Gestalt Therapy and Jung Therapy
“The medical treatment of transference gives the patient a priceless opportunity to withdraw his projections, to make good his losses and to integrate his personality” (Carl Jung- The Psychology of the Transference. CW 16. Par. 120).
The two modalities discussed in this essay are Gestalt therapy and Jungian therapy. A description of each modality, together with their historical background, key concepts, as well as similarities and differences in client-therapist relationship, and therapeutic goals, will be provided—finally, a summary detailing the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Gestalt theory focuses on how the client perceives reality and the idea that individuals are constantly learning about themselves, thereby reinventing (Corey et al., 2021). Instead of focusing on the past, Gestalt therapy requires the client to become aware of the present and, in doing so, promotes self-acceptance (Yontef, 1995).
Historical background of Gestalt Therapy
Gestalt therapy was developed in 1940 by Fritz and Laura Perls. Perls was trained in psychoanalysis and was influenced by other philosophical and psychological approaches (Frew, 2016). Wilhelm Reich’s interest in non-verbal communication influenced Perls and Sigmund Friedlander’s idea of polarities. (Frew, 2016). Kurt Goldstein, like Friedlander, believed that people moved towards creating balance. In doing so, they acclimatize to the environment. The purpose is self-actualization (Bowman & Nevis, 2005). According to Parlett and Lee (2005), Field theory states that a person’s behavior is understood in relation to their perception of the reality of their environment, which also impacted Gestalt theory together with Jan Smuts’s theory of Holism (Yontef & Jacobs, 2019).
Key concepts of Gestalt Therapy
According to Corey et al. (2021), the fundamental principles that underpin Gestalt therapy are holism, field theory, the figure formation process, and orgasmic self-regulation. Field theory requires an understanding of what occurs between the boundary of the individual and the environment. It is essential to look at figure and ground. The figure is things that are relevant at any moment, whereas the ground represents aspects that the client may not be aware of. The background is analyzed through the non-verbal gestures of the client. Figure formation is when the background information starts becoming the focal point. A Gestalt therapist aims to move this attention towards and away from this figure. Orgasmic Self-Regulation is when there is an imbalance in the equilibrium because of a need. Humans can navigate through these stages of imbalance to restore equilibrium (Corey et al., 2021).
A further concept of Gestalt therapy is awareness; there are three ways a client can achieve awareness through therapy (Sharf, 2012):
Contact is necessary for every individual. The challenge is to engage with the various elements without losing oneself (Sharf, 2012).
Although contact is a necessary and healthy process, individuals may employ contact boundaries to assist in coping with life. Contact boundaries can be both positive and negative. Gestalt therapists view these boundaries as disturbances and have identified five. Introjection is when an individual accepts the beliefs of others without consideration of their alignment with their own. Projection occurs when an individual sees undesirable characteristics of themselves in others without owning such traits. Retroflection is when individuals do things to themselves that they wish to others. Deflection is when there is a distraction from a situation that may feel uncomfortable, and confluence occurs when individual tries to maintain peace by avoiding conflict (Sharf, 2012). According to Sharf (2012), these methods weaken or diminish contact.
- The Present
According to Gestalt therapists, considering the individual in the present moment is essential. However, they do look at how the past affects the present. Examining the past is termed unfinished business and refers to aspects that have not been dealt with (Joyce & Sills, 2001). These feelings are given closure in the present (Sharf, 2012). Unfinished business could be in the form of blocked energy. This blockage can surface in defensive behavior, such as tension in various body parts (Corey et al., 2021).
- Growth Disorders
These are emotional problems that people have due to a lack of awareness. They do not network with the environment resulting in difficulties (Seligman, 2006).
Jungian therapy is a psychoanalytic approach developed by Carl Jung. Jung’s interest in philosophy, theology, mythology, and anthropology was widespread (Sharf, 2012).
Historical background of Jung therapy
Jung was influenced by Immanuel Kant, who believed that people did not see reality for what it is but instead as something that is influenced by the collective unconscious (Sharf, 2012). Carl Gustav Carus and Eduard von Hartmann’s concept of the universal unconscious also influenced Jung’s personality theory (Sharf, 2012). Jung was also influenced by anthropologists, including Adolf Bastian, who believed that likeness in psychologies of individuals could be understood by examining rituals, rites, and mythologies of specific cultures (Sharf, 2012). While studying word association, Franz Riklin and Jung developed the concept of the complex. Complexes are words that represent unconscious memories that impact people’s lives. Although Jung credits many of his ideas to Freud, he did have hesitations about Freud’s basic theory of sexuality (Sharf, 2012). During Jung’s time of exploration, he befriended Richard Wilhelm, an expert in Chinese writing and folklore (Stein, 2005).
Key Concepts of Jungian Therapy
Jungian therapy is based on the premise of an integration of the conscious and unconscious, which Jung termed, individuation (Corey, 2021).
Levels of Consciousness
According to Sharf (2012), Jung identified three levels of consciousness. The conscious level is the only level that individuals know and grow from birth. Individuation occurs as the individual grows and sees oneself as complete and different from others. At the centre is the ego. The personal unconscious store’s everything that is not allowed by the ego. Conflicts and unresolved issues are part of the personal unconscious and are repressed; however, they can manifest themselves in the form of dreams. The collective unconscious is the universal way that we see the world. According to Jung, specific thoughts and ideas can be inherited; he referred to these as archetypes.
Jungian therapy engages the unconscious with the conscious, these unconscious elements he referred to as archetypes (Geils, 2011).
Although there is no limit, Jung identified four main archetypes (Geils, 2011). The persona is the mask we wear to function. If the persona is given too much value, there will be a lack of genuine emotion (Sharf, 2012). The Anima and Animus, where the anima represents the female parts in the male mind, and the animus is the male parts in the female psyche. Jung believed that each must be willing to express the anima and animus to have a balanced personality. To know the self requires an individual to be in touch with both the conscious and unconscious; Jung employed dream analysis and spiritual and religious experiences to understand the unconscious (Sharf, 2012). The shadow is the dark personality trait that our conscious is unaware of.
Similarities and Differences of the Client-Therapist Relationship
According to Sedgwick (2001), Jungian psychotherapy requires participants to meet equally with no power given to the therapist. Jung saw that the personalities of both as fluid, resulting in healing for the patient and transformation for the therapist. Emphasis was placed on personal rather than technical seeking to unlock the unconscious. This is in contrast with Gestalt therapy, where therapists must set aside their personal biases to be cognisant of the present. Another difference is that Jungian therapy employs assessment methods such as remoralization, remediation and rehabilitation to understand the client’s progression (Howard et al., 1993), whereas Gestalt therapy uses various exercises and role-play such as empty chair or reversal technique (Day & Matthes, 1992).
Similarities and Differences in Therapeutic goals
Gestalt therapy aims to reduce the need for environmental support and increase self-support. This is similar to Jungian therapy; the goal is to separate parental influence so that the individual can evolve by becoming cognizant of unconscious thoughts (Day & Matthes, 1992). Both modalities recognize the need to purge projection for awareness to increase. Perls uses the empty chair technique to express introjects, whereas Jung encourages the ability of clients to be critical of parents and the environment that they have internalized (Day & Matthes, 1992). The difference is that Gestalt therapy focuses on the here and now, and Jungian therapy focuses on the psyche in totality (Sharf, 2012).
Strengths and Weakness Gestalt Therapy
According to Frew (2013), this approach can work well with clients from culturally diverse backgrounds because it considers the client’s context. Another advantage is that Gestalt experiments can be adapted to the perceptions of the clients’ culture (Corey, 2021). However, the weakness is that the experiments can become highly emotional, which could pose a block to clients from cultures where showing emotion is taboo (Corey, 2021). Another weakness is that although Perls stressed self-support as indicating maturity, he never defined self-support. According to Shepard (1975, p.120), a colleague commented that Perls emphasis on self-support could indicate his unresolved issue centered around dependency (Day & Matthes, 1992).
Strengths and Weakness Jungian therapy
According to Geils (2011), a strength of Jungian psychology is that it works well with African traditional healers who are religious as it understands both religion and psychology. Jung’s concept of individuation can also be seen as a strength in the form of freedom however can also be viewed as elitism which requires years of training and therapy and lots of money (Tacey, 2010).
In understanding Gestalt and Jungian therapy, preference is swayed towards Jungian therapy. From a psychological framework, Jung’s theory is holistic when considering each aspect of an individual, and it employs techniques to monitor progress (Howard et al., 1993).
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