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Under ideal circumstances, gestalt therapy can help people deal with so-called “unfinished business." This would include any unpleasant pent-up emotions or hang-ups coming from past experiences or current difficulties. The goal of the therapy is to allow people to make decisions based on their true motives, rather than constantly suppressing things or trying to live up to unreasonable external standards. Therapists in the gestalt method are generally trying to change a patient’s entire life by focusing on every aspect of his mental state.
Gestalt therapy differs from many other kinds of therapy in its tendency to focus on what people are feeling in the present. Many therapeutic approaches tend to spend a lot of time worrying about a patient's past and looking for events that may be triggering current behavior. Gestalt therapists do this too, but they tend to do it in a more forward-looking way by focusing on how past events make somebody feel on a day-to-day basis and getting rid of any pent-up emotions.
Experts in gestalt therapy use a wide variety of different techniques to help their patients. Some of the techniques might be considered unusual by other therapy schools. For example, these therapists may focus a lot on physical sensations associated with an emotion and trying to teach patients what those sensations mean. Ideally, once patients know what their sensations mean, they can act on them in a positive way and deal with their inner turmoil.
One of the more famous methods used in gestalt therapy is role-play. This is a key technique for gestalt therapists in teaching patients to deal with their past. Usually the patient is asked to pretend he is talking to a person from his past and tell that person how he really feels. Patients are generally encouraged to feel as much real emotion during the exercise as possible so that it serves as good simulation.
Gestalt therapy also has a lot of dream analysis included because the therapists believe that dreams are sometimes communicating things about the subconscious mind. Dream therapy may be handled in many different ways, but dream diaries are often a part of it. It’s also common for the therapist to help the patient interpret his dreams.
The inventor of gestalt therapy was a man named Fredrick Perls. It was designed in the 1940s as an alternative to the popular therapeutic methods of the time, which tended to focus more on past experiences. In theory, gestalt therapy was meant to be more practical and produce more immediate results in a person’s current day-to-day existence.