The goal is for clients to become aware of what they are doing, how they are doing it, and how they can change themselves, and at the same time, to learn to accept and value themselves. Positive change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not. From a relational (or field theory) perspective, change occurs when we change our relationship to the supports in our environment or increase the supports that are available in the environment. Attention is paid to a person’s whole life experience – physical, psychological, intellectual, emotional, interpersonal and spiritual. Each of these interconnected aspects of living is considered inseparable from a person’s immediate context, personal history, culture, relationships, hopes and aspirations for the future.
By learning to follow their own ongoing process, and to fully experience, accept, and appreciate their complete selves, clients can free themselves to make more appropriate, spontaneous and creative contact with the environment. Growth and positive change are a natural result of this self-awareness. The client is encouraged to take increased awareness of herself, to assume ownership of one’s experiences, to become more aware of all of one’s senses and emotions, and hence the way we come to view things. But how do we gain our views? We get them from the way the mind takes information from the senses and gives meaning to it. Gestalt theory talks a lot about foreground and background, where foreground is that information selected by the unconscious and which is bought to conscious awareness, background is all the other information available to the senses that is not chosen for our awareness, but interestingly, our subconscious can still respond to (this is vital to understand when we consider what we are trying to achieve with hypnotic suggestion work).
In Gestalt work, the client develops the skills and acquires values that satisfy her own requirements but that are consistent with the needs of others in the environment around her, accepting responsibility for the consequences of her actions. The client needs to lose the temptation to blame others, or to blame situations that arise, to become more aware of distractions and to stop constructing excuses for poor advancement towards the desired outcome.
It is very important that the client becomes familiar with her own resources and develops a strong sense of self-reliance, thus allowing her to cope with life’s ups and downs, independent of the therapist. At the same time, despite the emphasis on self-reliance, she will still be able to ask for, and get help from others.
Gestalt practise deals in the here and now and avoids getting stuck in the past.” Now” is this exact moment, that brief time between past and present. “Awareness=present time=reality.” (Fritz Perls, You tube video, Fritz Perls and Gloria). By concentrating on what exactly we are experiencing in this moment, we can further develop self-awareness and growth.
Sylvester, Trevor (author) Wordweaving Vol 1 (The Quest Institute publishing, Burwell 2009).
Corsini,Raymond and Wedding, Danny, (Authors) Current Psychotherapies 8ed, (Thomson Brooks/Cole, 2008).
Perls, Frederick, (author) Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, Real People Press, 1969.