Gestalt Therapy Essay

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Pages: 5

Gestalt therapy is a therapeutic approach in psychology that helped foster the humanistic theories of the 1950s and 1960s and that was, in turn, influenced by them. In Gestalt philosophy, the patient is seen as having better insight into himself or herself than the therapist does. Thus, the therapist guides the person on a self-directed path to awareness and refrains from interpreting the patient’s behaviors. Awareness comprises recognition of one’s responsibility for choices, self-knowledge, and ability to solve problems.
Its originators, Frederick S. (Fritz) Perls (1893–1970) and Laura Perls (born Lore Posner, 1905–1990), were born in Germany and studied psychology there. They fled Germany during the Nazi regime, moving to South Africa
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While its controversies with these other systems during the “age of schools” in psychology have receded into history, its major tenets once again became salient toward the end of the twentieth century in such fields as social psychology, cognition, personality psychology, and visual neuroscience.
Gestalt psychology proposed a radical revision of the atomistic view that had prevailed for centuries in Western science and social science. Natural wholes, according to the Gestalt view, are not simply the sum total of their constituent parts. Rather, characteristics of the whole determine the nature of its parts, prescribing the place, role, and function of each part in the unified whole. The Gestalt principle of Prägnanz, furthermore, asserts that the organization of any whole will be as “good” (i.e., balanced, simple, integrated) as the prevailing conditions allow. This insistence on holistic processes applies equally to all integrated wholes, from physical systems such as electrical fields, magnetic fields, and soap films to psychological systems such as cognitive processes, the organization of perception, personality, and social phenomena.
The Gestalt movement is generally viewed (Ash 1995; King and Wertheimer 2005) as having been launched by a series of experiments by Max Wertheimer (1880–1943) on apparent movement published in 1912, although clear indications of a Gestalt