In my Psychotherapy Practice, I combine Gestalt Psychotherapy, Somatic Therapy, Holistic Therapy and Anti-Oppressive Practice.....but really, what does this mean?
Gestalt Psychotherapy is psychotherapy practice that was first developed by Fritz and Laura Perls, two German psychotherapists who worked in Europe, South Africa and USA in the 40s and 50s. Gestalt Psychotherapy seeks to bring awareness of thoughts, emotions, behaviours, beliefs and physical sensations into the "here and now", thus creating a greater understanding of our own experience. It's relational; this means that the therapist is not a benign and sterile authority figure that listens to the client on the couch, unimpacted. It means that both therapist and client are engaged in what is going on, co-creating the therapeutic process together. Gestalt Therapists are not authorities on the lives of their clients, but human beings with sound training on how to support and unpack what naturally comes up in-session. A Gestalt Therapist talks and listens, but also works with the client experientially, with the use of art, body work, physical expression and play. In Gestalt therapy, there is no "right" way to feel, act, think or be. There is only awareness and the impact of our presence on one-another.
Somatic Therapy means working with how the body "houses" our emotions. If our mind holds the "story" of why we feel the way we do, the body holds the "how" and "what" of the story - it becomes the temple of the emotions. While almost all therapies offer support, many traditional, more cognitive-based therapies limit the client to working with their thoughts. While thought-work is important, it's only half of the equation to well-being. Studies have shown time after time that acute trauma and stress plays a role in our physical and somatic well-being. It can impact our sleep, our eating habits, movement habits, how we hold and 'armour' our bodies, how we navigate stress and even our propensity for disease and chronic health issues. By helping clients connect with their bodies, somatic therapy seeks to integrate an individual to become more aware and attuned to their bodies emotional landscape. This includes connecting with somatic emotion in the body, breath work, psychoeducation on the nervous system and fight, flight, fawn and freeze responses, etc. Somatic Therapy helps the client to go deeper than just changing and re-framing their thoughts. It helps them to develop tools to self-support and self-soothe, while also being aware of their needs and how to communicate them effectively.
Holistic Therapy means understanding that individuals are whole persons - intellectual, emotional, physical and existential, spiritual, religious and/or cultural-based individuals. All these components of self can inform us of our healing and well-being. Holistic Therapy seeks to engage the full senses of the person - not simply by engaging the mind, but also the body, the heart and the spirit. While not every client experiences spiritual or religious beliefs, holistic therapy often helps clients go deeper by incorporating existential, philosophical and subjective experiencing into the therapy process. It can also include looking at the impacts of religious, spiritual or colonial abuse in the family, as well as understanding intergenerational trauma.
Anti-Oppression Practice (in the context of psychotherapy) means that the therapist acknowledges historical power imbalances through the effects of racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, colonialism, ageism, colonization, etc. and how it impacts client's life (as well as how it may impact the therapeutic relationship between client and therapist). Anti-Oppression practice understands that all of us - regardless of our race, gender, sexuality, ability, class - are impacted by a larger system of privilege and oppression. The effects of this system can inform our understanding of distress, frustration and confusion in our lives. This does not mean that the therapist "blames" the individual for their life, or dismisses an individual's personal responsibility amidst their hardships- rather, it becomes a tool for greater self - awareness and social responsibility. It recognizes that the therapist does not "empower" the client, but supports the client in their journey towards their own definition of empowerment. Through being able to have honest reflections on the ways in which privilege and oppression have intersected and impacted one's life, clients may gain greater insight into their experiences; more awareness into the ways in which they can connect and balance personal responsibility with social responsibility; and a critical understanding of our collective journey in healing as human beings.
Through combining these approaches, clients can expect a therapeutic experience that holistic, humanizing, self-reflective, engaging and multi-faceted!