Gestalt Therapy in Complicated Grief Counseling
This article explores how clients can benefit from gestalt therapy in complicated grief counseling. Gestalt therapy focuses on the integration between the “whole” person and his or her environment. This therapy sees a healthy individual as being someone who has awareness in his or her life and lives in the here and now rather than focusing on the past or future. Gestalt therapy has a number of successful techniques that are applicable in therapy today and may be utilized across a broad spectrum of emotional issues.
The therapy is preferred in the treatment of complicated grief as it addresses unfinished business, a concept that is synonymous with complicated grief. Unfinished business traditionally refers to people who do not finish things in their lives and is often related to people with a “growth disorder” (Seligman, 2006). People with unfinished business often resent the past and because of this are unable to focus on their life in the here and now. One of the major goals of Gestalt therapy is to help people work through their unfinished business and bring about closure, making it suitable for treating complicated grief.
The empty chair technique is one of the most familiar strategies of Gestalt Therapy. It is a method of facilitating the role-taking dialog between the client and others; or dialog between different parts of the client’s personality. Two chairs are placed facing each other: one represents the client or one aspect of the client’s personality, and the other represents another person or the opposing part of the client’s personality. As the client alternates the role, he or she sits in one or the other chair.
The therapist may simply observe as the dialog progresses or they may; instruct the client when to change chairs, suggest sentences to say, call the client’s attention to what has been said, or ask the client to repeat or exaggerate words or actions. In the process, emotions and conflicts are endeavored to be evoked, impasses may be brought about and resolved, and awareness and integration of polarities within their personality construct may develop (Patterson, 1986).
One reason that this technique is said to be effective in treating complicated grief is because it allows the bereaved opportunity to “talk” to the deceased and work through any conflicts in thoughts and feelings about the loved one’s death. The bereaved is able to address the deceased directly in the first person opening a window of opportunity to work through their unfinished business and conflicting issues around the deceased.
Source: Complicated Grief CE Course