Volume 10, 1 (2001)


Volume 10, 1 (2001)


The British Gestalt Journal 2001, Volume 10, 1


Editorial - Judith Hemming

Special Focus on Working as a Gestalt Consultant in Organisations: Sustaining Dynamic Tension When Consulting To Complex Systems - Rob Farrands

The Emerging System: A Gestalt Approach to Organisational Interventions - Trevor Bentley 

The Gestalt Brand - Ty Francis 

Interviewed by Paul Barber - The Present Isn’t What It Used to Be - Joseph Zinker 

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Tenth Anniversary Volume

Welcome to this tenth volume of the British Gestalt Journal. In this volume and the next we are celebrating what for us feels like a remarkable achievement - to have put together these ten volumes over the last eleven years (we missed a year near the beginning owing to printing difficulties). With the continued support of the Friends of the BGJ, the Journal is now more secure, and a great deal has changed. We began affiliated to a training institute but are now wholly independent. We have enjoyed the support of a large and active Advisory Board and the range of our writers and readers is firmly international. We have a website presence. There has been a veritable explosion of new writing in the time we have been publishing. We like to think we have played a part in establishing a stronger writing culture in which 'more of what we do gets written down', moving beyond what was essentially an oral tradition.

Gestalt, at least in Britain, is now a more deeply rooted and established therapeutic modality than it was eleven years ago. At the same time, the advance of more integrated approaches to psychotherapy and cross-disciplinary discussions have broadened most Gestalt therapists' reading and thinking. Gestalt therapy needs to be part of these wider debates that span different approaches.

But Gestalt is more than a therapy. As is evident in this issue, it can be applied inspiringly to different settings. It can be retained as a theoretical and philosophical basic framework; can be adapted and fashioned for many human systems - groups, couples, families, small organisational teams, trainees in counselling programmes, large scale systems, individuals interested in personal growth, as well as clients and patients with varying kinds of distress or habitual patterns of suffering.

New representations and interpretations are always possible. The BGJ has worked at being more of an innovation hothouse than a museum or archive of thought alone. We energetically stand for all shades of Gestalt orientation - from Perlsian to (what some call) Neo- Gestalt. We have earned a reputation for good writing and are constantly seeking to extend the range of kinds of articles and to encourage new writers.

Special Focus on Organisations 

One of the areas to which Gestalt has been applied outside the therapy world has been in organisational consulting. Although we have sought articles in this area - we published a fascinating interview with Carolyn Luckensmeyer (who consulted to the Clinton White House), in volume 6 - this area has definitely been underrepresented in the BGJ so far. This issue has a special focus on working as Gestalt consultant within organisations, and we intend that this will be the beginning of a more steady stream of such papers.

Firstly, we have Rob Farrands' lucid account of working as a consultant on an assignment with a multinational oil company. Farrands tackles in detail the question of what one consultant actually does when working within a large system. He describes the dynamic and creative tension between different levels of system, the central importance of fostering relevant contact, the impact of the personal style and resources of the consultant, and the value of the phenomenological approach.

Trevor Bentley describes an approach to working with Gestalt in organisations that focuses on the whole range of interventions that support large systems to achieve more harmony. For Bentley, as he shows in his many vignettes and examples, this is not about doing therapy in organisations but about being present, using the self as an instrument and bringing the Gestalt philosophy into people's lives in everyday terms so that its magic becomes accessible.

Ty Francis asks us to consider how a coherent community of Gestalt practice in this arena could be built that would be more visible and effective in the world, one that would help businesses to innovate, experiment and transform themselves. To this end he provides vignettes of his practice in inspiring, re-vitalising, and fostering the value of brand and presence in company development. His is a task-focused approach - refreshing and innovative.

The Interview

Continuing our tradition of interviews with distinguished figures in our field, in this issue we have Paul Barber's wide ranging conversation with Joseph Zinker. Zinker has been a key figure in the world of Gestalt since the publication of the seminal Creative Process in Gestalt Therapy, back in 1978, and more recently his book on couples therapy: In Search of Good Form, in 1999. He has travelled the Gestalt world, teaching and demonstrating, for more than thirty years.

In his encounter with Barber he returns us to the roots of Gestalt through his personal connections with its founders and his lived commitment to Gestalt as a celebration of life, as evidenced by the warm and personal engagement between the two as they talk together. With the increasing professionalisation of Gestalt it is good to see Zinker re-emphasise the big themes: of life and death, and transcendence; to remind us of the energy of the founders and the love of life they engendered; and to hear the cadences of his speaking voice in this friendly conversation.


We have other kinds of conversation flourishing in the Letters to the Editor. One relates to the provocative issue of how psychotherapy and prostitution may have features in common. Dan Rosenblatt takes issue with Emma Willmer and Rupert Read, who raised the question in the last issue.

The second conversation follows from Ruth Wolfert’s paper in BGJ (9,2), in which she re-examined the key concept of 'self' from the perspective of both current science and ancient Buddhist thought and practice, illuminating its impermanent nature more richly than did even Goodman and Perls in PHG. We were very sad to hear of Ruth Wolfert's death earlier this year, glad only to have published a paper that celebrated something of her wisdom and spirit. We hope she would have approved of the dialogue her writing has triggered in these pages.

Frank-M. Staemmler points out the need for balance in what is published in the Gestalt world. Americans and British are woefully monolingual, and so far, with a few exceptions, we have not overcome the difficulties of translating the rich diversity of literature that flourishes in Germany, Italy, France and in the Spanish speaking countries. Staemmler asks for a more mutual and respectful exchange, including, for example, for reports of events in non-English speaking countries.

We are taking these ideas seriously. We also issue an invitation to readers who would be able and willing to help translate papers for us: please come forward. Staemmler's letter includes a list of references for readers whose grasp of French and German is good enough for them to enjoy this waiting world of ideas.

Book and Video Reviews

Two distinguished and well-known American writers both have long reviews in this issue. Different as they are, both attest to the vigour of Gestalt therapy.

Karen Rookwood and Guin Williams discuss their responses to Sylvia Crocker's book: A Well Lived Life, in the form of a conversation, weaving their summary of her wide ranging and scholarly exposition of Gestalt therapy's roots and branches with their own assessment of Crocker's relevance and usefulness, especially to students and trainees in the field.

Malcolm Parlett's essay, wise, lucid and inspiring, sets Gordon Wheeler's Beyond Individualism into a broader context. This is a task that could only be undertaken by someone whose whole grasp of this field is as rich and dense as Wheeler's own. Both writers have contributed to the radical shift in mindset regarding the self.

As most of us know from bringing our work to supervision, or from demonstrating in a group, it is a brave therapist who exposes her work to the scrutiny of others. It is an even braver therapist who exposes his or her work to strangers, by having the intrusion of a camera and any number of future unknown observers. Yet watching live Gestalt is a wonderful and stimulating aid. Learning to be a Gestalt therapist has always rested on being able to see and digest our teachers at work - by being present, but why not also by watching them on film?

We present here reviews of two skilled and experienced therapists working on videotape. The first review, written by Neil Harris, a family therapist and Gestaltist working within the NHS, is of Sonia Nevis, working for two sessions with a family. This is not a new videotape (1988) but Sonia's work is classic.

The second videotape, by Peter Philippson, is not of a therapy session but of a German speaking group operating as a goldfish bowl within a larger group, the purpose of which was to explore Gestalt as a therapy of the self. Faye Page, in reviewing this lively and fascinating tape, raises many important questions.

The third review, written by John Harris, is also not of a therapy session, but of a recently published teaching videotape, presenting Liv Estrup's version of key ideas in Gestalt theory and a pictorial history of Gestalt, making creative use of the possibilities of sound and image. As Harris remarks, it would be wonderful to show this to children, something we would be hard pressed to say of much that is published about Gestalt.

In Memoriam 

We are very sad to report the untimely death of Sue Fish, a well known member of the British Gestalt community. We shall be carrying tributes both to her and to Ruth Wolfert in the next issue of the British Gestalt Journal. 

Judith Hemming 

Letters to the Editor: 

Tarts and Shrinks: A Response to Willmer and Read on Psychotherapy and Prostitution - Dan Rosenblatt 

A Reply to Dan Rosenblatt - Emma Wilmer and Rupert Read
Buddhism and Gestalt Therapy: A Response to Ruth Wolfert - John Crook

Spirituality: Irrelevant to Gestalt Therapy: A Response to Ruth Wolfert - Bud Feder 

Respectful Dialogues Between English Speaking and Non-English Speaking Gestalt Therapists - Frank M.Staemmler 

Book Reviews:

Beyond Individualism: by Gordon Wheeler - Malcolm Parlett 
The Well-Lived Life: by Sylvia Fleming Crocker - Karen Rookwood and Guin Williams 

Video Reviews:

A Session of Gestalt Family Therapy: Sonia Nevis - Neil Harris 

Gestalt as a Therapy of Self: Peter Philippson - Faye Page 

Gestalt Therapy, Theory and Methodology: Liv Estrup  - John Bernard Harris