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Trends within Gestalt Therapy or: "Contact is the appreciation of differences" (F. Perls)

When I try to recall discussions of different views within Gestalt Therapy I only remember the exciting theoretical debates in the 80s in the Gestalt Journal. There were e.g. discussions about the self in Gestalt Therapy (Tobin and Yontef, Latner and Yontef) and "west coast - east coast" style (From, Resnick). However there were few reflections of these debates (as exception maybe McLeod, L., Brit. Gestalt Journal 2, 1993 about the theory of self).

This is a regrettable lack - Gestalt Therapy lacks a culture of theoretical debate from which in a dialectical sense new syntheses could emerge or incompatibilities pointed out clearly.

Some may ask: Why is that necessary? It is necessary! To develop and maintain a modern psychotherapy-theory that´s open for changes and able to react to new tasks and challenges (e.g. the necessary differentiation in the treatment of people with neurotic and structural disorders or the significance of traumatization in the etiology of many psychological disorders) clarity, systematology and consistency is needed. Only by this it is possible to define, at which points change in theory and practice is required and where not. For to develop a theory like this different trends must be made explicit and a critical dialogue is needed.

At this place I want to invite a survey about differences, to begin to dialogue, e.g. at the forum on this website. In the German Handbuch der Gestalttherapie (Fuhr et.al., 1999, Hogrefe) some trends in the clinical tradition are mentioned, so New York, Los Angeles, Cleveland (163) and the big organizations AAGT and IGTA (185) in the USA. However it doesn´t get clear where the differences are and what is common. Basic conflicts are evaluated as meanwhile playing only a minor role (191). In Germany as I know there is/has been only little discussion, except maybe the controversial reactions to "Neuentwurf der Gestalttherapie" by Staemmler/Bock 1987. In informal discussions oftentimes I have experienced controversies about the "true doctrine" than a critical and fruitful appreciation of differences.

What are your thoughts about this issue?

©2000 Achim Votsmeier-Röhr


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