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Comments by on A Well-Lived Life Mark McConville,
Gestalt Therapist and Trainer, Author of Adolescence

   Sylvia Crocker’s A Well-Lived Life: Essays in Gestalt Therapy, is the work of a daring and creative thinker, offering a bold reconceptualization of Gestalt therapy that extends all the way from its philosophical underpinnings to the nuances of its clinical application. In prose that is clear as a bell, Crocker fully exposes that depth and power of Gestalt therapy’s field theoretical model, deftly moving from individual to larger systems work and back again, and capturing the full range of human psychological phenomena as she goes.

   From the acquisition and maintenance of simple behavioral habits, to the construction of personal narrative and myth, Crocker’s Gestalt therapy model is equally at home and applicable. Her vision of Gestalt therapy is at the same time startlingly unique and comfortably familiar. She is firmly rooted in Gestalt therapy’s “phenomenological behaviorism,“ but at the same time offers us a model for assessing and working with self functions which is remarkably creative, and represents an important new contribution to the field.

   And throughout the text, interpolated between her provocative theoretical formulations, we encounter Crocker the clinician—moving straight ahead, getting right at the issue, making sense, and all the while, concretely instructive regarding the nature of the work. This is a book that will make a difference, challenging the way you think about, the practice, the craft of psychotherapy. Comments by Iris Fodor on A Well-Lived Life: Professor, New York University

   In a series of essays, Sylvia Crocker brings her philosophical mind to present a comprehensive framework for Gestalt therapy. She integrates our original theoretical underpinnings with additional insights from human development and a wide range of other contemporary theories (ranging from chaos theory to spirituality). She provides a rich perspective which expands our basic theoretical and clinical framework and provides a positive Gestalt model for mental health. A Well-Lived Life is an original and challenging book for both students and practitioners of Gestalt therapy! Comments by Ansel Woldt Professor Emeritus, Kent State University

   This is the book I wish I could have written. It ranks right up there with her mentors’, Erving and Miriam Polsters’, Gestalt Therapy Integrated which I had the good fortune to read as a rough draft when it was being composed while in training with them at GIC-Cleveland. I have always experienced Sylvia’s writing as eloquent and this series of essays on the paradigms of Gestalt therapy are no exception. In fact, her essays emerge as a treatise that far surpasses her original intent—“to present the theory of Gestalt therapy in its full scope and elegance, and to show how the methods Gestalt therapy come directly out of the theory.” She not only accomplished that goal but also does it in such a way that provides the reader with a “treat”!

   Without regard for the topic being addressed, Sylvia’s writing is cogent and clear. Her flowing style entices and supports the reader to want to go farther and deeper. I experience her linguistic ability akin to love making in a long-standing, loving relationship. It is clear that there are no quick fixes or gimmicks, but rather a lot of organic and organismic flow that comes from commitment to a growthful process. As in a rich and meaningful human relationship, this obviously comes from Sylvia’s rich, meaningful and committed love relationship with Gestalt therapy. Her cognitions (the word symbols and ideas she chooses) seem to flow from her whole being—heart and mind, body and soul, from the very essence of her being. In fact, in her writing style Sylvia presents a model of the “assimilation” and “whole-making” processes that are so eloquently discussed as central in our theory.

   To paraphrase and quote from her essay on “A Well-Lived Life,” Sylvia presents the essentials of maturity as “a person’s organic wholeness becomes full integrity.” I believe that she has demonstrated this very process in her creation of this treatise. Just as all good psychotherapy is both art and science, so is this book of essays. It is an outstanding addition to the broadening awareness and deeper understanding of Gestalt therapy. This contribution to the furtherance of Gestalt therapy exemplifies the work of an authentic author whose pen reveals the complexities of a brilliant, well-traveled, wise and seasoned psychotherapist whose life is being well lived.

   Ansel Woldt, Ed.D., is Professor Emeritus, Kent State University, Founding Secretary of the Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy, Associate Editor of the Gestalt Review, and maintains a private psychological practice in Kent, Ohio.


Comments by Richard Kitzler Senior Trainer, New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy

   Sylvia Crocker has wrought out of the experiences of her life and soul the new synthesis Gestalt therapists have been awaiting since PHG burst upon the world in 1951. For all too many the work of Vol II, Paul Goodman’s seminal contribution, has been daunting, while the experiments of Frederick Perls first volume have been neglected as his later style of the videos became increasingly disesteemed. The result has been a splitting of a seamless whole in spite of the authors’ insistence they be read together. An unfortunate emphasis on phenomenal versus experiential that excludes a more productive integration is inevitable.

   Dr. Crocker has found the philosophic sources of Gestalt therapy in Aristotle and traced its development through the Platonic influences of the Scholastics, Kant, James and Dewey, the process philosophers, existentialists and the Gestalt psychologists. Her work is on a broad yet detailed canvas, very much the hologram she describes so well.

   Moreover, in founding Gestalt therapy so firmly she has created her integration accessible, hugely utilitarian and crucial. Her analysis of the operations and powers of the human soul in Aristotle thoroughly supports and spreads before the practitioner relations and experiments that are the heart and soul of Gestalt therapy. Out of this perspective Crocker has with authority and detail insisted the therapy is "good science" as it moves back and forth in the reality of the session and in the world, indeed a program for the next century. Here is indeed ground on which to stand.

   In a touching celebration of prayer in its many senses she resonates exactly that interest of Frederick Perls fifty years ago when he became fascinated with prayer and its power. His fascination was of course from the demand side of prayer which followed from his conviction that every question concealed a demand which was better made openly. Does God hear demands?

   Sylvia Crocker has written a testament of faith, science, therapy, and the progress of a pilgrim. Her autobiographical chapter with the background that drove her work and creative insight that became this Gestalt therapist is nothing less than soaring. It will strengthen and succour those of us chronically unmoored in our moments of doubt and despair.

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