4 Keys of Gestalt Therapy to Treat Depression

4 Keys of Gestalt Therapy to Treat Depression
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Treating depression with Gestalt therapy is a both interesting and useful strategy. For example, it helps us readjust to our reality in a more creative way, resolving emotional blocks so that we can relate better to ourselves and everything around us in a more valid and secure way.

We’re talking about a kind of approach which is still finding its place in the clinical world. However, its effectiveness is evident and it is worth going a little deeper into this school of psychology. For example, the central point that defines it is the idea that people are always in constant transformation.

“Be as you are. And so see who you are and how you are. Let go for a moment or two of what you ought to do, and discover what you do do.”

-Fritz Perls-

So, in this mutation, it is common for conflicts, imbalances and tensions to arise. In the constant interaction between our body and all that surrounds us, there are often pieces that do not fit and that break the balance between oneself and the “all” that surrounds us.

Depression is without a doubt one of the most common problems (or imbalances). Furthermore, according to Gestalt psychotherapy, depressive disorders arise when there is a block, when our reality stops being in harmony and we lose the ability to connect to ourselves and our needs.

It remains clear, however, that each psychological approach and each school of therapy has its particular strategy to deal with this illness, however, it’s worth saying is that Gestalt therapy is very effective for working on these kinds of blocks and promoting our self-realization at the same time. Let’s look at 4 keys to understanding its approach a bit better.

Woman capturing man's heart

1. Expressive techniques of Gestalt therapy to treat depression

The expressive techniques of Gestalt therapy seek something very specific: to bring out our inner tensions, to channel the energy that causes the knot of our conflicts, and, little by little, to define out loud the root of our problems.

  • We mustn’t forget that, according to this approach, depression is an adverse experience for the human being which cuts us off and isolates us. We are so focused on ourselves that the only thing we do is accumulate negative energy. And feeding ourselves exclusively from that current of negative sensations and thoughts fragments us even further…

It is therefore necessary to express what is inside us, to come into contact with our emotions and let them go, releasing them out into the light.

2. Suppressive techniques

To treat depression, according to Gestalt therapy, it is very useful to get the patient to apply a “suppressive” approach. So, what do we understand by a suppressive technique? As the word itself suggests, we’re going to eliminate something, something that breaks the harmony with all that surrounds us and which also blocks the healthy union with our inner being.

  • We should therefore “suppress”, control and manage all the thoughts and dynamics that distance us from the present moment, the here and now.
  • Instead of getting immersed in a useless stream of worries that don’t take us anywhere, we need to allow ourselves to “experience” the present moment and feel each second openly and receptively.
  • We also need to eliminate from our inner discourse the “shoulds”, the “maybes”, the “perhaps” and the “what might happens”… All that also distances us from the here and now.
Birds flying from head-shaped tree

3. Integration techniques

For Gestalt, the experience of depression implies a personal defragmentation. Our reality has fallen apart and we ourselves are disconnected from our inner needs and from the context that surrounds us which, suddenly, we don’t identify with. Gestalt therapy seeks to promote integration between our being and the surroundings, the balance that is currently lost. Integration techniques have this goal and work through two strategies:

  • Intrapersonal encounter. This encourages a skillful and effective dialogue, an exchange in which we can become aware of certain elements and circumstances. For example: “I don’t think I’m worth anything” ⇔  what concrete facts have made me come to this conclusion?
  • Assimilation of projections. For example “I think that all my work colleagues hate me” ⇔  projection ⇔ Now put yourself in the place of your work colleagues and imagine that you are all of them. What concrete and logical reasons do they have to hate you?

It is also worth mentioning that this process between the therapist and the patient achieves excellent results as long as “awareness” takes place. That is to say, the step in which the person “realizes” and becomes aware of what they think and feel and of what happens inside them.

4. Creative adjustment

The therapeutic work of Gestalt not only seeks to free us from our blocks or resolve unresolved issues which also sometimes break the balance with the totality of who we are. What a therapist tries to achieve for us is for us to end up feeling like freer and more creative people when it comes to resolving our day-to-day problems.

For this reason, it is not enough to heal or overcome depression. We have to learn from this process through a creative adjustment, getting something new out of it, a strengthening impulse from which to obtain new resources and abilities to create a richer, more favorable, and, of course, a happier present.

A confused mind - Gestalt

As Fritz Perls himself said, creative adjustment is a transformational impulse. An impulse that enables us to keep going, feel renewed, stronger and more able. In this way, and in conclusion, we mustn’t forget that on this path to recover our inner balance and perfect harmony with all that surrounds us, it is necessary to integrate new abilities to flow along the journey of life with greater buoyancy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.