Similarities and Differences Between Gestalt Therapy and Process-Oriented Psychology

Our life myth is a dream
That is out there
calling to us

What is Gestalt Therapy?


The term Gestalt comes from the German language, and it refers to a form or shape. The concept of Gestalt implies that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The Gestalt Psychology approach to awareness built on the concept by developing a phenomenological model. From the psychological theory, a mode of therapy was created that focuses on we place meaning, make sense of our world and our experiences by attending to our individual perception. Gestalt therapy centers a way of perceiving the whole person, rather than individual symptoms. A human is a Gestalt of all their individual symptoms, thoughts, feelings and experiences.

Gestalt therapy was founded by Fritz Perls, a German psychiatrist, in the 1940s. Perls was influenced by the work of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, as well as other philosophers and psychiatrists. He developed Gestalt therapy as a way to help people achieve self-actualization, or the fulfillment of their potential. This branch of therapy aims to help people become more aware of their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as well as the impact they have on others. The goal is to promote growth and healing by helping people understand and accept themselves, and by teaching them to take responsibility for their own lives.


What are the Foundational Principles of Gestalt Therapy?


Within the model, the individual is also seen as being a part of a largest socio-culture picture. The therapist strives to help the individual see how they are connected to the larger world, and how their actions and choices impact those around them.

“Gestalt therapy is built upon two central ideas: that the most helpful focus of psychotherapy is the experiential present moment, and that everyone is caught in webs of relationships; thus, it is only possible to know ourselves against the background of our relationships to others.” –  Latner, J. (2000) The Theory of Gestalt Therapy, in Gestalt therapy: Perspectives and Applications

The principles of Gestalt outline a model for how we perceive life. Life often feels like a storm of information, and we put these stimuli together to make meaning out of them.

From: “For example, people do not need to examine every brick on the house to determine that it is a house. Here we have grouped the bricks together to realize that that was a wall. Then, we group together those walls to make a house. If there are other houses next to it, then we group those houses into a development. Multiple developments are then grouped into a community. Grouping of stimuli allows us to make sense of the world so that we do not have to focus on the tiny details.”


How is Gestalt Therapy Similar to Processwork?


Gestalt therapy is similar to processwork in that both therapies focus on the present moment, and on the relationships between the individual and their environment. Gestalt therapy emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and personal responsibility, while processwork places a strong emphasis on the unfolding sensory experiences. Both therapies are experiential and emphasize awareness building skills.

In Processwork, the therapist is seeking to help the client be aware of what is beyond the horizon on their known indentity. In Gestalt, the therapist is help the client to be aware of what they are not noticing about themselves in the present. The goal in both therapies is to bring the unconscious into conscious awareness.

Some common techniques used in Gestalt therapy include:

● Empty chair work: This involves the client imagining that someone important to them is sitting in an empty chair, and then having a conversation with that person. This can be used to work through unresolved issues, or to explore different aspects of the self.

● Role-playing: This involves the therapist and client taking on different roles in order to explore different points of view.

● Fantasy work: This involves the client exploring their fantasies and daydreams in order to gain insight into their inner workings.

● Body work: This involve the therapist and client paying attention to the nonverbal communication of the body, such as posture, gestures, and facial expressions.

Some common techniques used in Process-Oriented Psychology include:

● Dreamwork: This involves the therapist and client exploring the client’s dreams in order to gain insight into their inner workings.

● World work: This involves the therapist and client taking on different roles in order to explore different points of view.

● Sensorimotor work: This involves the therapist and client paying attention to the nonverbal communication of the body, such as posture, gestures, and facial expressions.

● Drawing and writing: This involves the client using different forms of art to express themselves and explore their inner world.

Both Gestalt therapy and Process-Oriented Psychology place a strong emphasis on the therapist-client relationship. The relationship is seen as a key factor in the healing process.




For more about Gestalt Therapy

For more about Process Work Therapy 

Enjoy this Introduction to Gestalt

Want to Dive Deeper into Processwork?

Become a Member to Join our Classes & Community Events


SLiding Scale

Flexible Pricing


What to expect

​Strategic Topics &
Optimized Learning

Course content curated for personal growth, individual facilitation, organizational facilitation & social change.

Ongoing Learning &

Each seminar recording comes with unlimited access to the seminar content. Watch as many times as you want, whenever you want!

Global Community Network

Learn from presenters and participants all over the world, sharing experience and expertise drawn from their unique contexts.

Experiential Exercises &
Written Handouts

Be guided through experiential exercises via the video clips and follow along with written handouts.

Subscribe to our Newsletter and Stay Updated!

Contact us

Wherever you are in the world, you can be a part of our vibrant learning community! Contact us with questions or to host your own event through Processwork Online.

Join our Facebook Group!

Copyright 2021 © Processwork Online

Scroll to Top