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#7 Authentic dialogue in psychotherapy: a Gestalt approach
Content of the activity and a detailed outline of the event
Martin Buber proposed some profound perspectives on human relationships. His enumeration of the ‘I-Thou’ provided inspiration for domains as varied as politics, religion and psychotherapy.
Gestalt therapy has adopted this as a core reference point in the methodology of building an effective therapeutic alliance.
It is well established in the literature that the therapeutic relationship is the single most important factor in therapeutic success, across all modalities.
Yet detailed knowledge and skill in achieving a highly productive therapeutic relationship are not necessarily widely developed in the field.
The Gestalt approach offers some very specific approaches, providing a clear framing theory, and practical principles which can be employed in the therapeutic process.
The important distinction here though is that this approach does not use particular techniques. Therapeutic interventions necessarily start with a knowledge of self, and an ability to bring that into the therapeutic dialogue.
This puts the spotlight of awareness back on the therapist, and suggests using statements more than the standard questions-based approach.
The therapeutic relationship is seen as something substantive, and a real life laboratory for experience, rather than ‘just’ a preparation for the outside world.
To quote Buber ‘all living is meeting’. Gestalt explores the nature of that meeting, described as contact. What is of interest is the capacity to see the other as an end in themselves rather than a means to an end; this is the core idea of the I-thou encounter.
This attitude allows us to move out of the roles of therapist/expert - client/layperson. A type of horizontal meeting becomes possible, that is about two human beings, learning together.
This is hard to teach, or prescribe. It is more the nature of a genuine gift, in the moment, and engenders real intimacy.
This can be seen as a contrast with an at-a-distance orientation to therapy, which frames it in purely instrumental and professional terms. Rapport becomes a ‘skill’ rather than noticing what emerges from the ground of relationship.
This differs from the Rogerian ‘unconditional positive regard’, as it takes whatever is happening in the relationship, and finds a way to explore the nature of the contact, as grist for the therapeutic mill.
It is through profound contact with another person that we can more fully know ourselves. We are interested in what helps develop this quality of contact in relationships, so that we can find the growing edge of discovery between togetherness and separateness.
In togetherness, sameness, and symbiosis, lies a sense of safety. But relationship is rarely like that for very long.
So an integral part of deepening contact is the exploration of differences. As threatening as this can be, it provides a clear edge to the contact boundary, supporting definition of self - something many client lack.
Overall, this approach requires a process of renewed willingness on the part of the therapist to share the risk of self revelation. This builds a quality of therapeutic ground which greatly enhances any interventions, and in some way reduces the importance and emphasis on therapeutic interventions.
By the conclusion of this seminar participants will be able to:
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