Sunday, November 27, 2011

Paying for contact

 This is Pearl. :)
I just finished the two-year training program at the Indianapolis Gestalt Institute (woo hoo!) and so now I am a Certified Gestalt Practitioner, which doesn't make me a therapist but does mean I am more in touch with my stuff than ever. :) This has been a phenomenal (and phenomenological) program (lol) and I have learned a LOT and awakened a LOT in the process.

The other day, walking Pearl, I was thinking about how the process of Gestalt therapy works, and how by being present with others in a Gestalt way we can assist in completing gestalts that have previously been blocked by interruptions to contact. Suppose, for example, that when you were a child you had one parent who never heard you, no matter what you did. Achieved high marks at school, excelled in sports, won the spelling bee--it didn't matter. You just weren't on that parent's radar screen, for whatever reason. Part of the Gestalt view is that chances are good that you developed a way to manage the need the parent couldn't fulfill--maybe you shrugged it off and said, "I don't need her approval anyway"--and that over time, that "creative adjustment" became a pattern that you play out in numerous circumstances. At some point in your life, you begin to notice that you just don't show up on women's radar screens, and you're curious about that. Why does this always seem to happen to you? Will you ever have a happy relationship? What could you do differently?

So this could bring you to counseling, and, if you're lucky, to a therapist who is trained in Gestalt work. And during your time together, you will have a chance to explore and complete the Gestalt that didn't get completed--the need that didn't get met--by the parent who was out to lunch. It's really amazing the way this happens--our beings are always leaning (and sometimes stumbling, and sometimes storming) toward wholeness! This in my opinion is why Gestalt works above and beyond all other modalities (even narrative, which I love): It is in sync with our own deepest desire for wholeness, and we ourselves bring out the tools we need to complete the work. The Gestalt practitioner isn't "magic" and doesn't have a special formula she applies; the practitioner isn't the "expert" and you're not the "person needing help." Through relationship, the opportunity presents itself for that need to be met, successfully this time. And once it is met, you now have a new pattern to use when that particular need arises. Simple? You bet! And beautiful. And effective.

So when Pearl and I were walking, I realized a funny quirk about going to a Gestalt therapy session. On one level it feels great to be able to be with someone who is so awake and aware, and to discover new options for meeting needs that weren't met previously. Good work gets done. Wholeness is emerging. But on another level, at some point we may wake up and say, "Hey, this support feels great, but I'm paying for it. I think I'm ready to have this kind of contact in my life outside the therapist's office!" And maybe that's when you graduate! Or at least you feel good enough about your new options in relationship that you don't feel they are available only in the confines of the therapist-client relationship.

So this is good news for us as individuals, but a good reminder for us as Gestalt practitioners: The idea is not to build a client list of people that fill up your calendar for weeks on end, but to grow a list of vibrant, alive, contactful folks who took the discoveries you helped them uncover and launched out into the world with a sense of their own agency and wholeness! In this way, Gestalt is the best stop-gap therapeutic approach I know for boosting others toward wholeness. But for the practitioner, the trust needs to be in the process, knowing that if you build a freeing, healing practice, they will come. :)


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