chapter  3
20 Pages

Coaching approaches derived from Gestalt

ByMarion Gillie

Fredrick ‘ Fritz ’ Perls, along with his wife Laura and Paul Goodman, are generally recognized as the originators of Gestalt therapy as we know it.

The influences on Perls were very varied, and it is fascinating to see how these ‘ show up ’ in the evolution of the practice of Gestalt. Perls, a Freudian psychoanalyst, became interested in the principles of Gestalt psychology as applied to learning and perception, which he felt could be applied to his own field of psychoanalysis. As well as this, Perls was fascinated by psychodrama and was influenced by Reich’s body therapy. He developed a deep interest in phenomenology (a person’s in the moment, here and now experience), existential philosophy and Eastern religion. From these influences he embraced a holistic perspective on the nature of existence, influenced in particular by Kurt Lewin’s field theory – the notion that a person cannot be understood without reference to his or her ‘ context ’ , which includes their immediate, current situation, their past experiences, their hopes, aspirations, anxieties, and both conscious and unconscious beliefs. The political forces at play in the world at that time also impacted him deeply, the rise of Fascism and anti-Semitism in Germany in the 1930s, and his subsequent flight to Holland and later South Africa as a refugee. Finally his move to America in 1946 ensured that Gestalt therapy grew up in the post-war climate of liberalism, and the individualistic, anti-establishment era of the 1950s and 1960s added more than a hint of egocentricity to the mix.