Gestalt therapy is a type of humanistic and person-centred therapy that focuses on the immediate here and now and how that can be explored to help you. It looks at how your past affects and influences how you’re feeling in this moment rather than how you felt back then.

Katerina Georgiou, a BACP accredited member and a Gestalt counsellor and psychotherapist, describes it as 'about raising awareness of what’s happening in the moment between you and your therapist and staying curious about it'.

She says: “A Gestalt therapist will often notice what you're doing with your body and focus on your bodily sensations as much as on what you're saying."

What is the main goal of Gestalt therapy?

Gestalt therapy was developed by German psychiatrist Fritz Perls in the 1940s in response to a changing post-war climate. Its focus is to raise your immediate awareness of how you are, while giving you flexibility to experiment with different ways of responding.

Gestalt is based on the principle that everyone is a whole – made up of mind, body and soul – and draws on the philosophical idea that the whole is other than the sum of its parts. It emphasises that to fully understand people you have to look at their current situation as they experience it.

What happens in a Gestalt therapy session?

There’s no one way of conducting Gestalt therapy - each therapist will bring their own style and presentation to the session. But all Gestalt therapists should give you a non-judgmental space and support you to be more self-aware.

Says Katerina: “We focus on where you feel certain emotions in your body, or on giving voice to physical sensations in the body to reveal more understanding of underlying emotional experiences."

The therapy is interactive and feedback driven. “The therapist involves themselves in the therapy and shares what you are evoking in them as a way of prompting dialogue," she adds.

A session might also involve experiments, such as using objects in the room or drawing. A common technique is using an empty chair and imagining there is a person, or part of yourself, that you're in conflict with sitting there. You explain your feelings to them, then move to the chair and respond from their viewpoint. This helps you explore conflicts within yourself, giving voice to both sides to allow all views their full expression, and can lead to resolution and self-awareness.

What issues can Gestalt therapy help with?

Gestalt therapy can help with most issues, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and relationship problems. But it may not be suitable for everyone.

Katerina says: “It can be a supportive therapy if you grew up with a lot of rules around authority. It's quite a freeing approach in that it doesn't place more moral value on one emotion than another, so it’s ok to explore anger, envy, rage, etc without judgment.

“It can also be a challenging therapy if you're the sort of person who needs a therapist who is going to be honest with how they are impacted by you.”

She adds: “If you want a therapist who will engage with you in a lot of dialogue, Gestalt offers that. It doesn't impose an agenda on you; it's more about staying curious about who you are, not shying away from difficult, messier feelings.”