• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Gestalt Approach to Psychology

Extracts from this document...


Outline and explain the principles of the Gestalt approach to psychology. How does humanistic psychology differ in essence from other analyses of "mental disorder", and what are its strengths and weaknesses? Psychiatrist Frederick "Fritz" Perls (1893-1970) devised Gestalt therapy. The word "Gestalt" is of German origin, as was Perls, and means "pattern" or "organised whole" (Gross & McIlveen, 1996). In order to make sense of life events, our perceptions are organised into gestalts. Just as we cannot fully understand a family by looking solely at the individuals without regard for its operation as a whole, neither can we understand a gestalt by merely observing its constituent parts. When a gestalt is formed, there is a focus of attention against a background of everything else of potential relevance. This foreground/background (figure/ground) formation is called "field theory". Whatever is of most interest at any moment becomes figure, but if something else becomes more important, figure recedes into ground and is replaced. In field theory all aspects of an individual and their environment are interrelated so that the field forms their context. Unless we understand a person's environment, we can never fully understand them or their behaviour. As Yontef (1973) said "Behaviour is a function of the field of which it is a part. ...read more.


Retroflection comes in two forms. The first is doing to oneself what one wants/wanted to do to others and the second is doing to oneself what one want/wanted others to do to them. It can occur when expression meets opposition, such as in punishment. The need remains within the body but instead of being directed towards the environment, it is redirected towards the self. As quoted in Gestalt Counselling in Action, Clarkson (1989) stated "the impulse to hit out remains locked in the person's body, affecting muscular patterns, abdominal tension and chemical imbalances in the body". One of the ultimate goals of Gestalt therapy is to allow the individual to complete the unfinished business that demands satisfaction and interrupts contact. Self-awareness gives the individual the ability to be in touch with their present field of existence. As present functioning is designed to meet the dominant need of that moment, becoming aware of operations such as breathing patterns, voice qualities, postures and gestures means an individual can realise how they are attempting to meet their requirements at that time. Awareness is gained through phenomenological investigation, describing to an individual their behaviour without attempting to give explanations or interpretations. It is in the "obvious" phase that a person's mode of operation is revealed. ...read more.


Another weakness is that Gestalt therapy may be considered moralistic (see Appendix I). Critics may say that individuals are being told what to think, instead of being given the opportunity of free thought. It may be considered a weakness that humanistic therapy is scientifically dubious. However, it is anecdotally successful. It is of vital importance that the therapist is correctly trained to teach individuals how to be self-supportive; they must learn not to rely on their therapist for emotional support. Although it is true that humanistic therapy has both strengths and weaknesses, there is evidence that some techniques can be particularly effective (Simkin and Yontef, 1984), although undoubtedly humanistic therapies are going to be more successful in some civilisations than in others. Appendix I The Moral Injunctions of Gestalt Therapy 1. Live now. Be concerned with the present rather than the past or future. 2. Live here. Deal with what is present rather than what is absent. 3. Stop imagining. Experience the real. 4. Stop unnecessary thinking. Rather, taste and see. 5. Express rather than manipulate, explain, justify or judge. 6. Give in to unpleasantness and pain just as to pleasure. Do not restrict your awareness. 7. Accept no "should" or "ought" other than your own. Adore no graven image. 8. Take full responsibility for your actions, feelings and thoughts. 9. Surrender to being as you are. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level The Psychology of Individual Differences section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level The Psychology of Individual Differences essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Compare and Contrast the five main perspectives in psychology

    3 star(s)

    Because they believe that human experience must be engaged with as such, humanistic psychologists do not attempt to break behaviour down into more fundamental processes. As such, their approach to psychology is explicitly holistic, rather than reductionist. With the good, always comes the bad, and this theory is no different.

  2. Outline and explain the principles of one of the following: a) Maslow's Hierarchy of ...

    As a personal or social need arises, a figure/ground formation develops with whatever is perceived as being able to meet the need becoming figure. The cycle of gestalt formation and destruction, of needs arising and being met, has taken several different forms.

  1. Outline and Evaluate the Biological, Psychodynamic and Cognitive Explanations of Abnormality

    An irrational thinker is unable to find rational alternatives. Beck studied people suffering from depression in order to discover whether negative thoughts underlie a mental disorder, and how these people in particular develop depression. He found that in general, people suffering with depression would draw illogical conclusions when they evaluated themselves.

  2. Define different theoretical perspectives used in counselling. Analyse the advantages and ...

    This kind of unconditioned stimulus can be used within a care setting through dinner bells and the unconditioned response is the action that the clients would take which would usually be to move over towards the area that the food is served.

  1. Do pre information affect impression formation

    This study will be loosely based on Asch's study however it will not be a total replica. Contrary to the evidence that supports Asch's theory our study may suffer from cultural differences e.g. if we show participants pictures of people from different cultures e.g.

  2. Free essay

    Discuss the range of methods available to the psychologist.

    One way in which you can make the field experiment is that you only do the experiment in as close to the same condition as the test was originally carried out, you could also do it at exactly the same time of day this would make the experiment more accurate.

  1. Do pre information affect impression formation

    This means that the probability of getting the results by chance is less than 5%. Method Design A laboratory experiment was used as it was the most practical way to test the hypothesis. Independent group design was used because of warm and cold pre information.


    With positive punishment unfavourable events or outcomes are given in order to weaken the response that follows an example if you stroke a cat in a manner that the cat finds unpleasant, the cat may attempt to bite you therefore the presentation of the cat's bite will act as a

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work