Volume 18, 1 (2009)
Volume 18, 1 (2009)
The British Gestalt Journal 2009, Volume 18, 1
Editorial - Christine Stevens
Obituary: Dan Rosenblatt - Archie Roberts
Obituary: Richard Kitzler - Dan Bloom
Obituary: Richard Kitzler - Peter Philippson
In the fragility of contact: working with suicide risk in the dialogic relationship - Jules Howdin and Andrew Reeves
Phenomenology in Husserl and in Gestalt therapy - Sylvia Fleming Crocker
Theoretical considerations regarding the use of Buddhist meditation practices in Gestalt therapy - John L. Bennett
Working with trauma. A journey towards integration: Gestalt and EMDR - Sandra Figgess
An organisational self: applying the concept of self to groups and organisations - Marie-Anne Chidiac and Sally Denham-Vaughan
In her own voice
Interviewing Ruella Frank - Katy Wakelin
There are few now in our community who can claim to have studied with the founders of Gestalt therapy. In this issue, we mark the passing of two such elders who have died recently: Richard Kitzler and Daniel Rosenblatt. I visited Richard recently in his New York apartment. It was an extraordinary experience, the walls hung floor to ceiling with original oil paintings, faded antique furniture covered with piles of papers and books, and Frederick Perls' medical graduation certificate hanging in a frame behind the door. Richard was both a charming host and disconcertingly astute in his observations. I recorded a conversation with him about his early life, but the follow-up visit to explore his Gestalt experiences was sadly never to happen. Dan Bloom, who knew Richard for many years, and Peter Philippson who visited him often from the UK, both write movingly about his life and influence.
I never met Dan Rosenblatt, but Archie Roberts' deeply personal account conjures up such a vivid sense of his presence that in reading his words I feel I have. It feels important to me to honour the lives of these elders and to mark their passing. Life is a mysterious thing, so rich and complex, the pattern of relationships, creative processes, engagement with things, the making of meanings, the particularity and specificity that makes each person unique. So much is lost when a person dies. But there is also much that continues through their influence becoming part of us, in the way that we learn and think about Gestalt theory, how it is passed on between therapist and client, through supervision, via literature, in the formation of ideas. What we encounter in the present moment also includes what has been before, introjected, chewed over, assimilated, re-formed. In this way, our relational past is always with us, shaping our experience, informing our thinking, present as we engage with what is now and having an influence on the coming into being of what will be next.
In common with other journals, the BGJ plays its own part in this process. The preparing of articles for publication is often a lengthy and formative journey. What often begins as a personal experience or an interesting idea is first translated into the medium of the written word and then subjected to scrutiny through dialogue with others. By an interactive process of review and revision, figures are refined and sharpened until they emerge in published form. They emerge to be taken up, or not; ingested, spat out, assimilated, disputed with and built upon. In this way, contributors and readers together help to build and shape the living process of Gestalt therapy practice.
The variety of articles in this issue reflects the broad range of interests in the Gestalt therapy community. Using a process-orientated therapy enables Gestalt practitioners to explore a wide range of contexts and applications and to be curious about how Gestalt therapy might engage with and integrate other approaches. Howdin and Reeves, for example, in their courageous article deal with the issue of suicide, which currently has a high profile in the British mental health system. Through a moving case study, they explore how they work relationally with profound existential issues. They also consider the emotional cost for the therapist of maintaining the offer of relationship in the face of real risk without usurping control.
Looking at working with trauma more widely, Figgess discusses her experience of integrating EMDR into her work as a Gestalt therapist. Gestalt therapy as a process-orientated, relational therapy is often seen in direct opposition to short-term, manualised, system-reduction approaches, and the current political climate in the UK reinforces this. What is interesting in this paper is the author's account, through a case study, of her integrative approach, and her discussion of commonalities as well as differences.
People from many spiritual persuasions as well as none, find the holistic philosophy of Gestalt therapy attractive, although attempts to tie Gestalt theory into any particular tradition results in a misrepresentation of each approach. In his paper, Bennett usefully explores both common ground between Gestalt therapy theory and Buddhist philosophy, and some significant and fundamental differences. He points out fertile areas for dialogue and cross-fertilisation.
Crocker's paper is a careful and detailed exploration of Husserl's understanding of phenomenology, a fundamental concept in the Gestalt therapy approach. She helpfully teases out a distinction between Husserl's philosophy and his method, showing how Gestalt therapy uses phenomenology, not in a positivist manner to discover the objective truth, but in the exploration of the actual experience of this person at this moment, in the service of awareness. We often use phenomenology in a loose and general way, but this paper rewards a careful study to gain a deeper and clearer understanding of this important element of our therapy method.
The paper by Chidiac and Denham-Vaughan discusses the classic Gestalt concept of self and applies it to groups and organisations. This paper will be of particular interest to practitioners who are exploring moving beyond working with individuals. We also publish another informal interview in our occasional series 'In her own voice', in which Katy Wakelin talks to Ruella Frank about her developmental, somatic approach to Gestalt therapy. Readers who enjoy this may also be interested in Appel-Opper's opinion piece, in which she uses case vignettes to illustrate her body-oriented approach to therapy.
We would like to thank all our readers and contributors for their on-going support and involvement. We have been delighted by the quality and quantity of the submissions we have been receiving. This has inevitably increased the editorial workload, however, and we are concerned that we have not always been able to respond to authors as quickly as we would like. We have now been able to appoint additional administrative support, and we are delighted that Lynne Brighouse will be working part-time in the Nottingham office from June.
For some time we have been promising an updated website and this has now been launched — www.britishgestaltjournal.com. The immediate advantage is that subscriptions can now be paid online. Abstracts of published articles are available as links in the back copies section, as well as information about submitting articles, and sections for events, news and discussion. There is a very accessible article on 'What is Gestalt therapy?' by Malcolm Parlett which would serve as a simple introduction for anyone asking this question. With each new issue we will be posting a new image on the home page, and we welcome readers' contributions for this in the form of photos or other images, which will be acknowledged. We hope our readers will be frequent visitors!
Finally, a call for papers for a special issue in spring 2010 on Gestalt in Education, which will be guest edited by Belinda Harris, who has a special interest in this subject. If you work in this area or are interested in making a contribution, you are invited to contact Belinda directly at email@example.com
This journal is sustained very largely by the voluntary work of many people, some of whose names you read within our covers. A stalwart among these over many years is Simon Dawson, who has given us the enormous amount of time that websites demand. He has been a patient generous and most friendly friend to the British Gestalt Journal. Now he is handing over to James Shallcross, and the whole Board join me giving our warmest and most grateful thanks to him for all he has done.
Boys' talk: bridging an inter-generational divide. A review of BAM! Boys Advocacy and Mentoring: A Leader's Guide to Facilitating Strengths-Based Groups for Boys by Peter Mortola, Howard Hiton and Stephen Grant - Jon Blend
Being a body. A review of Why Do People Get Ill?: Exploring the Mind-Body Connection by Darian Leader and David Corfield - Katy Wakelin
What do we say without words?: relational living body to living body communication - Julianne Appel-Opper