Traditional Intervention Strategies
Specific interventions are the concrete behaviors of experimentation that emerge from the cooperation that exists between the client and the practitioner. They are labeled experiments because they are procedures aimed at discovery rather than exercises in the traditional sense (Resnick, 2004). They are not designed to control or initiate behavior change. Instead, experiments are conducted through counselor or therapist recommendations or suggestions for focusing awareness that clients can use to heighten intensity, power, flexibility, and creativity. The action in the experiment is seen as the natural completion of awareness (Resnick, 2004).
Yontef (1995, p. 280) provided the following purposes of experiments:
• To clarify and sharpen what the client is already aware of and to make new linkages between elements already in awareness.
• To bring into focal awareness that which was previously known only peripherally.
• To bring into awareness that which is needed but systematically kept out of awareness.
• To bring into awareness the system of control, especially the mechanism of preventing thoughts or feelings from coming into focal awareness.
Polster (1990) saw experiments as a way of bringing out internal conflicts by making the struggle an actual process. She aimed at facilitating a client's ability to work through the stuck points in the client's life. The strategies of experimentation can take many forms, such as imagining a threatening encounter, setting up dialogue with a significant other, dramatizing the memory of a painful event, and reliving a particularly profound past experience in the present through role playing, exaggerated gestures, posture, body language, or other signs of internal expression.
Peris believed that counseling and psychotherapy were means of enriching life (Dye & Hackney, 1975). From his perspective, it is clear that well people can get better. Intervention strategies suggested in this section are for clients who are fundamentally well but who need assistance in "making it" in a complex world. The aim of Gestalt counseling and psychotherapy is to take advantage of all dimensions of humanness by achieving integration. The goal is to enable a full experiencing of issues or events rather than just a cognitive understanding of them.
Given the goals of completeness, wholeness, integration, and fulfillment of the essentially healthy but needy individual (in the sense of an incomplete Gestalt), the following intervention strategies may be used (see Table 8.1). I would like the reader to have the opportunity to learn about as many Gestalt experiments as is feasibly possible. Unfortunately, the restrictions on this chapter cannot allow for an in-depth discussion on all the Gestalt experiments available to the practitioner. Therefore, a comprehensive table that provides details – albeit brief ones – on several of these experiments has been provided.