Awareness is the key to Gestalt therapy. In fact, a major goal of Gestalt therapy is awareness itself (Yontef & Fuhr, 2005). Through awareness, the organism/person naturally proceeds toward growth, integration, and differentiated unity, in which the parts of the field are separate from, and in contact with, one another. The premise is that the person has the capacity to be aware of his or her own needs and priorities. People can accurately know themselves and the environments of which they are a part and make decisions that are congruent with their growth. Awareness, knowing the environment, and being in touch with one's self means that the individual is responsible for self-knowledge, self-acceptance, the ability to make contact, and ultimately the ability to make choices (Hurley et al., 2006).
In Gestalt therapy, clients are directed to move from just talking about experience to directly experiencing what they are focusing on at any given moment in counseling and therapy. For instance, experiencing and expressing feelings is different as a process from talking about those very same feelings.
Often people have more choices and are unconsciously making choices that constrict their lives and growth potential. Clearly, if the natural process of growth were going well, a client would be unlikely to come to therapy. Thus, it is helpful to understand the meaning of impasse. Typically, clients reach an impasse – that is, become stuck – when they doubt their ability to be self-supporting and have relied too heavily on external support that is no longer available (Clarkson, 2004).
Clients are seen as responsible or "response-able"; they have the ability to respond to their environment appropriately and flexibly (White, 2009). While it can be important to distinguish between true limitations and real alternatives, ultimately the client has the responsibility to choose and value, to create a healthy balance between self and surroundings (Reilly & Jacobus, 2009).
To accomplish this, the client must address unfinished business – those important needs, concerns, and issues that require the client's attention (Kellogg, 2004). Through increased conscious awareness, clients also discover disowned parts of self. These disowned parts of self are raised into awareness, considered, and assimilated if congruent with the core of the client's true self, or rejected if alien to the client's deepest sense of self. This process of reowning and taking responsibility facilitates integration. In this therapy model, both client and counselor or therapist are self-responsible. Counselors and therapists are responsible for the nature of their presence with the client, having both self-knowledge and knowledge of the client (White, 2009). They maintain nondefensiveness, while keeping their awareness and contact processes clear and in tune with the client (Pack, 2009).