Topics in Gestalt Therapy

Topics in Gestalt Therapy New titles and translations added

Remember the publication John Harris and Peter Philippson produced for some years?  Peter has now revived it in a new format, with articles available on Kindle at a small cost and with translations into a number of languages.  There is also a discussion forum that you can join if you want to discuss the articles: contact Peter at topicsingt@gmail.com to join.  Translations into languages not covered by Kindle (mainly Eastern European) will appear on the Kobo reader www.kobo.com.

(For free Kindle reading apps for computers, tablets and phones, go to Kindle apps.)

Topics 1: Revisiting the Field.

In this paper, I examine the meaning of ‘field’ in Gestalt Therapy, and what a field orientation means for the theory and practice of therapy. I also look at what philosophical principles can add to or take away from the clarity of the approach.

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Spanish version: Amazon link

Croatian version: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/ponovni-pogled-na-polje

Topics 2: Dreamwork

I love working with dreams. I have found that they have the capacity to move therapy work on to a new level, both in individual and group therapy. They speak from a place that is outside the familiar, and often to what is not being attended to, or avoided in life and therapy.
In this paper, I start with a (non-exhaustive) list of ways in which we could work with dreams. It is also not a set of either/ors: dreams can operate on many levels simultaneously. Dreams are incredibly artistic, multilayered expressions. They are an expression of the human capacity for creativity, for living outside the immediate given, and imagining a world that does not yet exist, but which we can work to make actual (like Martin Luther King’s dream).
I then write about ways to extend the meaning of dreaming and Gestalt dreamwork into our waking lives, seeing our lives as a waking recurrent dream.

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Spanish version: Amazon link

Topics 3: People and Avatars

We are in a world that is increasingly complex. Most of us inhabit two worlds that seem very different, the immediate experiential world and a virtual cyber-world of e-mail, text, social media. Gestalt Therapy emphasises ‘contact’ and ‘awareness’, and the question arises how much we can talk about these in relation to connections in cyberspace. What are the ethics of cyberspace?
One of the aspects of cyberspace is that we can create ‘avatars’ of ourselves that are our extensions into that space. Of course the avatars can be very different from how we present ourselves in the physical world, looking different, showing a different age, race, emotional disposition, marital status, or gender. This can be either an expression of some aspect of myself that I do not feel able to show in ‘real life’, or it can be a manipulation, particularly where people are trying to lure young people into inappropriate relationships by pretending to be teenagers themselves. But people are also showing some aspect of themselves, maybe cruel or manipulative, that they don’t risk showing in other places. So the significant point here is that the ‘avatar’ can be both more ‘real’ or less ‘real’ than the everyday image. My proposal is that the acceptance of the cyber-world was facilitated by a pre-existing culture of narcissism, where the development of an idealised self-image outweighed any sense of an authentic self meaningfully contacting other people and the world. In other words, people are walking about as avatars in the ‘real world’, not just in cyberspace!

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Spanish version: Amazon link

Topics 4: We can be Together, but You and Me can Meet

What does it mean for us to meet? Is it a matter of us being here together in the same place, or seeing each other, or you hearing me? How much is it just a meeting of my interpretation of you, while you are meeting with your interpretation of me? Are we just in a hall of mirrors, reflection meeting reflection? And in that case, is it meaningful to talk about meeting, or contact, or love at all? Are the narcissists right, and are we all like Narcissus, falling in love with our own reflection?

This essay looks for answers to these questions in Gestalt Therapy theory and practice.

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Topics 5: A Couple in the World: a Field-oriented View of Couples Work

In this paper, I want to develop a Gestalt field-oriented understanding of therapeutic work with couples. The approach can be extended to work with families, but that is beyond the scope of the present paper. The basic field awareness is that just as the activity of each person in a couple can only be seen in the context of the couple as a whole (rather than belonging merely to that individual), no couple exists in a vacuum, and many issues that couples come to therapy to resolve are related to the wider field in and from which the individuals and relationship are emerging. This perspective also allows us to gain a less culture-specific view of relationships.

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Topics 6: The Joy of Horror Films

I like good horror films. They tell us what we truly fear, and how we truly respond to fear. And I am curious why so many people also like horror films, and related questions about why children regularly see monsters in the dark, why people go bungee jumping and white water rafting, even why people feel better singing or hearing the Blues. What does this tell us about ourselves as a species? And what does it mean that there are also people who would strongly avoid all of these (avoidance also being an energised relation to the object of avoidance)?

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New Topics 7: The Tyranny of ‘Feelings’

What is the meaning of emotion in therapy? When is it important to focus on ‘feelings’ and when is it counterproductive? This in many ways seems like a ridiculous question, since ‘feelings’ are often taken as the central point of who we are and what we show in therapy. In this article, I want to question the assumption that emotion is necessarily central to therapy, and look at the meaningful place for emotion in both therapist and client.

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More articles will be posted regularly!