Arbitrary regulation creates "shoulds" that can control the client's thoughts, feelings, actions, and relationships (Clarkson, 2004). Any counselor or therapist who has worked with clients has often seen the strong pull between clients' sense of what they should think, feel, or do and the emerging awareness of what they, in actuality, do think, feel, or want to do. It is apparent that Gestalt therapy places a high value on autonomy and self-determination. Although Gestalt therapy maintains a "no should" ethic, there is one exception. The exception is the situation. Peris believed that when clients understand the situation they find themselves in and allows it to shape their actions, then they have begun to learn how to cope with life (Yontef & Jacobs, 2007).
I-Thou, What and How, Here and Now
A shorthand for Gestalt therapy is reflected in the phrase "I-Thou, what and how, here and now," which was derived from the philosophical writing of Martin Buber (Brownell, 2003a). The counselor or therapist and the client form an alliance based on self-responsibility and an agreement to strive to be present with each other during their time together. Furthermore, the focus of counseling and therapy is the "what and how" of a client's experience in the present, in the moments that the counselor or therapist and the client are together (Pack, 2009). The client and the counselor or therapist explore together through experiments that reveal what the client does and how it is done. According to Melnick, Nevis, and Shub (2005), the experiment is one method of teaching the client in which the client can learn. A here-and-now focus on the what and how of the client's internal and external processes increases awareness, which is a necessity for growth and a focus of the experiment (Wagner-Moore, 2004).
The counselor or therapist is aware of the centrality of the client-counselor /therapist relationship and tends to it by being present, respectful of the client's capacity to heal and grow, and willing to be an authentic person in the therapeutic relationship (Melnick et al., 2005). The client-counselor/therapist relationship is viewed as horizontal, not vertical Thus the two parties seek equality in relation to one another (Clarkson, 2004). In this process, the counselor or therapist may choose, when appropriate, to share his or her own experience in the moment as it helps to facilitate the client's awareness.
Direct experience is the tool used to expand awareness, and the focus on the client's present experience is made deeper and broader as counseling or therapy rmfolds. Awareness is viewed as occurring now; it takes place now, although prior events can be the object of present awareness (Yontef & Fuhr, 2005). Even though the event took place in the past, the focus is on the awareness of it that is taking place in the now, in this moment. Therefore, the present is understood as an ever-moving transition between past and future (Yontef & Jacobs, 2007).