Not of Correction, but of Growth

In a recent Structured Group, we studied a section with two beautiful parts that fuel my fire. That was weeks ago but they’re still on my mind and I’d like to share them with the blog-universe.

In my first post I mentioned how I’m not sure what shape this blog will take. Not surprisingly, there’s a vein of comparing / contrasting gestalt with other methodologies. I’m passionate about theory and that’s why I like teaching and supervising in addition to doing gestalt therapy. Making sense of the world (psychological / philosophical theory) is one of the relationships that hold me up.

(I also mentioned in my first post I’d be adding a disclaimer to every post and saying what music I’m listening to. False. Writing on the fly. No music. And I got over my initial blogging resistance / fear of being sued. Ha.)

So here are the two quotes and then I’ll explain why I love them.

“This is to psychologize without pre-judgment of normal or abnormal, and from this point of view psychotherapy is a method not of correction but of growth.”


“The psychotherapy proposed in the previous chapters emphasizes: concentrating on the structure of the actual situation; preserving the integrity of the actuality by finding the intrinsic relation of socio-cultural, animal, and physical factors; experimenting; promoting the creative power of the patient… ”

Double mmm.

Sometimes people start counseling with the assumption they will be judged. Sometimes this has fear with it (“please don’t judge me”) and sometimes this is welcomed (“please tell me what I’m doing wrong”).

Judgment and correction go hand in hand. Gestalt therapy is not of correction, but of growth. There’s absolutely nothing *wrong* with the way a person is living. There is, however, a chance to optimize and to grow into new areas which will certainly *improve* the way a person is living… literally opening up new options… new skills… more payoffs… less costs.

There’s an Alice in Wonderland quote I keep in my office.  Alice comes to a crossroad and asks the cat, “which way should I go?” The cat says, “where are you trying to get to?” Alice says, “I don’t really know.” The cat says, “then it doesn’t matter which road you take.”

Gestalt therapy, similar to the cat, is interested in *your* desires/goals. If you’re not sure what your desires are, do you desire to know what your desires are?

Then by “preserving the integrity of the actuality by finding the intrinsic relation[s]…” we can land on a clearer image of what path may be the most valuable to you. It’s not correction. It’s examination. From examining, your perceptions become clearer / brighter / truer and then your “creative power” is “promoted.” Alice gets a better sense of where she’d like to get to and which path would give her the best odds. AND there’s additional self-support to be able to take the risk of choosing the path, even if she’s not certain it will pan out.

Gestalt develops your ability to self-support. Lara Perls said, “we support the client as much as necessary and as little as possible.”  The second part, “as little as possible,” is because we want to increase your ability to self-support.  We don’t support too much because then it would get in the way of developing your own abilities.  We’re looking for your growing edge (within the “intrinsic relations”) so that you can be with it and relate to it – thereby moving it and increasing/expanding your comfortable area of self-support.  The scary part about therapy is the ‘growing edge’ is where your anxiety lies.   But we also support you as much as much as necessary… while at the same time we’re trying to work ourselves out of a job. We’re very interested in your ability to feel grounded and supported within yourself. This often means reconfiguring your relationships. What is supporting you? Your relationship with your breathing? With posture? With the ground? With your ears? With Sam Adams? With a good book? With your spouse? With an imagined future? Are you aware of the relationship that’s holding you up? What’s the cost of that relationship?

It’s not correction. It’s growth. It’s examining the relationships, lighting things up. We want you to know what movements you’re making, what the costs are, and what the payoffs are.   In the words of Perls, Hefferline and Goodman, “At this point, the patient can take over on his own.”

Jesus, Perls, Einstein – Mission Statement – First Post, Disclaimer

I’m wondering if there is value in starting a blog.

If so, I don’t know for whom the value would be – current clients, potential clients, casual readers, other gestalt therapists, myself, other therapists who want to learn more about gestalt principles, etc.  Truthfully, I am not sure if I have a preference of a target audience.  One of the tenets of gestalt therapy is ‘creative pre-commitment,’ the idea of moving one’s energy into a space, having beneficent intentions, without an attachment to the form of the outcome. (This part of gestalt is consistent with parts of yoga.)  I am beginning this blog with this creative pre-commitment.  We will see what shape it takes.

As a personal disclaimer and as an expression of my resistances to starting this blog, I don’t consider myself a strong writer.  I consider myself a strong therapist, thinker, teacher, believer, creative to a fault, but not a strong writer.  I’m often disappointed in the flow of my written words once I look back at them.

There’s also a professional/legal disclaimer at the bottom of this post, to which I plan to point for every subsequent post.  There are lawyers in the world.

I also plan to listen to music whenever I want to get the writing juices flowing.  I’m going to list this music in a jocular way as “This Piece Pairs Best With: [song].”  (Performance Enhancers were used in the creation of that last sentence: jocular / thesaurus).  This piece, for example, pairs best with: Eluvium – New Animals From the Air.

A mission statement seems like a fitting first post.

Gestalt Development Center, and all of my movements as a human being, rest on three pillars from three heavy-hitters.

John wrote how Jesus redundantly asked Peter, “do you love me?”  Then, when Peter kept affirming he did, Jesus kept repeating the instruction, “then feed my sheep.”   It is a brief, circular, redundant passage which drives the point home.  Secondly, Fritz Perls said, “all we’re ever doing is backfeeding,” when he was summing up gestalt therapy in a very tiny nutshell.  I love the word-connection of ‘feeding’ and the overlap of a deep, religious mission with the technical application of a complex therapy theory.  I am much more familiar with the works of Jesus and Perls than I am of Einstein and, honestly, I don’t even know if this is an accurate Einstein quote (didn’t Abraham Lincoln do a facebook status about being frustrated with all the misquotes?)  The quote that I’ve seen attributed to Einstein is, “in the end, I hope you can say you’ve given more to the world than what you’ve taken from it.”  Those are the three interlocking pillars.

There is a ‘giving’ and ‘feeding’ component to my work and this makes me feel very good about the beautiful moments I have with my clients.  I truly believe when gestalt therapy is done well, both the client and the therapist receive very rich rewards, whether these rewards are framed for the afterlife or whether they are emphasized in the immediate, psychological growth of the people involved.  There is absolutely no need for a gestalt therapist to have a religious connection to doing the work (Perls was an avid atheist and would describe the neurosis of a person who ‘always believed God was looking at them’) but, for me, it does.  There is also no need for a client to have a religious goal in therapy but, for some clients, it does.

As far as future posts, two offshoots of these thoughts can be (1) the overlaps and contrasts of gestalt therapy and Rogerian therapy.  Both have the common value of ‘backfeeding’ but, when other ingredients  like energy flow, horizontalization and systems theory are added, gestalt can sometimes have a different emphasis of what is backfed.  (2) Why both participants (therapists and client) benefit from gestalt therapy – an examination of growth, authenticity and the contact boundary.  There’s a good chance those will be future posts for the next time I sit down and put some music on.

Thanks for reading.  Take care and best wishes.

– Kip

[ [ Professional/legal/semi-jocular-but-also-serious disclaimer:  Consult with a qualified professional before you actually make any choices or take any action in your life.  These posts are not medical advice and should not be used as such. These posts are not a crisis hotline. If you are in crisis, please do not comment for assistance – please call 911 or your local county crisis number.  If you are a client of the Gestalt Development Center, your work is special to us and we hold your privacy dearly. You are more than welcome to interact with these posts online but please understand this publicly announces your affiliation with us and we are, as such, not liable for breaching your confidentiality. Confidentiality is our professional duty to keep, not yours. You can do as you wish.  ] ]