Developed by Fritz Perls, Gestalt therapy focuses on the here and now, rather than the past. The assumption is that the individual takes personal responsibility for his psychological functioning (cognitive, emotional, behavioral, etc). Past incidents are re-enacted/role-played instead of just speaking about the experience.

Personality Development

Perls divided the personality into the self and the self-image. Self is the part of the personality that ha the capacity to self-regulate and self-actualize. Self-image is what keeps the individual from reaching their full potential. Childhood experiences and external standard help or hinder the development of the self. The point where the self and the other meet is called the point of contact.

View of Problematic Behavior

According to Gestalt therapy/theory, maladaptive behaviors stem from Boundary Disturbances in the point of contact. Some of the boundary disturbances include:

  • Introjection: accepting something as a whole without any critique.
  • Confluence: no boundary between the self and the other.
  • Projection: taking a part of you (cognitive, emotional) and associating it with the other.
  • Retroflection: thoughts and feelings about others is directed towards the self.


The primary aim of therapy is to increase awareness with the goal of integration of parts of the self into a unified whole (a gestalt). This is often done through the use of an empty chair in therapy where the client role-plays self and the other. Dreams are also analyzed and role-played as they are assumed to represent parts of the self.