Volume 19, 1 (2010)

2010 vol 19,1.png
2010 vol 19,1.png

Volume 19, 1 (2010)


Editorial - Belinda Harris

Gestalt in education: A brief overview of some roots - Sea´n Gaffney

A ‘fighting recall to plain sense’: Paul Goodman on education - Malcolm Parlett

Reclaiming the radical legacy of Gestalt education in contemporary educational practice - Belinda Harris

The role of Gestalt group supervision in the education of psychology and counselling professionals - Jon Frew

Walking on water: Tensions and dilemmas involved in managing a Gestalt training department - Lynda Osborne

Loving leadership: A matter of integrity? - Richard Reep

Playing in the forest: Group play therapy in the primary school - Helen Gedge

To glow and stay connected: Gifted children and Gestalt - Tali Mirkin

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The practitioners and practitioner researchers whose
work is published in this special issue on education
reflect the breadth and depth of work undertaken by
Gestalt practitioners in a range of educational contexts.
They serve not only to remind us of our long and
honourable tradition within statutory and higher education
but also to alert us to some of the tensions and
dilemmas involved in applying Gestalt theory and
practices, and also to illuminate what constitutes good
practice. Just as therapeutic work with individuals and
groups can be socially and emotionally challenging,
demanding a high degree of self-support and integrity,
our educational work is often further complicated by
the social and emotional fallout of working in institutional
environments focused on survival within an
increasingly regulated, competitive and accountability-
driven political field. Whilst such tense situations
call for the kind of creative approaches to
human problem-solving that Gestalt practitioners can
offer, winning the hearts and minds of educational
leaders and administrators requires a lot of energy and
shared commitment. This special issue begins to pull
together some of the important work that is currently
happening in education and will hopefully inspire
others to write about their work as Gestalt educators.
This volume is broadly organised in three parts. The
first is concerned with establishing the field, the second
with Gestalt education for therapists in training, and the
third with the application of Gestalt in school contexts.
Sea´n Gaffney, Malcolm Parlett and myself have
attempted to establish the field of Gestalt in education
from three perspectives. Gaffney provides a brief overview
of the roots of Gestalt in education and reminds us
that Gestalt practitioners have worked tirelessly in US
universities since the 1950s, running workshops, masters
and doctoral programmes for educators, therapists,
and counselling psychologists. He also reminds us that
early pioneers set up and led effective schools based on
Gestalt principles, thereby influencing policy and confounding
teachers’ and policy-makers’ habitually low
expectations of disadvantaged children. Paul
Goodman’s major pioneering contribution to this
movement is examined in depth by Parlett. What is
interesting about this representation of Goodman’s
work is not just the relevance of Goodman’s radical
critique of mainstream education for today, but also his
belief in the power of small-scale educational change
initiatives. In my article, I attempt to link the work of
early Gestalt educators with radical pioneers in postwar
Britain, and drawing on my own research and
practice in schools, consider what is needed to make
all school stakeholders know that they matter.
In the second part, Jon Frew builds on his earlier
writing on Gestalt group therapy and teaching Gestalt to
doctoral students. Here he describes his approach to
supervising the clinical work of non-Gestalt psychologists
working towards their doctorates. This long-term
exposure to Gestalt theory and practice is offered as a
potent means of educating and influencing the work of
therapists and reminded me of Perls’ own enthusiasm
for group work in training. Frew alerts us to the difficulties
in accessing Gestalt supervisors in the US and the
paucity of the literature on Gestalt group supervision.
Myown experience of Gestalt training in theUKtells me
that group supervision of Gestalt practitioners is more
commonplace here, at least in areas where Gestalt
psychotherapy training institutes are found. Frew’s five
guidelines for Gestalt group supervision offer a valuable
framework which supervisors and supervisors in training
might use to reflect on their own practice with
groups and particularly as a means of reflecting on the
relationship within and between group members at
different stages in the life of the group.
Lynda Osborne continues the theme of working with
trainee therapists as she reflects on her doctoral study of
the role of course leader for a Gestalt training progamme
within a multimodal psychotherapy training institute.
Osborne echoes some of the tensions and dilemmas that
are also experienced within mainstream statutory age
education, such as the relationship between caring for a
student’s or staff member’s developmental needs whilst
being professionally accountable for training standards;
and between the diverse and sometimes contradictory
demands of caring for self, students and colleagues
alongside active participation in the organisation’s decision-
making structures, involving financial, political,
managerial and operational considerations, which are
not always comfortable bedfellows. The relationship
between multiple selves and a complex institutional
and political landscape makes for engaging reading and
raises implicit yet significant questions about the nature
of professional identities in independently run and privately
funded training institutions, operating within a
national qualifications and regulatory framework.
In the final part, the theme of leadership is taken up
by Richard Reep, whose doctoral-level research is situ-
ated in an English secondary school in exceptionally
challenging circumstances. He expressly asks for dialogue
with members of the Gestalt community both in
relation to his research design and his analysis of the
role of love in educational leadership. His scholarly
work represents a challenge to the mainstream educational
leadership literature, which generally focuses on
quick fix approaches to educational change rather than
the more organic social and emotional forms of leadership
described in depth by his research respondents,
two outstanding teacher leaders. This work offers the
reader a focused and in-depth understanding of ways in
which early radical pioneers probably translated their
vision, values and purposes into their everyday relationships
with students to produce what I have described
elsewhere as ‘relational alchemy’ (Harris, 2008).
This in-depth exploration of the relational world is
continued by Helen Gedge, a play therapist influenced by
having both a Gestalt supervisor and Gestalt trainer on
herMACounselling Practice. Working as a therapist in a
primary school, she depicts in a detailed narrative the
multiple ways in which she supported four young children
to complete some unfinished business, to gain the
confidence and competence to risk new behaviours and
to work effectively as a supportive group. This work is
touching, and demonstrates a high degree of skill and
care for the individuals, for the group, and for the
relationship between the group and the wider school
community,as she engagedwith teachers to effect greater
awareness and understanding of their pupils’ needs.
The final article in this section examines the challenges
facing gifted and talented children in Israel. In
her work as a Gestalt group therapist with gifted
children in a Special School context, Tali Mirkin has
developed an in-depth appreciation of the ways in
which young people manage their giftedness alongside
their need for relationship with parents, teachers and
peers. She illustrates this phenomenon in action, drawing
on potent data from her case work with young
people which demonstrates the potential of Gestalt to
develop awareness and self integration.
All of these papers teach us of the variety of ways in
which Gestalt theory impacts a range of different
educational and training contexts and serve to remind
us of the complexities, challenges and joys of working
with awareness to support the needs of individuals and
groups within the context of a vibrant and energetic
learning community. These accounts are augmented by
an opinion piece on Gestalt and education from a Greek
perspective, where Maria Farmaki and Antigone Orfanou
passionately argue the case for Gestalt approaches
in schools, and usefully remind us that contemporary
schools are a gestalt that is riven with fragmentation,
unfinished business, human humiliation and alienation.
They, too, argue for schools based on relationships
characterised by dialogue and respect and consider the
unique contribution Gestalt can make to changing the
educational landscape of schools and returning the
school gestalt to a state of health.
In similar vein, the organisers of the annual Marianne
Fry Lecture evoke a vivid portrait of a dearly-loved and
highly influential Gestalt trainer, whose experiential
work, and theory building through reflection on live
events, left a powerful legacy amongst her students in
England, Ireland and Germany. Readers are encouraged
to read this letter and to book for this year’s lecture,
which will be given by Sally Denham-Vaughan and is
described in detail.
Two books are reviewed in this issue, both with
educative dimensions. Phil Brownell reviews Linda
Finlay’s and Ken Evans’ recent book on relationalcentred
research for psychotherapists and raises some
interesting questions for the Gestalt community about
the anxious border crossings between the quantitative
and qualitative divide in research. This reflects current
debates in the US and UK about the definition and
quality of research in health and education, and is an
area Gestalt practitioners in the UK must embrace if we
are to engage rigorously and effectively with the challenges
of regulation and with contemporary debates
about the relative worth and merit of evidence-based
practice and practice-based evidence. Brownell argues
for ‘both-and’ rather than ‘either-or’, which has significant
implications for the research training on Gestalt
programmes in the UK.
Katy Wakelin reviews Louis Cozolino’s The Neuroscience
of Psychotherapy, and provocatively challenges
the privileging of neuroscientific evidence over the
psychological literature. Wakelin questions whether
psychotherapy communities use neuroscience defensively
to justify what they already know to be true in the
relationship between therapist and client. She also
argues that the neuroscience evidence is valuable in
providing a platform for collaboration and integration
between modalities in recognition of all that is shared
and also for constructive dialogues about how we differ.
Overall, it is my hope that this special issue will
stimulate dialogue about the place and potential of
Gestalt approaches to education, remind us of our
radical roots and encourage all of us, whether directly
or indirectly involved in education projects, to argue for
and promote educational environments that foster
human flourishing and a love of learning.
Acknowledgements: I should like to thank Katy Wakelin
for all her invaluable and generous support in
bringing this issue to fruition. Thanks also to Malcolm
Parlett for his feedback on the original version of this

Belinda Harris

 Letters to the editor

A response to Des Kennedy’s article: ‘An excess of certainty’ - Lin Harrison

A reply to Lin Harrison’s letter - Des Kennedy

Tribute to Gestalt educator, Marianne Fry - MFL Organising Committee

Book reviews

A growing crescendo for research in Gestalt therapy. A review of Relational-centred Research for Psychotherapists: Exploring Meanings and Experience edited by Linda Finlay and Ken Evans - Philip Brownell

What can neuroscience contribute to psychotherapy? A review of The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Building and Rebuilding the
Human Brain by Louis Cozolino - Katy Wakelin

Can psychotherapy be applied to a school environment? A Greek perspective - Maria Farmaki and Antigone Orfanou