Gestalt therapy is difficult to define. To truly understand the process, it must be experienced. Gestalt emphasizes the need for clients and therapists to have a genuine, trusting relationship before collaborative progress can be made. Once the relationship is established, Gestalt techniques can be brought into the therapeutic process.
Let’s read a little story to understand the empty chair:
Thomas, 26 years old, is feeling some anger towards his father who passed away 3 years ago. This anger is interfering with his life and relationships. After developing a relationship with his therapist, his Gestalt therapist requested that he imagine his father, literally, sitting in the empty chair and talking with him in the present tense. Thomas then talks directly with his father as if he is in the room, “Dad, I’m very angry at you because you leave me every Monday morning and don’t come home until late Friday night. And when you are at home you tell me to go away because you are too tired to deal with me.”
If you take a closer look, Thomas is having this conversation in the present, as if he is 8 years old today.
This provides the client an opportunity to truly experience the feelings and thoughts of the past in the present day. Ultimately, the goal is to have a profound experience of relief, healing, and permanent resolution to a very old issue. The empty chair is only one example of a Gestalt technique; there are many others that are highly effective and each tailored to the client’s needs, for example, using pillows of different sizes and colors in role playing. As a Gestalt therapist, I am keenly aware of the importance of creating a safe, trusting, and grounded relationship before using this type of therapy style. If you are curious about Gestalt interventions and would like to learn more about how I can help you, feel free to contact me.