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Effectiveness of Gestalt Therapy: Donna’s Case Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Jan 23rd, 2021

Case of Donna

Donna is a 45-year-old woman, and her husband Reginald left the family. Gestalt therapy can help Donna improve her emotional and physical state. The reason is that the therapy allows increasing the woman’s self-esteem, Donna can develop the awareness of how her thoughts about the marriage can destroy her vision of herself, and she can develop effective strategies for responding to such issues as communication with children. The woman can develop the vision of her safe space that is important for her now, improve contacts, and feel better both psychologically and physically because, at the current stage, the woman has problems with sleep, appetite, and concentration, and she is the deep dejection.

Gestalt therapy was developed by Fritz Perls in the 1940s. Perls referred to the principles of the holistic approach explaining the connections between the person’s body and mind (Murdock, 2013). The researcher proposed his therapy as the set of humanistic practices to improve the persons’ vision of themselves and find their comfortable place in the society. Therefore, the main focus is on self-awareness, the satisfaction of the person’s needs, and on the individuals’ contacts. The main premise is that people should become aware of their needs and responsibilities, as well as the role of experiences in their lives to satisfy their needs, improve their contacts with the environments, and make effective choices.

The gestalt therapy allows persons to understand what they can feel or experience right now, and how their past experiences can influence their current state and feelings (Saadati & Lashani, 2013, p. 1172). Such therapy practicalities are important to be used in the case of Donna because it is significant to learn what she feels due to Reginald’s actions, what she feels in terms of the previously experienced social and family pressure, and what she feels now while communicating in the workplace and with her children. Gestalt therapy is based on exploring all patient’s perceptions and emotions related to self-awareness and the feeling of comfort (Murdock, 2013).

In the case of Donna, it is necessary to use such therapeutic techniques as the open-chair technique and dialogue to help her resolve the inner conflict and allow speaking to herself, referring to the feeling of loneliness, despair, and anxiety. These approaches associated with authentic relationships will increase Donna’s awareness of her attitude to her husband’s actions and increase Donna’s responsibility for her children. The other important technique is the attention to her body language because she is inclined to demonstrate her inner struggle and pain physically when she touches her shoulders. In the process of change, Donna is inclined to be at the preparation stage because she is aware of the problems she has while being unable to cope with her feelings, and the woman understands that she needs to do something to support her children, especially Gilbert. Therefore, Donna is determined to have the therapy to change the situation for the better and overcome the “intolerable pain”. However, the woman makes the progress and refers to the next stage of acting while using the counter conditioning process.

Processes of change for Donna should include dramatic relief as the focus on the other persons’ feelings in similar situations. Donna needs to utter her fears and problems and listen to the stories of success to receive emotional relief. The next step is the self-reevaluation because the woman needs to change her vision of herself as “unloved, unmarried, unattractive, unhappy, uncomfortable, unrecognizable, unglued, undone, unreal”. Theories that can help in working with Donna are the relational theory and the person-centered theory because it is necessary to create a supportive environment for Donna, in which she will not feel stressed by society and “crushed” (Murdock, 2013, p. 201; Salehi & Moradi, 2014). Donna also seems to demonstrate the first signs of acting because she uses the process of counter-conditioning focusing on her work. Donna recognizes that she tries to avoid coping with her feelings and problems in relations, and her feeling of responsibility increases with the focus on her attitude to supporting herself and her children.


Counselor: What negative emotions do you feel now?

Donna: I feel anxiety and exhaustion because I need to act to cope with the problem, but I do not feel helpless because I know that many strong women all over the world coped with the betrayal, separation, and divorce.

Counselor: Do you feel any negative emotions associated with your husband?

Donna: I feel that I cannot forgive him, especially his attitude to his children because he left them. I hate him for such a weakness.

Counselor: How do these feelings influence your daily experiences?

Donna: I feel no fear while being at home anymore, and I have no thoughts about death or some health problems. Now, I am aware of my husband’s possible reasons to go, and I feel that I need to become more concentrated on my own life, my feelings, and the experiences of my children who suffer even more than I do.

Counselor: What about you and your current vision of yourself?

Donna: I notice that I begin to become more interested in positive aspects of my life, and now I understand that I am not guilty in the situation with my husband because I did my best to overcome the family and social pressures to preserve the love and happiness in my family. Even though I am unmarried and possibly unloved now, I have a real chance to become happy.

Counselor: Imagine that you are coped with all your fears, problems, and sufferings, and you feel gratitude to your husband because of the years spent together. What do you feel now?

Donna: I am happy and concentrated on my family and my favorite job. I am satisfied, and I feel that my children need my assistance and love. I am active, and I am proud of myself that I could cope with the separation or divorce.

Counselor: Where do you feel comfortable and peaceful now?

Donna: I hope that it is my home and my family. I feel comfortable when I know that I do everything right, and I provide the necessary support to my lovely children. The fact that my husband did not feel my support was the most painful for me because I did everything possible to protect our family from the tension and problems.

Counselor: What do you feel could help you to cultivate the feeling of happiness and needfulness?

Donna: I think that it is my work with animals because they love you without any barriers and prejudice. Also, it is my family that can provide me with the feeling of needfulness that is necessary for me. I could not even realize that I am satisfied when I can need someone.


Murdock, N. L. (2013). Theories of counseling and psychotherapy: A case approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Saadati, H., & Lashani, L. (2013). Effectiveness of Gestalt Therapy on self-efficacy of divorced women. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 84(1), 1171-1174.

Salehi, M., & Moradi, R. (2014). Effectiveness of Gestalt Group therapy on the loneliness of women caregivers of Alzheimer patients at home. Iranian Rehabilitation Journal, 12(22), 54-58.

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