We invite you to take part in 3 seminars (which we envisage as a combination of virtual and real meetings), that will bring together participants – experts and amateurs, gestaltists and non-gestaltists, to critically interrogate some of the key questions facing us as a gestalt community. We see these seminars as part of the beginning of a process, rather than as standalone events. If the kind of questions we are asking resonate with you, please sign up for the series and help us to navigate them. Equally if you think we’ve got the questions wrong please help us reframe the problems.
Most of us train as gestalt therapists because we push against some aspects of our psychological inheritance - e.g.:
- the tendency to pathologize, - a focus on the past
- childhood and individual narrative,
- an emphasis on ‘self’ over society.
As gestaltists we aspire to do things differently, yet we remain part of a wider set of psychotherapeutic cultures, communities, and systems that frame the limits of our practice - systems defined by accreditation bodies, training institutes, measurement of outcomes, and individual therapy - to name a few of it’s aspects. Some argue that gestalt should work within these pre-existing structures - they see gestalt as a therapy; others advocate more of a ‘system-challenging’ application. These fundamental differences are fudged within the broad church that is the gestalt community. By and large, the founding literature also fails to take a clear stance on these issues and our founders and key forebears have subsequently taken different views.
So what should we do about it? Our provocation for this conference series is that important discussion is obscured by this marriage of convenience.
Via a series of three virtual conferences/symposia, combined with real meetings in places where there is critical mass, we will bring together a mixture of older and newer voices, gestaltists and non-gestaltists, hoping to tease out different aspects of gestalt’s identity.
Be part of a community coming together before the seminars via web-forum to share ideas, and help to refine/focus the questions, bringing interested and interesting people together before the live event.
- Come listen in and participate on the day(s) – we will design the days so that most content is built out of the conversations you have.
- Workshop the issues via small groups/ constellation / experiment.
- Help to define the challenges, narrow down the problems
- Contribute to conference outputs – papers, actions, networking.
We will host conferences on Zoom videoconferencing software which allows for 100 + participants, “break out rooms”, and the possibility of combining virtual and real meetings.
Part 1 – 26th October 2019
Part 2 – 25th January 2020
Part 3 – 25th April 2020
In order to make these seminars equally affordable to people in different countries we ask that you contribute what you earn for an hour of therapy in your country to take part in 1 day.
Trainee places are free.
Spirit versus Pathology; Gestalt:
who are we? Where are we at?
It is not clear from the literature whether gestalt is a therapy, or a philosophy with wider application – a ‘way of life’. If it is a therapy as in ‘Gestalt Therapy’, then are we doing enough to shake off some of the problematic aspects of our psychotherapeutic history and culture? If broader than a therapy, what are the implications of the gestalt philosophy for the structure of individual therapy – we will come on to look at this more explicitly in Part 3.
- Is gestalt simply a way of doing therapy, or does it make claims to be something more like a creed or a values system - is it a ‘theory of everything’?
- What is the place of ‘soul’ in gestalt therapy? How does gestalt therapy fit with and make sense of spiritual experience?; should we seek to integrate spirit within gestalt therapy - or does spirit walk a different path?
- Has our focus on relationality made us into ‘flat earthers’ occluding awareness of other dimensions/realms of experience?
- How does an aesthetic sensibility fit with “measurement” culture – if ever the twain shall meet.
- As gestaltists, what responsibility do we have for public discourse/ perception of psychotherapy?
- What are you into that doesn’t fit with gestalt therapy? What do you hide from your training institute? What do you draw on from other modalities that you don’t find in gestalt therapy – e.g. myth, energy psychology, constellation?
Gestalt: the narcissistic client?
How do we relate to brand ‘Psychotherapy’; and to other modalities?
With field theory and our theory of the self, gestalt has its own ontology. After the seventies, and prompted by the fear that we had little credibility, gestalt therapy became uber academic, as a way of bolstering it’s status. Have our forebears made gestalt/gestalt therapy into the privilege of an elite?
Gestalt therapy has never become hugely popular, yet we can legitimately claim to have influenced a number of other psychotherapies. What sense do we make of our fragile self-process? Are we the chosen ones – capable of grasping something that eludes the common man? Or are we missing something? What are we missing?
- “We only talk to ourselves, our heritage is very academic, and yet we’re hurt that nobody listens to us”.... So ARE WE better than everybody else?
- Why does gestalt therapy have limited audience? /Why has it never become more popular?/ Have we lost - or indeed never had - the common touch?
- How do we understand all this from within a gestalt lens? Does any of it matter?
- How do non gestaltists see us?
- What might need to change/ What might we do differently?
- How do we learn to make friends?
Therapy in the empty chair:
is the gestalt model compatible with individual therapy? The ailments of professionalism.
Gestalt is taught as a therapy. Our main book is called ‘Gestalt Therapy’. And yet gestalt as applied to wider society/systems might mean diagnosing ‘individual therapy’ as a sign of ailment within a wider culture. Supposing that rather than only tackling individual mental un-wellbeing, we looked instead more deeply at how therapy functions within our culture and society. What might we discover? What might we end up doing differently?
- Does it make sense that we spend up to five years training to practice a modality that teaches us that clients are the experts?
- Is the structure/ or public perception of therapy – with it’s focus on the individual – inherently pathologising? What role does individual therapy play within wider systems and cultures? What are the alternatives – as practice and discourse?
- How does the therapy model propagate exclusivity and elitism?
- Does therapy function even, as some argue, as a prop to capitalism – “the commodification of therapy”? And to what extent is ‘mental illness’ understandable as a response to current modes of social organisation?
- What is therapy’s implicit change model at the social or ecological level? What other ways are there of generating societal impact?
- What is our responsibility as therapists and as gestalt therapists for social justice and for ecological and planetary wellbeing?
- Given the coming inevitability of unparalleled environmental catastrophe, are these conversations tantamount to ‘dancing whilst Rome burns’? What instead should we be talking about?
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