Volume 17, 1 (2008)


Volume 17, 1 (2008)


The British Gestalt Journal 2008, Volume 17, 1


Editorial - Christine Stevens 

Working with adolescents from a Catholic background in Northern Ireland: a generation's long accumulation of shame - Bronagh Starrs 

Gestalt therapy in the eclipse of dialogue - Des Kennedy 

Gestalt group supervision in a divided society: theory, practice, perspectives and reflections - Sean Gaffney 

A stage of being: Gestalt therapy in a Stanislayskian spotlight - Sarah Fallon

In her own voice 

Interviewing Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb - Katy Wakelin 

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Anyone new to Gestalt and wanting to taste the essence of what this approach to therapy is all about would do well to start with this issue of the British Gestalt Journal. In different voices and from diverse perspectives and writing styles, the essential themes of Gestalt therapy are all here - awareness and contact dynamics; dialogue and relationality; authenticity and field embeddedness, evidenced from clinical practice and explored through theoretical reflection. There are also current concerns expressed, particularly in the Letters and Opinion piece; issues of continuity and change, the need to research our work and to be articulate about what we do to a wider audience than our own groups, anxieties about the forthcoming regulation of psychotherapy in Britain, what this will mean for Gestalt therapists in terms of training and career options, and how the field is reconfiguring in response to this. 

There is an international flavour to some of the writing; in the last issue, the writers were predominately North American; in this issue, Irish voices are particularly audible, and we are pleased to continue the theme of Gestalt therapy with young people in this issue with a paper by Bronagh Starrs on her work with adolescents in Northern Ireland. She discusses some poignant client histories and sets her work in the political and cultural context of Northern Ireland-British history, providing the ground which is further elaborated in Sean Gaffney's article. 

Gaffney's piece is a passionate and ground-breaking exploration of the group supervision work he does with a group of Gestalt therapists in Northern Ireland. Using detailed accounts of the group's work, he shows how the group dynamics cannot be understood without reference to the politics of conflict and the history of colonialism and a divided society. The content itself has been engaged with and responded to by inter-national Gestalt colleagues who themselves have experience of living in divided societies and of working cross-culturally. This is an experimental piece of writing, both movingly personal and politically committed, which attempts to articulate through the praxis of voices in dialogue something of the complexity of the laminated relational field with which Gestalt is so concerned. 

Des Kennedy's paper, arising out of his in-depth study of the work of Merleau-Ponty, is highly pertinent at a time when the British government, amongst others, is in danger of overlooking the contribution of humanistic and integrative therapies, including Gestalt, in their demands for 'evidence-based' practice. Kennedy emphatically swims against the tide of do-it-yourself therapy and abridged contracts and argues that perception, or awareness, is being devalued and disconnected from scientific knowledge. Statistics are, he asserts, meaningless in themselves without reference to first hand experience, which is dialogic and relational in nature. He makes a cogent argument for therapy to be seen as a relational journey, connecting up the continuity of life experience, rather than as a technique-based treatment for disconnected episodes, epitomised by internet self-help programmes with no human interaction at all. This is an exploration that goes to the heart of the way we practise as therapists, and explains why it is that this matters so much. 

In her fascinating paper, Sarah Fallon, who is trained as a dramatherapist as well as in Gestalt, discusses the work of Russian dramatist Constantin Stanislayski and draws out parallels in his naturalistic approach to improvisation and the exploration of authenticity in drama, with the practice of Gestalt therapy. She explores the integration of these ideas with Gestalt theory particularly with clients who have grown up acting parts given them by others, who need to find their own reality as a means to growth and true self-expression. 

We are introducing a new section of the Journal, where we will from time to time publish a brief informal interview with a Gestalt practitioner giving an intimate glimpse into their world 'In their own voice'. In this issue, Katy Wakelin interviews Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb, who has interesting things to say on writing, being a woman, and her relationship with her work. 

We have received more letters than usual on matters of current interest, including two responses, from Neil Harris and Francis Taylor, to Jo McMahon's opinion piece in the last issue on the subject of training in relation to working with children and young people. Ken Evans reviews Paul Barber's book, Becoming a Practitioner Researcher, and Barber has himself illustrated his approach to research as a way of being in his opinion piece on the 2007 British Gestalt Society Conference. Both Claire Asherson Bartram and Faye Page have responded to this in their respective letters, and a letter from Judith Waring discusses the Gestalt Practitioner Research Network project which is using the CORE outcome evaluation measure to build up data on Gestalt practice. Katy Wakelin writes about the launch of the new United Kingdom Association for Gestalt Practitioners. 

We once again want to thank all those of you who have worked with us on this issue as peer reviewers, as well as the associate editors who spend many hours supporting authors as they work on drafts of their papers. We still need more peer reviewers so as not to overwork the ones who already help us a lot and would like to hear from readers who feel they would be willing and able to contribute in this way. 

The editorial team is changing after this issue. We are saying goodbye to Brenda Luckock, whose skilled contribution has been hugely significant particularly over the last few years. More than anyone else, she has held the practical knowledge of the journal production as well as hope in its continued existence over the transition time of the change of Editors. Dave Mann, who has worked on the last three issues with us has also decided to stand down, and to both we express our thanks and appreciation. From May onwards, Katy Wakelin and I are delighted to welcome Belinda Harris on to the team. Belinda is associate professor in counselling and human relations in the School of Education at the University of Nottingham and a UKCP-registered Gestalt therapist. 

With the British Gestalt Journal now in a more healthy state than eighteen months ago when its future seemed uncertain, we would like to take this opportunity to thank especially the Friends of the BGJ for your very real support, encouragement and optimism, which has meant a great deal to all of us. 

This is a challenging time of change and flux in the psychotherapy profession both in Britain and in other countries. We would like to hear from our readers in Europe and North America and elsewhere in the world about your experiences of state regulation and the impact it is having on your practice. We are always pleased to receive papers and drafts on any subject of interest to Gestalt practitioners. Future themes include Gestalt and Jungian therapy; Gestalt and coaching work; and organisational practice. 

Christine Stevens 

Letters to the editor: 

`Developmentally-trained' therapists: a response to Jo McMahon - Neil Harris 

Gestalt work with children: a response to Jo McMahon - Francis Taylor 

A personal account of the British Gestalt Society Conference 2007 with thoughts on related topics inspired by Paul Barber - Claire Asherson Bartram 

BGS Conference in July 2007: brief reflections and memories - Faye Page 

Gestalt psychotherapy research - Judith Waring 

Together divided: the UKAGT Meeting - Katy Wakelin 

Book review: 

To be or not to be. A review of Becoming a Practitioner Researcher: a Gestalt Approach to Holistic Inquiry by Paul Barber - Ken Evans 


The BGS Conference: a reflective inquiry - Paul Barber