The Paradoxical Theory of Change

An essential component of Gestalt Therapy is the ‘Paradoxical Theory of Change’ (Beisser, 1970). The paradox is that when we strive and struggle to change ourselves, we remain stuck. Only when we accept ourselves as we are right now does the process of change begin to occur. As such, I will not be looking to change you if you choose to work with me. 

We will be exploring just how it is to be you right now – how you feel; what is going on inside your body; how it feels to be telling me how you are; what you are feeling as you tell me what happened to you last Saturday; what I am noticing about your voice, words or actions while you are telling me; whether you have felt like this before.

As an existential therapy, the Gestalt approach assumes that each person already has the resources needed to come into contact with others in the world and to have fulfilling relationships and experiences. However, each of us grows up in an environment unique to us and in order to survive, will adapt accordingly.

These adaptations are miraculous tools of survival, but if we are not aware of them, they will shape how we are in our relationships and the world in unhelpful ways. The Gestalt Therapist aims to help people become aware of these repetitive patterns so that they can then choose whether to let them go.


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The Gestalt Cycle


The term ‘gestalt’ is German and roughly translated means ‘whole’. When we have unfinished business in an area of our lives the gestalt is incomplete and as long as it remains so, we will repeat the same unfulfilling patterns. Thus, you may have a problem at work that is a recurring theme in your life. You may have been behaving/responding in ways that you are familiar with but feel unable to stop.

After a few weeks of counselling, you may have discovered and accepted why this issue is affecting the whole of you so intensely. As you begin to understand and accept what is going on for you, you will begin to become aware of more choices in dealing with the issue. You may at this point choose to finish your counselling.

However, even though that particular cycle has been completed, it may have become apparent that there are other pieces of unfinished business bothering you. We can then discuss whether you would like to continue your counselling to work on these other issues. If it is clear in the initial session that the issue you are bringing will require longerterm work, I will let you know then.

The Importance of the Therapeutic Relationship

Gestalt Therapy is approached from the ‘here and now’ and as such, what is going on in the therapy room is really important. It will provide vital clues as to what might be affecting you in your everyday life. It is also a relational approach and we will be looking at what is occurring between us. The relationship between client and counsellor is rich ground for bringing to light and healing old wounds.

Gestalt Therapy is also experiential and so during the work we do together we will be looking at trying out other ways of being. This is not preplanned or prepared, but ideas will emerge within the sessions and between us; an organic process. There is always choice and you don’t need to try any experiments that you would rather not. We will also be looking at dreams, which can further shed light on forgotten parts of ourselves.

Becoming yourself more fully

From the safety of our therapeutic relationship, I can help you become more aware of what it is like to be you as you describe what you are experiencing through your words and demonstrate it through your actions. I see my role as being rather like an Archaeologist so that although you know much more about yourself than I ever can, if we combine tools, together we can begin to sweep aside the unhelpful patterns preventing you from living your life as you would like. As such, you will have the freedom to become yourself more fully.
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