Having worked personally with Fritz Perls (1893-1970) when gestalt therapy was in its infancy, Claudio Naranjo is ideally placed to write with insight and depth about this humanistic psychotherapy which draws on the work of William Reich (1897-1957) and Karen Horney (1885-1952) combined with Zen Buddhist principles, transpersonal philosophy and psychodynamic teachings. Gestalt Therapy is not only a tribute to Perls' ground-breaking work but is also an essential asset to the library of any gestalt practitioner or would-be practitioner because it synthesizes the original thinking behind gestalt practice with current-day ideology.
Claudio Naranjo emphasizes the fact that in gestalt practice the psychotherapist should possess the ability to listen and to understand empathetically rather than attempt to analyse the client's case in nit-picking detail. In Gestalt Therapy the author defines the therapeutic processes as consisting of the -˜transmission of an experience' through which the client can elect to make beneficial lifestyle and behavioural choices in the presence of the therapeutic practitioner. The gestalt discipline is not, therefore, about cracking defensive strategies or applying techniques based on theories, as with psychoanalysis, but is concerned with a genuine and intuitive engagement with the client. The gestalt therapist will, hence, skilfully encourage the client to achieve authenticity, sustained self-awareness, self-acceptance and face reality in his quest to become whole by interpersonal and transpersonal self-reflection. Because the fundamental premise of gestalt therapy is for the client to seek attitudes of -˜actuality, awareness and responsibility', by shunning avoidance and suppression, he can flourish with a better quality of life as a result of his therapeutic encounter.
The author of Gestalt Therapy stresses the wisdom of the client's self-observation, authenticity and -˜present-centeredness' whereby even past memories are brought into the present for discussion rather than employing deliberate regression methodology. The gestalt client will be encouraged to live in the here-and-now, rather than merely existing by a fabricated set of meaningless rules, and, consequently, will move towards organismic self-regulation. When the client ceases to avoid discomfort and psychic pain, most of which is inherently phobic, by an escape into fantasy and speculation, he will emerge from a sense of emptiness, nothingness and unproductive limbo with an inherent capacity to seize the day according to the carpe diem principle. With gestalt therapy the client can seek psychic resolution through gestalt's renown therapeutic re-enactment and transpersonal psychodrama and thereby enrich his quality of life by promoting expression not suppression in the therapeutic context.
Claudio Naranjo illuminates all his gestaltian theories with an appraisal of gestalt exercises and convincing illustrations of working practice including complete transcripts of gestalt sessions. The author also includes a variety of discussion papers given by today's gestalt experts who have expounded concepts of original thinking.
Gestalt Therapy is not a light-weight, frivolous read but is a series of discursive, philosophical arguments which when inwardly digested will reward the reader tenfold by enhancing his inner knowledge and experience of being or becoming a psychotherapist. Not for the pusillanimous, obviously, but decidedly well worth the effort.