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How I Work With Clients
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My Objectives in the Therapeutic Process
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     In my work as a Gestalt therapist I deal with individuals, couples, and families. While I always remain faithful to Gestalt therapy’s holistic approach, the methods of intervention I use are tailored to the individual person, couple, or family. And while each population of clients has a number of typical issues which lead to varying therapeutic objectives, the aims of the therapy with each client—whether individual person, couple, or family—must evolve out of the particular life-situations of each.

 

In my work with individuals I have these objectives:
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     (1) As a client tells me his or her story I want to discover and explore the person’s emotional, cognitive, and physical responses to the situation(s) being discussed.

     (2) I also want to discover with the client what his or her typical patterns are for dealing with recurrent situations, and to devise strategies for begining to develop new patterns of response which will have more satisfying results.

     (3) As we discover how events of the past may be continuing to impact the person’s present life, I work with the client in ways which change how the past affects the present.

     (4) Perhaps most important of all, in my work my ultimate concern is to help my clients find in themselves their own power and courage to make satisfying choices. Such a person develops the confidence that he or she can cope with whatever happens—thus the conviction that “No matter what happens, I’ll be able to deal with it.”

 

In my work with couples I have the following objectives:
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     (1) I usually begin by asking each person to answer the following question: “What do you wish were different in your relationship? In other words, what, in particular is happening that you wish would stop, and what isn’t happening that you wish would begin to happen?” An alternative question for the couple to address might be: “What is it you want from your partner that you aren’t getting?” The objective here is to get the couple to begin to speak to each other, concretely and specifically, about life in their relationship. Each person is usually surprised to hear how his or her partner sees the relationship. Further, this process enables me, the therapist, to get a picture of how this relationship functions, and thus we can begin the process by which the couple learn how to talk to each other about the situations and events which are going on between them.

     (2) As each member of the couple begins to speak to the above question, I inquire repeatedly how the other member is responding inside to what his or her partner is saying, and I ask him or her to tell the other person about these feelings and thoughts. Here the objective is to begin to teach the couple how to communicate about what is happening internally as they interact with each other.

     (3) As they speak of these things as the therapy goes on over time, areas of miscommunication and conflict of various kinds come to light and can be addressed. Here my job as therapist is to help the couple learn the principles of clear and effective communication, and to facilitate the process of conflict resolution in ways which typically end in a win-win result.

     (4) I usually give the couple homework assignments which help them begin to practice new ways of interacting with each other. What they report in the next session about the events of the intervening week provides a focus for that session. Homework can function as a bridge between therapy and everyday life, such that the couple begins to use in daily life what is being learned in therapy. Ultimately, the aim of couple therapy is to equip both persons with communication skills which permit each of them to speak clearly with each other about what is happening in their life together, to express how they feel about it and what they want/don't want, and to negotiate conflict situations in ways which typically end in solutions where both persons win and no one loses.

 

In my work with families I have the following objectives:
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     (1) As I talk with the family I try to assess how this particular family functions, its styles of interaction and communication. I believe a well-functioning family is one in which:

    (a) there is open communication between the individual parents, and between parents and children, and that there are no family secrets which are never to be discussed;
    (b) parents work as a team in nurturing and disciplining the children;
    (c) neither parent is reduced to the status of a child, or is either scapegoated or isolated from the rest of the family members;
    (d) no child is elevated to the status of a parent nor is scapegoated as the source of the family’s problems.

     (2) Where there are poor communication patterns I both facilitate good communication among family members in the therapy session, and I teach the principles of good communication.

     (3) Where the parents have unresolved conflicts/misunderstandings which prevent them from functioning as a team, I work with them apart from the other family members in order to repair their relationship and to establish better patterns of communication.

     (4) Where a child is either elevated to the status of a parent or is scapegoated, I try to determine what unstated purpose this serves in the family system as a whole. I then I intervene in ways which address the issues involved.

     (5) Where necessary, I teach the parents the principles of respectful and successful discipline to use with their children. The emphasis here is upon consistency, choices and consequences, and teaching and learning responsibility.

 

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