English abstracts of articles on
Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy

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Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy - a comparison from the angle of 'self-determination'.

Gestalt therapy and Gestalt theory - what do they have in common?

Gestalt theory as a clinical-psychological theory of selforganization.

Gestalt theory and theory of autopoiesis - are they compatible?

Psychological diagnostics and appraisement from a Gestalt theoretical perspective

Wolfgang Metzger, taoism and Zen-buddhism

Ethical implications of Gestalt theory. Exemplified for the case of psychological work in a prison

Epistemologically differentiating Perls' verdict 'mind-fucking'.

Productive thinking and psychotherapy

What do clients know?

On the problem of values in psychotherapy.

Is there any future for psychotherapy?

Phenomenal Order in Psychic Disorders

On the scientific point of view of Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy

Psychoanalytic concepts in the light of Gestalt theory - An analysis of selected defence mechanisms

A critical examination of some theoretical assumptions and constructs in Gestalt therapy

Gestalt Theory and Individual Psychology - a fruitful convergence

Gestalt theoretical contributions to psychopathology

"Back to the phenomena" - Philosophical phenomenology and Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy

The mind-body problem in Sigmund Freud's theory of drive from a gestalt theoretical view

Gestalt Theory and Psychopathology

A taxonomy of mental disorders in the tradition of the Lewin school?

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Irene PAULS, Hans-Jürgen WALTER:
Kognitive Verhaltenstherapie und Gestalttheoretische Psychotherapie - ein Vergleich unter dem Aspekt 'Selbstbestimmung' [Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy - a comparison from the angle of 'self-determination'].
Gestalt Theory, 3 (1981), No. 3/4, pp 207-216.

The concept of self-determination in 'cognitive behavior therapy' and Gestalt theory by all means are compatible. The concept of self-determination in 'cognitive behavior therapy' can become a precising part of the concept of self-determination in Gestalt theory. On the other hand the concept of self-determination in Gestalt theory may offer to 'cognitive behavior therapy' a more extensive framework on behalf of a fuller image of man.

Hans-Jürgen WALTER:
Was haben Gestalt-Therapie und Gestalttheorie miteinander zu tun? [Gestalt therapy and Gestalt theory - what do they have in common?]
Gestalt Theory, 6
(1984), No. 1, pp 55-69.

Some Gestalt theorists will have nothing to do with the 'unspeakable' Fritz PERLS and Gestalt therapy which he was the first to call by that name. On the other hand, several Gestalt therapists, although emphasizing that PERLS received impulses from Gestalt theory for the development of his method of therapy, consider other influences to be more important and going beyond an allegedly unpolitical Gestalt theory which is 'limited to perceptual psychology'.
The opinion is held that neither position does justice to Fritz PERLS' Gestalt therapy.
It is shown that the decisive concepts on which PERLS bases both his criticism of psychoanalysis, from which he comes, and his own approach have their origin in Gestalt theory and that it would mean denying one's own central positions were Gestalt theory to dissociate itself from Fritz PERLS' Gestalt therapy.
In order to delimit 'Gestalt palaver' following theoretical statements of PERLS (which showed faults with regard to the theory of cognition) it is suggested to use the term 'Gestalt-theoretical psychotherapy'.

Hans-Jürgen WALTER:
Gestalttheorie als klinisch-psychologische Theorie der Selbstorganisation [Gestalt theory as a clinical-psychological theory of selforganization].
Gestalt Theory, 7 (1985), No. 4, pp 260-272.

On the basis of the epistemological standpoint of Gestalt theory - i.e. critical realism - , the psychological Gestalt theory is interpreted as a theory of human self-organization. At the latest with WERTHEIMERs demonstration that in perceptual processes the perceived parts change during the formation of perceptual wholes, but also already with the - from a critical-realistic perspective inevitable - insight that man's direct phenomenal experience should be treated with the same dignity as the physical reality, Gestalt theory developed to a theory of legitimate influence of one person on another. It is disclosed by a number of contributions (in particular by LEWINs force-field analysis of the life space, by METZGERs description of the 'way from top down' in the distinction between different Gestalt qualities, and by BISCHOFs analysis of epistemological views which can be characterized as 'semi-naive realism') that mechanistic ways of thinking and beliefs about man and world form the basis of many mental disturbances. Furthermore, these contributions identify Gestalt theory for more than 30 years as a clinical-psychological approach, which is capable of providing the psychotherapist with the tools to assist client's self-organization in overcoming these disturbances.

Hans-Jürgen WALTER:
Sind Gestalttheorie und Theorie der Autopoiese miteinander vereinbar? [Gestalt theory and theory of autopoiesis - are they compatible?]
Gestalt Theory, 10
(1988), No. 1, pp 57-70.

The attempts of STADLER & KRUSE to equate the epistemological position of Gestalt theory and 'radical constructivism' (according to MATURANA, VARELA, ROTH and others) is critically analyzed. It seems that their attempt appears only successful if quotes are tendentially selected, and if concepts are contaminated or their content is shifted away from its normal usage. Once again one gets the impression that this attempt proves the position that it would be more precise to use the term contaminism or confusionism instead of 'radical constructivism'.

Marianne SOFF:
Psychologische Diagnostik und Begutachtung unter gestalttheoretischem Blickwinkel [Psychological diagnostics and appraisement from a Gestalt theoretical perspective] Gestalt Theory, 12 (1990), No. 1, pp. 33-45.

The training of diagnostic skills plays a major role in the academic coursework for psychologists. The underlying processes of this skill are viewed here from the point of view of Gestalt theory. This reveals that some integral aspects of this skill are often neglected at the universities. Aas a result of this analysis recommendations are formulated for the future training of psychologic diagnosticians.

Rainer KÄSTL:
Zur Beziehung von Wolfgang Metzger zu Taoismus und Zen-Buddhismus [About the relation between Wolfgang Metzger, taoism and Zen-buddhism]
Gestalt Theory, 12
(1990), No. 3, pp 141-149.

In his book 'Schöpferische Freiheit' Wolfgang METZGER (1962) refers to taoism and empathically recommends the study of Zen-buddhism. Some of his central ideas concerning the work with living beings, the problem of reality, and the body-mind-problem are compared with core positions of Zen-buddhism and taoism, in order to show that fundamental theoretical and philosophical ideas in these eastern schools of thought resemble positions of Gestalt theory or are even equivalent to them.

Waltraud ZILLIG:
Ethische Implikationen der Gestalttheorie. Erläutert am Beispiel psychologischer Arbeit im Gefängnis [Ethical implications of Gestalt theory. Exemplified for the case of psychological work in a prison] Gestalt Theory, 14 (1992), No. 3, pp 174-195.

Aspects of the Gestalt theoretical image of man and some implications of critical realism for the view of man as a social being are described. Hence it follows that the ethically required consideration of the fellow-creature results under definable conditions from the dynamics of the whole group. The structuring of the phenomenal field in case of appropriate behavior is discussed by following KÖHLERs concept of 'requiredness' and WERTHEIMERs 'structural requirements of the situation". A 'mechanistic' moral consisting of rules and restrictions is opposed to a 'productive' understanding of ethics, in which 'freedom' is considered as a fundamental condition to allow new rules of behavior emerging immediately from the structural demands of a new situation. Finally - following W. METZGER - essential values within a Gestalt theoretical view of ethics are described, their reasons are pointed out, they are analysed with regard to their consequences, and discussed referring to psychological work in prison.

Hans-Jürgen WALTER:
Zur erkenntnistheoretischen Differenzierung des Perls'schen Verdikts 'Mind-fucking' [Epistemologically differentiating Perls' verdict 'mind-fucking'].
Gestalt Theory, 14 (1992), No. 4, pp 266-279.

Fritz PERLS, the founder of 'Gestalt Therapy', has denounced 'explanatoriness' and interpreting as 'dummy activity' and 'mind-fucking'. By means of practical examples it is shown that this 'verdict' is inappropriate, not only with regard to psychotherapeutic intervention, but also, generally, to human experiencing and action. However, it may be understood as an exaggerated reaction against the common misuse of the human ability to think (to explain, to interpret, to plan, to intervene, to construct, etc.) which leads to typical mental disorders.
Following on from critical realism and phenomenology as represented by the Gestalt theorists, KÖHLER (American edition 1938), WERTHEIMER (1991), METZGER (1963, 1969), THOLEY (1980) and others, it is shown that it is necessary to take into account the 'immediately existing reality' (objects, persons, thoughts, emotions, sensations) just as much as the 'represented reality' (results of thinking, constructions, interpretations), not only for a proper understanding of psychosomatic inter-relations of human health and illness, but also, generally, as a pre-condition for learning from experience and for acting and deciding responsibly within complex connections of life (past, present, and future).

Wolfgang ZÖLLER:
Produktives Denken und Psychotherapie [Productive thinking and psychotherapy]
Gestalt Theory, 15
(1993), No. 3/4, pp 217-226.

From its beginnings Gestalt theory has made efforts to work out the inherent laws of psychic proceedings. In doing so it made use of a phenomenal method and of the experiment. In addition to the field of perception it was especially that of productive thinking, the exploration of which could corroborate the final and holistic position of Gestalt theory.
It is just the observations made in the investigation of productive processes of thinking that can give a lot of impulse and hints for psychotherapeutic work. A really growth-oriented therapy develops according to steps of development similar to productive and progressive thinking. What it is all about is a process of change aimed in the direction of a 'good Gestalt', supported step by step by self-responsibility and insight.

Thomas FUCHS:
Was wissen Klienten? Überlegungen zur Frage, wie psychotherapeutisches Geschehen angemessen untersucht werden kann [What do clients know? Some considerations about how it could be possible to assess adequately what is happening in psychotherapy].
Gestalt Theory, 16 (1994), No. 2, pp 77-88.

Principles of Gestalt and Field theory are applied to the study of psychotherapeutic processes. Methodological aspects proposed in the work of THOMAE are included. The article outlines the contribution of the client's perspective to the assessment of psychotherapy.

Zum Werteproblem in der Psychotherapie [On the problem of values in psychotherapy].
Gestalt Theory, 17 (1995), No. 3, pp 184-195.

Discusses the issue of values in psychotherapy, comparing the ethical relativism of M. Kruell's (1991) systemic-constructivist approach with the Gestalt theory positions of W. Koehler (1968) and M. Wertheimer (1991). According to Gestalt theory, individuals can determine the appropriateness of their values and evaluations by gaining insight into the demands of a given situation. It is the task of psychotherapy to promote such insight.

Hans-Jürgen WALTER:
Hat Psychotherapie noch Zukunft? Oder: Zum Problem der Ordnung in der Psychotherapie [Is there any future for psychotherapy? Or: On the problem of order in psychotherapy].
Gestalt Theory, 17 (1995), No. 4, pp 238-259.

A detailed critique of how GRAWE et al. (1994, pp. 121-127) are viewing the future of psychotherapy, attacking the current influence of its main protagonist with sharp-witted polemics, is followed by a rather brief summary of how PIERINGER (1994) views the future of psychotherapeutic theory and practice.
In the last chapter the concept of PIERINGER turns out to be the inspiring structural ground for the author's discussion of the quest for an adequate order of practice in psychotherapy research and application.

Michael RUH:
Phänomenale Ordnung bei psychischen Störungen: Zur Aktualität der Thesen Heinrich Schulte's. [Phenomenal Order in Psychic Disorders. On the Actuality of the Theses of Heinrich Schulte.]
Gestalt Theory, 18
(1996), No. 1, pp 19-51.

Heinrich SCHULTEs theory of the paranoid ideas of reference and delusion formation is explicated. The theses of SCHULTE can be used as a general model of the formation of current psychotic disorders. It is argued that a phenomenological and relational approach is necessary to understand these disorders. The common quality of psychotic symptoms - as seen by the diagnostician or therapist - is described as a disorder of contact. The formation of psychotic symptoms can be understood as an attempt of the individual to transform the unlivable chasm between "I-and-the-others" into a livable psychic state. Finally some aspects of psychoanalytic and psychiatric research and theory in psychotic disorders are discussed from a Gestalt theoretical point of view.

Wolfgang ZÖLLER:
Zum wissenschaftlichen Standpunkt der Gestalttheoretischen Psychotherapie. [On the scientific point of view of Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy.]
Gestalt Theory, 18
(1996), No. 4, pp 257-275.

This article describes and compares the fundamental theoretical positions of the Gestalt theory and the corresponding conclusions for a psychotherapy with other basic psychological positions which have developed a clinical treatment or a psychotherapy from their theories. One part of this article outlines the epistemological point of view of Gestalt theory - Critical Realism - and its importance for psychotherapy. Another part discusses differences and common grounds between Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy on the one hand, psychoanalysis, Adlerian and Jungian psychotherapy on the other.

Thomas FUCHS, Michael RUH, Marianne SOFF & Bernd GERSTNER:
Psychoanalytische Konzepte im Lichte der Gestalttheorie - Eine Analyse am Beispiel ausgewählter Abwehrmechanismen. [Psychoanalytic concepts in the light of Gestalt theory - An analysis of selected defence mechanisms.]
Gestalt Theory, 19
(1997), No. 3.

Psychoanalysis and Gestalt theory have theoretical and conceptual links regarding their dynamic conceptualization of psychic processes. Defence mechanisms play a major role in theory and therapy of both schools.
The defence mechanism "projection" in its classical psychoanalytic sense and a more complex defence mechanism, the so-called "projective identification" (KLEIN, 1947) are compared with the Gestalt-theoretical view of these concepts. For this purpose, the epistemological orientation of Gestalt theory - Critical Realism - is outlined. Exemplified by a simple case study, possible effects of a projection on the phenomenal world and the transphenomenal world are described. Compared to the psychoanalytical perspective, Critical Realism provides a broader system-view and a clearer distinction between "inside" and "outside". The phenomena "projection" and "projective identification" can be explained systematically in Gestalt-theoretical terms without referring to "historical solutions", such as early childhood traumata or the Oedipus complex. The possibility of past events influencing the present behaviour of a person is by no means denied, but there has to be a clear distinction between the systematic approach and the historical analysis. The psychoanalytic explanations emphasizing early childhood experiences remain vague and hypothetical. We have to be cautious in connecting present pathological phenomena in adult persons with hypothesized early developments. At least some of the theoretical assumptions of FREUD and KLEIN have to be corrected in the light of empirical developmental psychology. In contrast the Gestalt-theoretical approach tries by means of phenomenological methods to identify the important personal and contextual conditions that may contribute to the understanding of a person's behaviour. This corresponds to a view of man that is principally capable of recognizing the "demands of the situation" (WERTHEIMER) and behaving according to the needs of the situation, rather than being permanently trapped between pleasure and denial.

Zur Kritik einiger theoretischer Annahmen und Konstrukte in der Gestalt-Therapie
[A critique of theoretical assumptions and constructs in Gestalt therapy]
Gestalt Theory, 20 (1998), No. 4, pp 283-309.

Analyzes theoretical assumptions and constructs of Gestalt therapy. A brief discussion delineation of the relationship between Gestalt theory and Gestalt therapy is presented. A critical evaluation of the constructs and models of "organism-environment filed," homeostasis and the "contact-cycle" of Gestalt therapy are examined. Alternative approaches of Gestalt therapy are suggested. .

Marianne SOFF & Michael RUH:
Gestalttheorie und Individualpsychologie: Eine fruchtbare Verbindung
[Gestalt Theory and Adler's Individual Psychology - A Fruitful Convergence]
Gestalt Theory, 21 (1999), No. 4, pp 256-274.

Traces some of the convergences between Gestalt Theory and the individual psychology approach using 14 publications of Alfred Adler that were edited and introduced by Wolfgang Metzer in the 1970's, as well as other publications from these psychological orientations. Adler's termini "inferiority" and "social interest" are analyzed in light of Gestalt Theory.

Gestalttheoretische Beiträge zur Psychopathologie
[Contributions of Gestalt theory to the field of psychopathology]
Gestalt Theory, 22 (2000), No. 1, pp 27-46.

Early Gestalt theoretical contributions in the field of psychopathology have attracted increased interest over the last years. Five years ago the SCHULTE/WERTHEIMER thesis on paranoia (1924) was called back to mind by Michael RUH at the 9th Scientific Convention of the GTA in Osnabrück. RUH pointed out the topicality and potential of this thesis for understanding not only paranoic but also other severe psychic disturbances. From there a vivid discussion about the foundations and implications of this thesis took its course within the psychotherapy section of the GTA which still continues. Independently from that but at the same time - also five years ago - Kevin CROCHETIÈRE, Nealy VICKER, James PARKER, D. Brett KING und Michael WERTHEIMER from the University of Colorado made a contribution to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in New York which presented and discussed early applications of Gestalt theory in the field of clinical psychology and psychopathology (also including the SCHULTE thesis). This indicates renewed interest for a field of application of Gestalt theory which was in fact of great interest and importance for the founders of Gestalt theory and in which they stimulated and influenced scientific and research work of several of their students and other sympathizing psychiatrists and psychotherapists. But as a matter of fact, though Gestalt theory based or influenced work in this field was continued and developed over these last eight decades in many countries, its promising approach and findings have not yet found the broad resonance, integration and advancement which it deserved.
In an introductory overview some rudimentary information is given about the early beginnings of Gestalt theory application in the field of psychopathology and about its further development. Three of the early writings on psychopathology - inspired and influenced by Max WERTHEIMER - are presented briefly: The article by SCHULTE 1924 on paranoia and the two articles by Erwin LEVY on a case of mania (1936) and on the formal disturbance of thought (1943). Some comments on these writings are given focussing on some characteristics of the Gestalt theoretical approach to psychopathological disturbances. Finally an outline of basic characteristic ideas of a Gestalt theoretical psychopathology is presented, pointing out and discussing how these refer to the five interconnected meta-theoretical concepts of Gestalt theory listed by METZGER (the epistemological, psychological, psychophysical, methodological und system-theoretical concept).

"Auf die 'Sachen selbst' zurückgehen" - Berührungspunkte zwischen philosophischer Phänomenologie und Gestalttheoretischer Psychotherapie
["Back to the phenomena" - Links between philosophical phenomenology and Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy]
Gestalt Theory, 22 (2000), No. 1, pp 47-62.

Discusses the interrelationship between phenomenology and philosophy, psychology, and psychotherapy. The program created by Husserl (1985) advancing the concept "back to the phenomena," which corresponds to the object of Gestalt psychology to perceive human experience in an nonprejudical manner is addressed. It is inferred that the phenomenological approach may help to overcome apparent alternatives of scientific theories and to integrate nomothetic and idiographic attempts. The author observes that Husserl's transcendental reduction was subject to criticism. Addresses the themes of intersubjectivity and the ethical turn of epistemology with regard to their meaning for the therapeutical setting.

Michael GROSS:
Das Leib-Seele-Problem in Sigmund FREUDs Trieblehre aus gestalttheoretischer Sicht [The mind-body problem in Sigmund Freud's theory of sexual drive from a gestalt theoretical point of view]
Gestalt Theory, 22
(2000), No. 2, pp. 107-121.

Provides a short overview of development and meaning of Siegmund Freud's theory of (sexual) drive and discusses the basic definition of drive. Suggests that Freud cannot explain convincingly the connection between physical and mental components of drive and that he fails in his intention to found psychoanalysis in a biological way. Nevertheless credits Freud with being the first to investigate the effects of drive on the mind. Presents the gestalt theoretical approaches by Lewin and Metzger, which offer two possibilities to solve the mind-body problem in a logical and consistent way.

Gestalt Theory and Psychopathology
Gestalt Theory, 23 (2001), No. 2, pp. 144-154.


Gestalt psychology does provide some potentially fruitful insights into psychopathology. In the concept oif isomorphism, Gestalt theory acknowledges the interrelation between brain functioning and behavior, and specifies the interrelation of both psychogenic and somatogenic sources of psychopathology. Further, Gestalt theory emphasizes the perspective, that for healthy functioning, an individual must find a meaningful place, role and function in society and, that the lack of meaningful functioning as a 'social part' is a source of pathology. In discussing the differences to Perls' Gestalt therapy and reviewing psychoanalytic concepts, this article focuses on the important role the Gestalt theory takes in understanding problems of psychopathology.

Eine Taxonomie psychischer Störungen in der Tradition der Lewin-Schule? [A taxonomy of mental disorders in the tradition of the Lewin school?]
Gestalt Theory, 23 (2001), No. 3, pp. 216-226.

Some key concepts of Matthew Maibaum's suggestions for a Lewinian taxonomy of psychiatric disorders are summarized in German language, followed by a discussion of a preliminary question for such an endeavor: Can the construction of a taxonomy of psychiatric disorders be compatible with Kurt Lewin's call for adopting the Galileian instead of the Aristotelian mode of thought?.

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Most recent revision: 21.02.2004