What is Gestalt therapy?

Dr. David McGarva writes:

Gestalt psychology illustrationI’d been in the world of psychology and therapy for twenty years, been working with clients for sixteen years, and been a fully licensed therapist for twelve years, and now I was in training in Gestalt therapy (a long term interest) with world-renowned experts. Then, in the third year of the training, some of us were talking about how complex the ideas behind Gestalt therapy are . . . and we noticed none of us could say in a few sentences just what Gestalt therapy is . . .

But how can we be doing what we can’t describe? I decided not to call myself a Gestalt therapist until I could give a simple, clear answer to anyone who asked.

I wrote a short statement. Since then I’ve rewritten it repeatedly, as my understanding of my own passion evolves. It may never be done, because Gestalt has always been a moving target, but here’s what it looks like today (last updated 12/18/2017):

So, what is Gestalt therapy? Gestalt therapy is a natural unscripted conversation between equals. We’re two unique people who haven’t met yet, in a conversation that never happened before. The main goal is to increase your knowledge of how you relate to the world, so that you’re more able to make changes.

What I’ll probably do includes asking questions that help us to look at things in different ways; sometimes sharing things you may not have noticed, or my own reactions, in case they’re useful; and occasionally suggesting experiments to do now or at home.

What I’ll probably not do includes spending time interviewing you in detail about your childhood or other experiences, unless they’re a living part of what’s going on today; acting like I know all about you and your problems; or making decisions for you.

I have no plan for your life. That’s not my job. It’s a human life! and it’s yours! The will, and the courage, to really change it have to be yours too.