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Gestalt and Logotherapy Therapeutic Approaches Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jun 23rd, 2022

Introduction

Humanistic-existential psychology analyzes people’s integrity, taking into account their development and self-realization. Every individual is an active and creative being; therefore, detailed case analysis is more reliable than statistical generalizations. There are two therapeutic approaches within the context of the humanistic-existential framework: Gestalt and logotherapy. Each of them has fundamental principles and methods; the paper aims to compare these methods. Even though they are classified as one direction in psychotherapy, Gestalt therapy is preferable to logotherapy. Therefore, it is also necessary to determine their strengths and limitations, considering their impact on people’s lives, mental traumas, and benefits for practitioners.

Overview

Logotherapy is a therapeutic approach based on an existential analysis and the assumption that the principal motivational force of a person is meaning in life. The Austrian psychiatrist, psychologist, and neurologist Viktor Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, which appeared in the middle of the 20th century (Costello, 2019). This approach combines three concepts: the freedom of will, the will to meaning, and the purpose of life (Shantall, 2020). The freedom of will means that inherent inclinations do not define the personality (Shantall, 2020).

Frankl argues that people have a self-determining part in creating their lives. The second tenet is the will to meaning, described by the need to find a purpose for a person’s life (Costello, 2019). Logotherapy analyzes the existential vacuum, which can be psychologically damaging if a person’s search for meaning is obstructed (Frankl, 2014). The third principle is the meaning of life, referring to the significance of existence in general. Maturity and personal development mainly depend on the third tenet. Thus, logotherapy is practiced to treat anxiety, depression, neurosis, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Gestalt therapy is also considered one of the modern trends in psychotherapy. The German psychiatrist Fritz Perls coined the term “Gestalt therapy” in the late 1940s (Mann, 2020). Mann (2020) defines Gestalt therapy as a relational therapy that synthesizes three ‘pillars of gestalt’ (4). The first is field theory; an individual’s experience is examined in the scope of current situations (Mann, 2020). Next, it involves phenomenology, when the search is conducted through obvious and revealed factors instead of the facts interpreted by the observer (Mann, 2020). The third principle is dialogue; this form of communication helps analyze the relationships’ from the perspective of an individual (Mann, 2020). This approach is widely used in psychological counseling, individual and family therapy, and business consulting.

Basic Principles and Practice

Gestalt Therapy

The principle of the Gestalt approach is concentrating on the current situations and emotions. By considering the concept of here and now, the client develops awareness – one of the Gestalt system’s principal skills (Mann, 2020). Here and now moments allow people to focus on the present moment and experience rather than determine what has prompted them to think a particular way (Brownell, 2019). Heightened consciousness represents the person’s ability to select and form their figures of interest (Brownell, 2019). During the Gestalt therapy sessions, the person develops awareness, also called mindfulness (Mann, 2020). It is one of the fundamental concepts of the approach as success depends on improving this skill. Hence, an individual should learn how to apply this ability in real life after the therapy sessions (Mann, 2020). Simultaneously, individual independence is also essential as an individual should pursue his/her goals instead of focusing on other people’s needs.

Practice

Concerning practice, the experimental approach characterizes Gestalt therapy. According to Brownell (2019), gestalt therapists implement theory using field strategy, the aesthetic dimension, and the cycle of contact experience. In the course of treatment, the therapist asks the client to set up experiments and observe the phenomena identified during the session (Brownell, 2019). For instance, a person can talk about past events, problems, or random topics, visualizing situations and the corresponding behavior. Techniques include the empty chair method when an individual imagines that an important person is sitting on an empty chair next to him/her and starts a conversation (Brownell, 2019). The Gestalt practitioner can intervene in the experiment by directing it, asking questions, and concentrating on crucial points.

The reactions are different; it might be emotions, raising and lowering the tone, trembling, or facial expressions. The experiment also affects posture, gestures, reaction time, and the appearance of different sensations in the body (Brownell, 2019). Responses observed directly during the practice are phenomena, even if devoted to past events (Mann, 2020). Such practice reflects a principal point of Gestalt therapy of the here and now. The approach enables a person to examine current feelings and thoughts about past events and the present moment (Mann, 2020). A Gestalt framework can incorporate the experiential interventions needed to develop self-responsibility and self-agency (Brownell, 2019). The latter is vital in terms of examining the cultivating posttraumatic issues (Macaluso, 2020). Overall, most people tend to delve into memories and illusions about the future rather than analyze existing feelings.

Logotherapy

The purpose of logotherapy is to promote the development of conscious responsibility of people for their lives. According to Frankl (2014), a human being is a creature capable of making decisions; a person defines his/her life. Referring to situations of inevitable suffering, an individual has the freedom to determine how to deal with his/her hardship (Shantall, 2020). Such decisions reveal opportunities to discover meaning in illness, pain, and suffering (Frankl, 2014). The purpose of life found by an individual under challenging times makes such moments bearable and turns them into a triumph of the human spirit.

Practice

In the logotherapeutic approach, the loss of the meaning of life might lead to depression, drug addiction, alcoholism, and increased aggression. According to Frankl (2014), there are three ways to find the purpose of life. First, it is the person’s particular actions that contribute to the life of society (Frankl, 2014). The second way aims to contemplate works of art, nature, and connection to the feeling of love (Frankl, 2014). The third is the search for meaning in the experienced suffering and deprivation (Frankl, 2014). Therefore, any person can find his/her purpose in life by adopting one of these approaches.

Regarding specific methods, there is a paradoxical intention for the treatment of phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Within the framework of this technique, for instance, a practitioner suggests a patient with a fear make a paradoxical attempt to desire what he/she is most afraid of (Costello, 2019). It relieves anticipatory anxiety and potential neuroses (Costello, 2019). Another method is called deflection; it is beneficial in overcoming the obsessive tendency to self-observation (Costello, 2019). People are encouraged to shift attention from themselves to the meanings and values ​​that they can embody in the world around them.

Strengths and Limitations

Strengths

Referring to these therapeutic approaches’ strengths, both of them benefit the person’s daily life. For instance, Gestalt professionals can indicate patients’ growth potential. Copley and Carney (2020) claim that in case of existential crisis, due to Gestalt techniques, clients can make healthy decisions and move forward with reevaluated goals (Copley & Carney, 2020). Concerning logotherapy, these days, most people face burnout syndrome due to increased work hours and social pressure (Riethof & Bob, 2019). As people seek purpose in life at work, the latter serves as a potential source of their frustration and disappointment (Riethof & Bob, 2019). Consequently, logotherapy aims to make the patient’s existence harmonious and returns the feeling of the fullness of life. Both approaches address the 21st century’s leading issues of pursuing the goals and work environment.

Moreover, Gestalt and logotherapy bring positive outcomes in the treatment of severe psychological traumas. Copley and Carney (2020) argue that alternative cogitation patterns obtained in Gestalt therapy sessions might modify attitudes towards life, which is crucial for trauma survivors. For them, this approach is advantageous as it helps identify the present-moment trauma patterns that negatively impact a person’s well-being (Copley & Carney, 2020). Concerning logotherapy, it is widely used in cancer treatment. The study conducted by Sun et al. (2019) examines the logotherapy effects on depression in cancer patients. According to Sun et al. (2019), such an approach can decrease distress, including loss of meaning, sense of failure, and helplessness. Thus, it is suggested to apply both therapeutic practices as the primary technique to overcome psychological problems.

Besides, Gestalt and logotherapy contribute to improving practitioners’ professional skills. The first approach allows the specialist to assess the clinical model of reference and maintain the treatment directions (Macaluso, 2020). Logotherapy can be used in addressing adolescent depression (Baumel & Constantino, 2020). According to Baumel and Constantino (2020), this method is required if the traditional practice is suboptimal; therefore, logotherapy can diminish unresolved existential concerns. Thus, logotherapy and Gestalt methods can assist specialists in improving care for patients and solving complex cases.

Limitations

Both approaches have limitations; for instance, Gestalt therapy is more advantageous for mentally healthy people. It becomes contraindicated for working with personality disorders, severe mental diseases, or psychotic conditions (Brownell, 2019). Furthermore, there is a risk in Gestalt therapy that the therapist may impose on the client his/her mental health pattern (Brownell, 2019). Consequently, a misconception about normal and abnormal can arise. Unlike Gestalt therapy, logotherapy can combat depression, phobias, neuroses, addictions, and obsessions. However, it serves as a life philosophy, so it cannot be subjected to empirical studies (Costello, 2019). Some researchers claim that logotherapy is an authoritarian method since many Frankl adherents disagree with any extension of the approach (Shantall, 2020). Besides, it lacks a comprehensive system of counseling or therapy, suggesting only logotherapeutic techniques.

Conclusion

To sum up, both Gestalt and logotherapy have similarities and differences within the context of the humanistic-existential framework. The effectiveness of logotherapy has been proven in crisis prevention, trauma management, and post-crisis work. It is effective in treating depression, aggression, and neuroses. Overall, the reason why preference is given to Gestalt therapy is that it is a universal approach. It relies on dialogue and individual contact with the external environment. Its methods allow providing support for posttraumatic syndrome and acute crisis conditions; therefore, the client can create new values and adapt to changes in life. Thus, Gestalt therapy has the most elaborate philosophical base of all therapeutic approaches, characterized by its flexibility in various practice areas.

References

Baumel, W. T., & Constantino, J. N. (2020). Implementing logotherapy in its second half-Century: Incorporating existential considerations into personalized treatment of adolescent depression. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 59(9), 1012-1015. Web.

Brownell, P. (2019). Handbook for theory, research, and practice in Gestalt therapy: The world of contemporary Gestalt therapy (2nd ed.), Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Copley, L., & Carney, J. (2020). Using Gestalt Techniques to Promote Meaning Making in Trauma Survivors. The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 59(3), 201-218. Web.

Costello, S. J. (2019). Applied logotherapy: Viktor Frankl’s philosophical psychology. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Frankl, V. E. (2014). The will to meaning: Foundations and applications of logotherapy. Penguin.

Macaluso, M. A. (2020). Deliberateness and spontaneity in Gestalt therapy practice. British Gestalt Journal, 29(1), 30–36.

Mann, D. (2020). Gestalt therapy: 100 key points and techniques. Routledge.

Riethof, N., & Bob, P. (2019). Burnout syndrome and logotherapy: Logotherapy as useful conceptual framework for explanation and prevention of burnout. Frontiers In Psychiatry, 10(382), 1-8. Web.

Shantall, T. (2020). The lıfe-changıng impact of Vıktor Frankl’s logotherapy. Springer Nature.

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