Volume 20, 2 (2011)

2011 V20.2-02.jpg
2011 V20.2-02.jpg

Volume 20, 2 (2011)


Editorial – Christine Stevens 

Obituary: Edwin Nevis (1926–2011) – Sean Gaffney 

Obituary: Edwin Nevis (1926–2011) Rob Farrands 

The Now is not what it used to be . . . The meaning of time in Gestalt therapy or the times of meaning in Gestalt therapy – Frank-M. Staemmler 

The UK Gestalt psychotherapy CORE research project: the findings – Christine Stevens et al. 

Object Relational Gestalt Therapy (ORGT) and evidence-based practice – Marc-Simon Drouin

Encountering Object Relational Gestalt Therapy as presented by Gilles Delisle – Sharon Beirne

Interviewing Gilles Delisle – Christine Stevens


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The British Gestalt Journal has been published continuously for twenty years! This is cause for celebration and for satisfaction that a relatively small community within the field of psychotherapy as a whole has the vitality and energy to sustain the life of this publication with its distinctive European yet English-speaking context.
Twenty years ago, Laura Perls had just died, and the
first issue was dedicated to her memory. In his editorial,
Malcolm Parlett, the founding editor who went on to
edit the BGJ for fifteen years, wrote of the lack of a
strong intellectual tradition in Gestalt. He called for
those who practise, teach, and experience Gestalt to be
more communicative and assertive, to get beyond the
caricatures and misrepresentations of being ‘some kind
of left-over fad from the sixties’. He wanted the Journal
to establish a written tradition that would ‘crystallize
and document knowledge-in-practice . . . actively foster
intellectual enquiry and encourage the expression and
debate of ideas and theory’ (Parlett, 1991).

The Journal’s development through childhood and
adolescence has had its share of challenges, and we are
here today in large measure thanks to the support of the
Friends of the British Gestalt Journal, whose financial
backing and belief in the venture have been timely and
vital. It is due to friends, both visible and behind-thescenes, the wide-spreading readership, the writers, the
reviewers, the Board, and the generosity and goodwill of
many, that we are able to stand on the verge of young
adulthood with a degree of confidence and optimism.
To date, we have published over 330 articles, not
including book reviews, letters and opinions. Many of
these have been seminal papers which have been significant in the formation of Gestalt students and practitioners.

Most of the influential voices in contemporary
Gestalt theory have written for the Journal, and we have
increasingly encouraged a new generation of writers to
make their contribution.

There is of course much still to do. Nine years ago,
Cozolino wrote in The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy,
‘Although Gestalt is not widely practiced, it is a unique
expression of psychodynamic theory that is particularly
relevant to the notion of neural integration’ (2002,
p. 60). This expresses both the challenge and the
opportunity that is ours – to engage vigorously in
dialogue and in practice with the wider field of psychotherapy at all levels, so that Gestalt is better known, and to appropriate and articulate the richness of our approach to therapy which is so well supported by
recent neurobiological discoveries.

This issue continues in the ethos of the founders’
original intention, to reflect a distinctly European
contribution to the field of Gestalt writing. Our authors
are from Greece, a formerUK resident now in Australia,
a Lebanese writer now living in the UK, and from
London, the north-west, north-east, south-west, home
counties and midlands of England. The articles are all
very different in flavour, although they are rich and
lively and engage with Gestalt therapy in a variety of
relational contexts; ‘I-Thou’, ‘I-Me’, ‘I-We’, ‘I-It’.
Stawman’s paper contributes to the ongoing debate
about the balance between figure and ground by exploring what he argues is the neglected place for understanding alongside empathy in the therapeutic process. Whereas empathy relates to the I-Thou, in the present moment, understanding incorporates more of the historical, developmental and narrative elements which
are equally part of the field, and, Stawman argues, part
of the therapy relationship.

Hawley’s paper is a contribution to the ongoing
exploration in the Journal of issues relating to sexuality
and gender. Prompted as a response to ‘Case study of a
transgendered woman’ by Bennett in the last issue
(Bennett, 2010), but substantive in its own right,
Hawley addresses the confusion of terms that often
muddy the waters in this area and provides some
definitions and conceptual clarity. He usefully addresses
differences in approaches to gender identity between
the UK and the USA, and discusses therapeutic issues
from his own practice of Gestalt therapy with clients
with gender identity issues. This is a helpful and wellinformed contribution to the small but growing Gestalt
literature in this subject area.

The paper by Neil Harris is concerned with the
difficulties of working with attachment-disordered children, particularly in the light of what we now know
about trauma and neurodevelopment. He looks at an
organisation which he sees as embodying good practice
in terms of treatment for children and their families.
Using a case example, he analyses in terms of field
theory, mindfulness, and Parlett’s Five Abilities what it
is that makes the organisation effective. Interestingly,
while this might be seen as an exploration of the I-It in
terms of the child and the organisation, Taylor’s
response to Harris’s paper makes out the case that in
fact it is not so much the effectiveness of the organisation
as the I-Thou of the dialogic relationship with the child and the adult of the case example which was
significant. Both authors share their concern for looked
after children and urge for more Gestalt practitioner
involvement in this work.

Theodorou’s contribution is a creative exploration of
an aspect of I-Me experiencing. From his background in
music, art, and drama, in particular Playback Theatre,
he has developed a synthesis with Gestalt theory which
he calls Process Stage Praxis. The idea of the ‘personal
film’ is a key concept in this approach, which he
identifies as forming at the junction between figure
and ground in the awareness process. Theodorou goes
on to explore and elucidate this idea in relation to forms
of awareness and shows how it can be important as a
starting point for body work and other creative therapeutic processes.

Chidiac’s paper takes us into the ‘I-We’ of group
work and looks at how Gestalt practice in relation to
groups has changed over the last thirty years, through a
comparison of the original and revised editions of
Beyond the Hot Seat (Feder and Ronall, eds., 1980,
and Feder and Frew, eds., 2008). She reviews developments in Gestalt group work in clinical, community and organisational applications, and provides a valuable
commentary on continuity and change, and where the
new opportunities for development can be found.
We are delighted to publish another interview in the
‘In his own voice’ series, and this time Belinda Harris
has talked to Edwin Nevis about his long, celebrated and
continuing life’s work with Gestalt as an agent for social
change. As a living part of the history of the development
of Gestalt therapy and organisational work, this
account is full of fascinating memories and conveys a
vivid sense of his warm-hearted presence and lively
engagement at the age of eighty-four.

The rest of this issue’s offerings include a reader’s
letter and some substantive book reviews. As an end
paper, the opinion piece by Philippson on thinking in
Gestalt therapy provides an interesting juxtaposition to
Stawman’s paper at the beginning of this issue, and
readers might like to read these together.

As we celebrate our twentieth year, we are delighted
to be able to report that Gestalt writing has caught on
and is stronger than ever. We can now look back on a
well-established written tradition in Gestalt therapy
that this Journal has helped to foster. We are looking
ahead to our silver anniversary in five years’ time and
are already planning some special events and looking
for contributors and distributors and new writers and
fresh ideas. If any of this appeals to you, we would love
to hear from you!

Christine Stevens

Bennett, J. (2010). ‘Inocencia’: case study of a transgender woman without gender dysphoria preparing for gender reassignment surgery. British Gestalt Journal, 19, 2, pp. 16–27.

Cozolino, L. (2002). The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy. Norton, London.

Feder, B. and Ronall, R. (eds.) (1980). Beyond the Hot Seat: Gestalt Approaches to Group. Brunner/Mazel Inc., New York. Reprinted 2000, Beefeeder Press, Montclair, NJ. 

Feder, B. and Frew, J. (eds.) (2008). Beyond the Hot Seat Revisited: Gestalt Approaches to Group. The Gestalt Institute Press, Metairie, New Orleans, LA.

Parlett, M. (1991). Editorial, British Gestalt Journal, 1, 1, pp. 2–3

Letter to the editor

Fields in practice: a response to Neil Harris and to Francis Taylor - Malcolm Parlett

Book reviews

Bringing continental European thinking to bear on the Anglo-American hegemony in the development of Gestalt theory and practice. A review of Aggression, Time, and Understanding: Contributions to the Evolution of Gestalt Therapy by Frank-M. Staemmler - Rob Tyson

Why are panic attacks and anxiety everywhere, and what can we do about them? A review of Panic Attacks and Post Modernity: Gestalt therapy between clinical and social perspectives edited by Gianni Francesetti - Katy Wakelin

Learning through play. A review of Creating Children’s Art Games for Emotional Support by Vicky Barber - Helen Gedge

An occasion for pleasure. A review of On the Occasion of an Other by Jean-Marie Robine - Peter Philippson