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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Living More Authentically in the Present Through Gestalt Therapy

Jun 01, 2014 01:02PM ● By Andy Lapides, LCSW

Gestalt therapy is an existential-humanistic therapy using awareness to live more authentically in the present moment.  Body and mind are considered inseparable and reciprocally influencing/interacting with the environment.   This interactive loop continually brings about change.  When blocks to this interactive process arise that impede our adjustment to change, we are faced with a dilemma:  Either face the unknown or be paralyzed by it.  If we avoid it, we get stuck, become filled with anxiety, and struggle.   This paralysis is often seen in those with depression—where difficulty adapting to changes in body, mind, and environment keeps people from being able to motivate themselves to function well.  In gestalt therapy, we energize the stuck point through awareness and insight.  This is developed through experimenting with choice and perceived risk.  By taking new, thought-out risks, we embrace personal responsibility and begin to grow and expand.  That doesn’t mean we aren’t faced with the fear of failure, but we face it together and take small steps toward living more fully again.  These small successes lead to bigger ones and give us the strength to emerge stronger and more passionate.

Change in gestalt therapy is analogous to what happens in our bodies during digestion.  We bite on something (awareness), chew on it (process it), recognize whether it is good for us or not, and then either integrate it or reject it.  This cycle continues until a new gestalt, or form, comes about.  Just as digestion happens naturally, change is a naturally self-regulating process.  Interruptions to this process, such as internal “shoulds” or guilt, are discouraged as an excuse.  By attending to the body and allowing this flow of energy, channels of growth occur.  As a result, clients are given permission to grow up and stand on their own two feet.

Many people live by—and are limited by—standards of what was expected of them and taught to them by their upbringing and society.  In gestalt therapy, clients are encouraged to question themselves and find their own path, helping them to feel more fully alive and ultimately live more authentically.  

Andy Lapides, LCSW, is a practicing gestalt psychotherapist in Morristown.  He trained at the Gestalt Center for Psychotherapy & Training in New York City.  Email him at [email protected] or visit

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