The Relational Heart of Gestalt Therapy, Contemporary Perspectives – Edited by Peter Cole

The Relational Heart of Gestalt Therapy

The Relational Heart of Gestalt Therapy
Contemporary Perspectives

Edited By Peter Cole

ISBN: 9781032186917

Book Description

This compelling and comprehensive volume is an anthology of current thinking by many of gestalt therapy’s leading theoreticians, clinicians and researchers.

Including many well-known voices in the field and introducing several new ones to the current gestalt therapy literature, the book presents a broad-ranging compendium of essays, scientific articles, clinical applications, and integrative approaches that represent the richness and vibrancy of the field. Each contributor brings intellectual rigor, honest personal reflection, and humanism to their area of inquiry. This ethos—the spirit of relational gestalt therapy—infuses the whole book, bringing a sense of coherence to its seventeen chapters. Following an introduction written by Mark Winitsky, PsyD, as an entry point into the field for students and psychotherapists from other schools of thought, the book is organized into three sections: Theory, Clinical Applications, and Integrative Approaches. Readers will encounter new ways of thinking about psychotherapy, new skills they can bring to their work, and new ways of integrating gestalt therapy with other approaches.

The Relational Heart of Gestalt Therapy is essential reading for Gestalt therapists as well as other mental health professionals with an interest in Gestalt approaches.

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Erving Polster


Peter Cole

Introduction: The Emergence of the Relational Perspective in Gestalt Therapy

Mark Winitsky

Section One: An Relational Gestalt Therapy Theory

1. Aesthetic Relational Knowledge and the Dance of Reciprocity in the Therapeutic Field: Post Pandemic Gestalt Therapy in Practice

Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb

2. Engaged Surrender

Lynne Jacobs

3. Field Theory in Psychopathology and Clinical Practice

Gianni Francesetti, Michela Gecele & Jan Roubal

4. Gestalt Therapy Theory in an Age of Turmoil

Gary Yontef

5. To Hold the Hands that Hold our Hands: Responsivity of Contacting

Dan Bloom

6. The Gifts and Risks in Relational Empathy: An Historical Perspective

Jack Aylward

7. Living in a World of Meaning

Friedemann Schulz

Section Two: Applications of the Relational Gestalt Perspective 

8. A Classical Beginning and a Relational Turn: A Gestalt Therapy Case Study

Charles E. Bowman & Ann Bowman

9. When the World Changes in an Instant: Exploring the “Cracks in the Continuity of Experience”

Michelle Seely

10. What My Client Taught Me About Dialogic Presence: A Case Study of Client and Therapist in Relational Gestalt Therapy

Armin Baier

11. On Regret: A Relational Gestalt Therapy Perspective

Peter Cole & Daisy Reese

12. The Encounter Process

Bruce Aaron

13. Shame and Relational Gestalt Group Therapy: Restoring the Interpersonal Bridge

Joan Gold

Section Three: Integrative Relational Approaches

14. Embodies Relational Presence in Buddhist Psychology Informed Gestalt Therapy

Eva Gold & Steve Zahm

15. The Here and Now of Sandtray Therapy: Sandtray Therapy Meets Gestalt Therapy

Karen Pernet & Wendy Caplin

16. The Mountain and the River: Stillness and Flow and the Art of Therapy

Christine Campbell & Jack Fris

The Editor

Peter Cole, LCSW is the co-director of the Sierra Institute for Contemporary Gestalt Therapy and was an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry with the UC Davis School of Medicine for 30 years (now retired). He is the co-author of three previous books including New Directions in Gestalt Group Therapy, and has published numerous articles.


The Relational Heart of Gestalt Therapy is a step in the direction of humanizing psychotherapy, making it a compelling opportunity for people to discover the nuances of their existence and fly away into the realm of everyday stimulations. When we say, “the future is now” we say we are living in a universe of interactive agents who, in union, honor a lifetime. The authors of this book flesh out this wonder of earthly relationships of which the psychotherapy relationship is a prime inspiration.’ – Erving Polster, PhD, International Gestalt Therapy Trainer and Founder of the Gestalt Training Center-San Diego

‘All schools of thought need to recognize how they’ve developed over time. The Relational Heart of Gestalt Therapy explores the shift to a more “field-relational” approach – less individualistic, riskier, and more humanly revealing. Peter Cole has assembled a range of talented therapists with different ways of working. Some are “old hands” in articulating this profound shift in values, others discover it with new excitement. Together they reveal the range, integrity, and vitality of Gestalt therapy today.’ – Malcolm Parlett, PhD, Former editor of the British Gestalt Journal, international trainer and coach

‘This engaging and intriguing book combines stories of relational gestalt therapy with its psychoanalytic origins and influences, making both more available to practitioners of both traditions. Many of the best writers in contemporary gestalt therapy appear here, and the reader will be well rewarded with insight and enjoyment.’ – Donna Orange, PhD, Faculty and training and supervising analyst, Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity, New York

‘Peter Cole’s edited book offers a major contribution to the understanding and practice of a relational approach in our present challenged world. This book “unpacks” the process of focusing of “being somebody… rooted somewhere” through an interactive and courageously mutual approach. What also touched me was the humility and inclusiveness of the authors as they describe theory and practice. It is as if they are practicing in the text the very mutuality of this approach; I felt talked with as I read each chapter. The multiple authors offer us perspectives both theoretically and in practice of the living embodied mutuality that is relational Gestalt. It is a description of what is both precious and not precious, uniquely human and yet fully embedded in the contextual situation. I highly recommend this entire volume with its diversity of topics and authors’ perspectives on the experience of an engaged process of connection and change’ – Michael Clemmens, PhD, Author of Getting Beyond Sobriety: Clinical Approaches to Long-Term Recovery, Editor of Embodied Relational Gestalt: Theories and Applications