Sunday, January 3, 2010

Shane's thoughts as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor on "Empty Chair Technique"

The empty chair technique, if I understand correctly, aids a consumer to express their feelings directly to the person that the client associates a particular emotion or action without fear of reprisal.

I believe that aid would be a useful tool because it would help a consumer express their frustrations and allow them to reason within themselves as to why they feel and/of react to particular situations or encounters with particular stressors. In my experience with one of my consumers the chair technique was an extremely beneficial aid. My consumer was experiencing a stressful work-related issue that involved with a peer. My consumer was experiencing feelings of being treated unfairly and dreaded being around this particular co-worker. This consumer accepted my invitation to meet with me at which time I introduced the empty chair technique. I showed them the empty chair and asked if they would imagine their co-worker sitting in it, and if they would be comfortable talking to the chair and simultaneously imagining the dreaded co-worker seated in the chair. Once my consumer processed through the embarrassment phase, their talking to the co-worker was extremely beneficial. This exercise allowed the consumer to realize that it was their perception and that they may have been projecting their perception to the co-worker. Because of my first-hand experience using the empty chair technique, I feel it is a very useful tool. With this particular consumer, I observed a successful resolution and I would not hesitate to use it again.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Course of Therapy

In Gestalt therapy, two kinds of changes are assumed: change within the person in attitudes, feelings, behaviors, demands, or expectations, and change in the environment. The counselor gets the client to use the resources that they possess to get the feelings that they are feeling out in the open. Only the client knows, right here and now, how they are feeling and need to become aware of how those feelings affect the reactions. For example, take two women that are married and the husband calls and states that he is bringing a partner home for dinner. The first woman is able to look around the home and see it is a mess and looks at the time and calmly straightens the home, cook dinner, and prepares herself for company. In contrast, take the second woman who gets the same message but instead of evaluating the situation and perform tasks that needs to be done, she get anxiety and panic attacks, nauseous, and headaches; her end result is that dinner is not prepared. The woman that is experiences attacks seeks counseling and she needs to express her feelings. This is where the empty chair techniques comes in; the woman will be prompted to act as though her husband is in the chair and be able to let out any emotions (rage, guilt, loneliness) in order to get to the bottom of her outcomes when her environment is compromised. At times, the therapist will need other factors that may contribute to the negative gestalt such as dreams, childhood experiences, or current experiences and the client will be prompted or probed to share. One will never hear of a Gestaltist asking a client “why?”

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gestalt Counseling Process

Gestalt therapy focuses more on process rather than content. Clients are challenged to provide their feelings that are at the moment, not what has happened in the past. Unlike psychoanalysis, which counted on the analyst’s interpretation of the client’s unconscious processes for change, Gestalt focuses on understanding the world from the client’s perspective, respecting the belief that each person has a unique perception of self, other, and environment. This individual perception is the reality of the client, and understanding this reality is the road to change. The therapist is both supportive and confrontational, continuously working to encourage here-and-now. The role of the counselor is to ask “How?” and avoid “Why?” Change occurs when the individual moves to a position characterized by more self support/selftrust, insight, and, most importantly, awareness.
Ground Rules in the Gestalt Therapy (adapted from The Handbook of Gestalt Therapy, A.J. Greenwald)
Attune oneself to the continuum of awareness
Commit to the here-and-now
Own everything
Commit to meaningful dialogue
Avoid questions
Take risks
Embrace personal responsibility

History Overview

Gestalt Counseling was initially used in the 1800’s by a German philosopher, Max Werthimer and associates but they did not pursue to carry on with the theory or publish it. Gestalt therapy was born in New York in the 1940s by Frederick “Fritz” Perls and his wife Lore (Laura) Perls with assistance from Paul Goodman and others. Fritz, from Berlin then located to South Africa and later to the USA, was the main spokesman for Gestalt Therapy. He and Laura published many books and she did not come from behind the scenes until 1970 after Fritz passed away. It was originally inspired by German Perceptual Psychologists from the 1940s who taught that human beings actively organize what they see - that they add things (organizing principles) to the world that aren't present in the world itself. Basically - the approach proceeds from the idea that people are born to be spontaneous and whole in their beings but lose this awareness over time as they interact with others (and experience shame, guilt, etc.). The result of this loss of wholeness is a perception of the self as split (into mind and body, self and other, thinking and feeling, etc.). The Gestalt therapist works with his/her client to get back to a more holistic state of being. To do this the therapist frequently bypasses rational thinking processes and makes direct emotional appeals to the client who otherwise would be cut off from those emotions. One famous technique for doing this is called the "empty chair". Gestalt has been criticized for being descriptive, but it has formed basis for perception of objects and patterns.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Gestalt psychology or gestaltism (German: Gestalt - "appear") of the Berlin School is a theory of mind and brain positing that the operational principle of the brain is holistic, parallel, and analog, with self-organizing tendencies. The Gestalt effect refers to the form-forming capability of our senses, particularly with respect to the visual recognition of figures and whole forms instead of just a collection of simple lines and curves. In psychology, gestaltism is often opposed to structuralism and Wundt. Often, the phrase "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" is used when explaining Gestalt theory. (See History of Psychology by David Hothersall (2004),WikipediaWhat is Gestalt Therapy?

What is Gestalt Therapy?

Gestalt means the whole; when one thinks with the mind we also must consider the body as well, this makes the whole. Gestalt therapy is a type of therapy that is used to shed light on unfinished business. The unfinished business comes from repressed or suppressed aspects of a person’s life that have not been accepted or supported. Once we recognize the unfinished business such as uncomfortable feelings of ourselves or others we are equipped to understand those feelings, deal with it, and decide to make changes or not. The objective of this therapy is to help deepen awareness of ourselves and feelings in a less intellectual manner than more traditional forms.