A Field-Centred Approach to Gestalt Therapy – By Lothar Gutjahr

A Field-Centred Approach to Gestalt Therapy

A Field-Centred Approach to Gestalt Therapy
Agency and Response-ability in a Changing World

By Lothar Gutjahr

ISBN: 9781032594613

Book Description

In Gestalt therapy, sociological, political, and economic research is often neglected or ignored. Drawing on analyses about current societal conditions, this book considers that there is no such thing as a ‘postmodern’ therapy and offers a new approach to Gestalt therapy.

Gestalt therapy is still currently based on the Cartesian worldview, even if relational approaches are in search for an ‘in-between’. The author’s approach of Gestalt therapy is based on an idea by the founders: “Contact is the first reality” – so the field coemerges and coexists with individuals’ perceptions providing specific conditions, demands, limitations and opportunities. An individual’s field is not an afterthought established by the perspective of the first-person-singular (i.e. individuals) but a ‘conditio sine qua non’. Gutjahr reflects on both theoretical and practical aspects of the field’s many processes of resonance. Putting the field consistently at the centre of his approach, the author describes the main tenets expanding on previous versions of Gestalt therapy.

This important new book is at the cutting edge of the current discussion of relational and field-oriented approaches to Gestalt therapy, and will be of particular interest to practitioners of Gestalt therapy, psychotherapists, phenomenologists, as well as theorists of philosophy, sociology and therapy.

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Introduction: The personal is political is personal is political

1. Homo homini emptor! Therapy in times of liquid modernity

2. How to shrink a bat: individualism, intersubjectivity and the ‘in-between

3. Contact is a field’s first reality

4. The id of the situation: atmospheres demystified

5. In contact we are being resonated

6. Grounding resonance – the physical and felt body

7. Personalistic gestalt therapy and its subsequent relational turn

8. In the middle of therapy, the field has its seat

9. My gestalt of therapy: The aftermath of contact is accomplished growth

10. Epilogue

The Author

Lothar Gutjahr is a therapist, mediator and business coach working with people on personal and health issues, leadership challenges, conflict resolution, difficult negotiations, project management, and intercultural cooperation. He finished his Gestalt education at the Gestalt Institute Hamburg (GIH) and started his own practice in 2017. He is also an author.


‘Lothar Gutjahr shows Gestalt therapists, and the rest of us as well, that it is possible to be an intellectual without intellectualizing. He affirms an irreplaceable individual emergent from and within a field without falling either into individualism or into reified atmospheres that engulf the individual. In such a philosophically literate and challenging work, the chapters on resonance are worth the price of the book.’

Donna M. OrangePhD, PsyD, philosopher and independent psychoanalyst, Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity, New York, and New York University Postdoctoral Program

‘Based on the concept that contact is the first reality, Lothar Gutjahr’s book vividly describes the inextricableness of the personal and the political. With the development of the author’s Gestalt therapeutic field-centred perspective, exploring, experiencing and experimenting become paths to the basic intentionality of psychotherapy: human growth. The socio-political focus on Gestalt therapy is substantiated by an in-depth discussion of person-to-person resonances as field processes. Gutjahr’s reflections on the situational field as being real as well as phenomenally perceived are an important contribution to contemporary Gestalt therapy theory and practice.’

Dr. Nancy Amendt-LyonPast President of the Austrian Association for Gestalt Therapy, EAGT member, Associate Editor of Gestalt Review

‘This book is at the cutting edge of the international discussion. It presents and critically discusses virtually all relevant field-, relationship- and dialogue-oriented authors and approaches. Through the framework of a field-centred Gestalt therapy, the author enriches the previous views by dealing in depth with the interpersonal resonance phenomena and emotional contagion arising from contact. His sophisticated, complex, and contextualising approach includes socio-political, economic and philosophical field elements in addition to the therapeutic aspect. A VERY stimulating read!’

Dr. Bernd Bocian, Author of Fritz Perls in Berlin 1893 – 1933: Expressionism, Psychoanalysis, Judaism

‘The coherence of Gestalt therapy is constantly being reinforced around the foundational axis introduced by Perls and Goodman: contact. But any paradigmatic shift, as this book makes clear, forces us to reconsider many of our concepts that inform our practice, in order to reframe its ‘architecture’. For some, this book will be a fundamental approach to this avant-garde therapy, while for others it will be an opportunity to sharpen their skills, since, as Kurt Lewin liked to say: “Nothing is more practical than a good theory”.’

Jean-Marie RobinePsyD, founder of Institut Français de Gestalt-thérapie and of its publishing department L’Exprimerie, author or editor of 8 books about gestalt therapy, translated in many languages

‘Lothar Gutjahr proposes the necessary shift from the individualistic paradigm of gestalt therapy to a field-centred perspective: “…in a gestalt therapy of the field, the emphasis is no longer on self-realization of individual abilities or of the expression of an inner nature. Rather, human fields include strong forces for growth through contact and resonance.” (Gutjahr, 95) A highly reflected and fascinating theoretical essay on the core concepts of gestalt therapy, which incorporates the changes in the socioeconomic and political background of the global social field in the uncertain times of “liquid modernity” (Z. Baumann).’

Dr. Albrecht Boeckhsociologist, author, practitioner and teacher of both gestalt therapy and supervision

‘Lothar Gutjahr has written an important book which is a serious, methodological approach to understanding and implementing experiential field theoretically grounded Gestalt therapy. Unlike some of the current, faddish attempts at a “New Phenomenology”, Lothar approaches this work in a scientific way – not relying on a vague, mystical mythology about the nature of reality. According to Lothar, phenomenology is actually based on real elements, both internally and externally – elements that may be not fully in conscious awareness, but are emergent, and affecting experience, contact, and resonance.’

Alan CohenLCSW, LP, Founding Faculty and Clinical Director at Gestalt Associates for Psychotherapy, NY. As a clinical supervisor he has trained therapists for 45 years.