Recently one of my coachees, whom I am supervising, asked me the following question; ‘Why Gestalt?’ Two words that evoke many possible responses, and as I clarified what she was asking I uncovered an inquiry into my philosophical and methodological foundations. I have become so used to gestalt in my work that for me it has become the very ground in which I work and the way in which I endeavour to live my professional and personal life.
The question has prompted me to provide a slightly wider view of my practice and to write a short history of how I came to make gestalt figural in my practice.
The roots of my interest in Gestalt go back to when I first started studying adult learning and education. During these years I read about the psychological theories and approaches to learning, the cognitive, behaviourist and neo-behaviourist schools. Gestalt was the one approach that resonated more fully with me. I learned much from the other theories and consider they have an important part to play in our thinking about adult learning.
However, Gestalt is interested in the whole person and in this approach I began to understand that the whole person is much more than the sum of their different parts. My view then and now is that including our mind and thinking, our behaviours, beliefs, the physical aspects of our body, our emotions and sensations make for a wider more encompassing territory for the facilitator, coach and organisational consultant to explore. It is a bit like learning about the whole system rather than focusing on one or two departments within the system.
This early interest had grown through my professional work as an educationalist into a philosophical belief that I work with to support me to fully live my personal life and professional practice in action. Gestalt for me provides an essential arena in which creative and systemic approaches can be sued to develop healthy relationships with my clients and the participants with whom I work.
The core idea of relationship is at the heart of Gestalt and is a key part of the practices of developing awareness and making contact with each other as human beings who cohabit on planet Earth.
Alongside of gestalt my development as an educationalist, facilitator, coach and organisational consultant has been specifically influenced by the writings of Paulo Freire. In his seminal book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ he offers this thought piece.