Introduction to Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy is a phenomenological-existential therapy founded by Frederick (Fritz) and Laura Perls in the 1940s. It teaches therapists and patients the phenomenological method of awareness, in which perceiving, feeling, and acting are distinguished from interpreting and reshuffling preexisting attitudes. Explanations and interpretations are considered less reliable than what is directly perceived and felt. Patients and therapists in Gestalt therapy dialogue, that is, communicate their phenomenological perspectives. Differences in perspectives become the focus of experimentation and continued dialogue. 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.

Yontef, G. M., & Yontef, G. M. (1993). Awareness, dialogue & process: Essays on gestalt therapy. Highland, NY: Gestalt Journal Press.

The Gestalt Cycle

The Gestalt Cycle is self-regulating experiential cycle that maintained the internal equilibrium of each individual. Because self regulation for human beings involves some form of consciousness that includes moral regulation, the moral regulation, by it’s very nature, “must lead to the accumulation of unfinished situations in our system and to interruption of the organismic circle. (Perls, 1969, 45) Hence, we have an instinctual cycle that seeks to complete itself. However, through internal and/or outside influences, the completion of this cycle can be short-circuited, creating an incomplete cycle. This incomplete cycle, if necessary to return the organism to equilibrium, will continue to recycle until the original need is satisfied. Such situations result “in a ‘fixed Gestalt’ or ‘unfinished experience/situation’ which interferes with good contact with self, others, or the environment in the present.” (Clarkson, 2000, 7)

Perls, F. S.(1969) Ego, Hunger and Aggression. New York: Random House. Clarkson, P. (2014). Gestalt counselling in action. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. Stevenson, H. (n.d.). Gestalt Cycle of Experience. Retrieved February 28, 2019, from

Introduction to Mental Health and Psychosocial Support

Workshop Notes from the Introductory Seminar last 23 February 2019 and the MHPSS Guidelines from UNCHR, AISC, and ICRC are available on the link provided. toolkits are also included. All Notes are in Portable Document Format (PDF).