What is Gestalt therapy?

Dr. David McGarva writes:

Gestalt psychology illustrationI’d been in the world of psychology and therapy for twenty years, I’d been working with clients for sixteen years, interested in Gestalt therapy for fifteen years, a fully licensed therapist for twelve years, training in Gestalt with world-renowned experts for two years. Then, in the third year of training, some of us were talking about how complex the ideas behind Gestalt therapy are . . . and we noticed none of us could say in a few sentences just what Gestalt therapy is.

That wasn’t good enough. How can I be something , so I decided to set myself a simple test. I wouldn’t call myself a Gestalt therapist until I could give a simple, short and accurate answer to anyone who asks what Gestalt therapists do.

In a few sentences, what is Gestalt therapy? I wrote an elevator pitch. Since then I’ve rewritten it repeatedly, as my understanding of my own passion evolves. It may never be done, because Gestalt is a moving target, but here’s what I have at this moment (last updated 10/16/2017):

Gestalt therapy is: a natural conversation between equals. As my client, you’re not just one more “patient” waiting to be fixed with off-the-shelf techniques. You’re a unique living person I haven’t met yet, and we’re in a conversation that never happened before. My one goal and my one hope: for you to strengthen your awareness of how you relate to the rest of the world, and choose how you’d rather relate.

To work on that, I’m interested in discussing, together, what’s going on for you today and at this moment. I’m not so interested in spending a lot of time on your background, unless it’s a living part of what’s happening now (sometimes it is, and we’ll talk about that). The point is that we’re meeting each other now, as the people we are today.

I have no plan for your life, and that’s not my job. It’s a human life! and it’s yours! The will, and the courage, to really change it have to be yours too.

My skills and my enthusiasm are about supporting your unique journey of self-discovery.

I’m a Gestalt therapist.