Gestalt Therapy is the name of a type of talking therapy that can be used in the treatment of some mental health conditions.
The main focus of Gestalt Therapy is to look at the present day. It looks at how the events of their present life is making them feel, rather than how the past has impacted them. Self-awareness is a major element of Gestalt Therapy.
How Does Gestalt Therapy Work?
Gestalt Therapy was developed by husband and wife duo Fritz and Laura Perls, who were a psychiatrist and psychotherapist respectively . Gestalt Therapy gets its name from Germany, where it loosely translates as “put together” or “whole”.
It works on the premise that negative feelings that have never been dealt with should be discussed with a present-day outlook. This form of therapy works on the idea that an individual’s mind, body and soul are all one and interconnected with another at all times
The Gestalt Therapy approach rejects the idea that an episode, diagnosis of condition or trauma can define a person and their mental wellbeing.
Instead, the entire person should be looked into and discussed in detail. The patient is encouraged to become more aware of themselves, and realise the impact they are capable of having on themselves.
Sometimes, Gestalt Therapy will include role-playing, drawing and other activities in an effort to become more aware of how they act.
A therapist will normally suggest that a patient says “I” a lot, and talks about themselves, rather than about others, for instance, not saying “he”, or “she”.
When is Gestalt Therapy Useful?
Gestalt Therapy can be very useful for conditions like Depression and Anxiety. As Gestalt Therapy is based around self-awareness, anyone with self-esteem issues or low confidence could benefit from it.
Anyone in a situation where they are unaware of how their own behaviour is impacting them could also benefit from Gestalt Therapy. Therefore, Gestalt Therapy could potentially be used in the treatment of some Personality Disorders.
Moreover, anyone that is having relationship problems, or struggle to get along well with others, could also benefit from Gestalt Therapy.
Advantages of Gestalt Therapy
There are a few advantages to Gestalt Therapy:
- Gestalt Therapy can bring about changes rather quickly. Techniques are taught, and these can typically be implemented into the patient’s life quickly.
- It is useful for relapse prevention. If a person has a difficult experience in the future, they should be able to avoid relapsing by using the skills learned from Gestalt Therapy.
- Gestalt Therapy usually results in an improvement in relationships with others. This can result in improvements in multiple areas of their life, and should improve mental wellbeing.
Disadvantages of Gestalt Therapy
There are a few disadvantages to Gestalt Therapy:
- If a patient believes that one single event has had a big impact on them, Gestalt Therapy may not be suitable. This is because Gestalt Therapy has an approach that suggests one event can’t wholly impact a person.
- By design, Gestalt Therapy is very unstructured, with sessions capable of going off on a tangent easily. If the patient is someone that likes structure, Gestalt Therapy is far from suitable!
- The focus on the present day can mean that past events are largely disregarded. If the patient believes the past needs to be discussed more, then a different therapy type may be better.
How effective is Gestalt Therapy?
Gestalt Therapy will not work for everyone, and in truth, it is a rather unique therapy. But some people will see an improvement in their mental wellbeing.
Gestalt Therapy is often associated with treating Depression. One study found Gestalt Therapy to actually be as effective as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Depression . Considering that CBT is considered to be the gold standard of treatment for Depression, this is very promising!
One of the most positive areas of Gestalt Therapy is its proclivity to produce quick results. For example, one study found that just 4 weeks of therapy greatly improved anxiety levels and kindness from the patient to themselves .
However, not all findings are positive. One review of existing research found that there were mixed results, with some questions over the effectiveness of Gestalt Therapy .
It is important to remember that each person will respond differently to certain techniques and elements of different types of therapy.
How to find a therapist?
It is recommended that you contact your GP and inform them of your problems. They will refer you to the relevant mental health team.
If you are aiming to use the private sector, you could ask your GP or someone you know for a recommendation. You can also look online – the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy have a therapist directory on their site.
- List of Therapy Types
- Therapy Home
- Everything You Need To Know About Talking Therapy
- Talking Therapy or Medication: Which is Better for Mental Health Problems?
- FAQ’s About Talking Therapy
- What To Do When Therapy Isn’t Working: Alternatives to Talking Therapy
If talking therapy alone hasn’t worked, then your Doctor may suggest adding a medication.
There are many other types of therapy, you can see an exhaustive list of them here.
This website should be used purely for informational purposes, and does not intend to, nor should it ever, be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.
We strive to keep all of our pages updated, and ensure that our website is full of factual and in-depth information. However, we encourage you to browse this website with care.
As a reminder, this website and all content within it cannot and should not replace the advice of a trained medical professional. You can read our full disclaimer at this link.
If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. With the right support and treatment, you can make a recovery. For information on helplines, or if you are in a state of crisis, please visit our crisis page by clicking on the relevant link for your geographical location (United Kingdom), (United States), (International). You can also see how to get mental health treatment and the process involved by clicking this link.
 Perls, F., Hefferline, R., & Goodman, P. (1951). Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality. Cambridge, MA: The Gestalt Journal Press.
 Heidari, S., Shahbaksh, B., & Jangjoo, M. H. (2017). The Effectiveness of Gestalt Therapy on Depressed Women in Comparison with the Drug Therapy. Journal of Applied Psychology & Behavioral Science. 2 (1): p14-18.
 Leung, G. S. M., & Khor, S. H. (2017). Gestalt Intervention Groups for Anxious Parents in Hong Kong: A Quasi-Experimental Design. Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work. 14 (3): p183-200.
 Raffagnino, R. (2019). Gestalt Therapy Effectiveness: A Systematic Review of Empirical Evidence. Open Journal of Social Sciences. 7 (1): p66-83.