Volume 2, 2 (1993)


Volume 2, 2 (1993)


The British Gestalt Journal 1993, Volume 2, 2

Editor - Malcolm Parlett - Bristol
Production Editor - Ray Edwards - Dorset
Assistant Editors - Pat Levitsky - London, Judith Hemming - London
Editorial Consultants - Petrûska Clarkson - London, Marianne Fry - London
Editorial Advisors - Hunter Beaumont - Munich, Germany, Gill Caradoc-Davies - Christchurch, New Zealand, Gilles Delisle - Montreal, Canada, Maria Gilbert - London, John Leary-Joyce - St Albans and London, Flora Meadows - Glasgow, Scotland, Peter Philippson - Manchester, Gary Yontef - Los Angeles, USA


Editorial - Pat Levitsky

Farewell from your Production Editor - Ray Edwards

Beyond Wrong and Right - Marianne Fry interviewed by Judith Hemming

Martin Buber’s ‘I-Thou’ and Fragile Self-Organization: Contributions to a Gestalt Couples Therapy - Hunter Beaumont 

Gestalt Magic - Sylvia Fleming Crocker 

Projective Identification in Gestalt Therapy with Severely Impaired Clients - Frank-M. Staemmler

Empathy in the Person Centred and Gestalt Approaches - Eleanor O’Leary 

Towards a more Lewinian Gestalt Therapy - Malcolm Parlett 

Gestalt and Regression - Peter Philippson 

The Use of Gestalt Psychotherapy with Clients Suffering from Bulimia - Sally D. Merian 

Unproductive Breathing  - Ray Edwards 

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This fourth issue of the British Gestalt Journal (Vol. 2, No. 2) and the second this year is evidence of us having regained our momentum after the delays in publication in 1992. Our editorial team is working efficiently and plans are already underway for the Spring 1994 issue. We are receiving a steady, although not yet super-abundant flow of material for future issues. Regular readers of the Journal will notice that we now use a thicker quality of paper and have increased the size of the Journal to seventy-two pages. We think this give the Journal a more substantial 'feel' as well as allowing for a greater range of reading material to be included. 

With this issue our Production Editor, Ray Edwards, is retiring. He was the founding spirit and the original prime mover of the British Gestalt Journal and I am sure all readers will wish to join in a vote of gratitude for his initiative and good work during the past five years leading up to the publication of the first issue and subsequently as we have established ourselves.

Previous editorials have mentioned our wish to receive papers on the practical application of Gestalt therapy as well as purely theoretical papers. We also want to remind readers that we would like to have case studies for consideration as well as Letters to the Editor, which offer an opportunity for readers to express their differing opinions.

I think this issue has achieved a good balance between practice and theory. On the more practical side there are three papers. In Sally Merian's paper on her work with bulimic clients she describes her use of the cycle of Gestalt formation and destruction, extending it to show typical boundary disturbances at each phase. The second is Ray Edwards' paper on the importance of teaching correct breathing in the treatment of anxiety. And the third is Sylvia Fleming Crocker's paper on 'Gestalt Magic' in which she explores the compatibility of the cognitive approach of Bandler and Grinder's 'The Structure of Magic' within Gestalt therapy. By giving practical examples of how Gestalt therapists can use these methods she shows how we can benefit by increasing the cognitive processes by which individuals make sense of specific aspects of experience.

Another paper suggesting that Gestalt therapy can benefit from understanding concepts or techniques of other theories is Frank-M.Staemmler's paper explaining in detail the concept of the object relations theory of projective identification and how it works in practice. He holds that Gestalt therapists need to recognise this process when it occurs so as to avoid becoming entangled in what can become a complex and possibly disastrous two-way process of projection and transference between therapist and client.

Hunter Beaumont's paper on couples therapy offers readers a new perspective by suggesting a shift of attention away from single episode contacts with the environment to the larger issue of 'organisation of self’ and its accompanying 'sense of self.' Taking his lead from Martin Buber's theory of the 'between' in relationships, he suggests that couples need to learn to speak what he calls "the primary sentence of I-Thou".

For the benefit of those who were unable to attend the Gestalt European Congress held in Paris in May 1992, we are including in this issue the full text of Malcolm Parlett's plenary lecture on that occasion on the subject of field theory (retitled here "Towards a More Lewinian Gestalt Therapy"). In this paper Malcolm reminds us that we must not underestimate the importance of Kurt Lewin's contribution to Gestalt therapy theory if we are to have a deeper understanding of what field theory means in practice. 

Eleanor O’Leary's paper on empathy compares and contrasts the Gestalt approach to empathy with the Rogerian approach and puts forward the view that Gestalt therapy has enhanced and broadened the empathic attitude adopted by the client-centred therapist.

Peter Philippson’s paper discusses some of the theoretical and ethical dilemmas involved in the concept of regression seen from a Gestalt perspective. 

Our book review this time is a rather mischievous piece by Joseph Zinker who recaptures the spirit of Fritz Perls taking a look at the recently published book on Perls by Petruska Clarkson and Jennifer Mackewn.

I referred earlier to our wish to include a wider range of material in the Journal. One example of this is the second contribution to our feature "Opinion" by Michael Mackmin, a Gestalt therapist, poet and editor, who writs about his experiences. Readers who wish to write for the Opinion pages are invited to contact the Editor. The second is Judith Hemming's interview with Marianne Fry, a much loved “elder stateswoman" of the British Gestalt movement and well-known to many students of Gestalt in the UK and Europe. Adding interviews into the mix of the different kinds of papers we publish breaks new ground and gives us the experience of the impact of the spoken word in writing. It also underlines our determination to continue to broaden the range of topics, forms and genres represented in the British Gestalt Journal.

UKCP Register and the British Gestalt Scene

It is not the policy of this Journal generally to comment in detail on developments in the Gestalt field in Britain. Although published by the Gestalt Psychotherapy Training Institute (GPTI), we consider our responsibility to serve the whole Gestalt community, internationally as well as within Britain. At the same time, we do not wish to overlook British developments altogether.

A major development in Britain since our last issue has been the launching of the United Kingdom Register for Psychotherapy. This brings to high prominence the question of how much central regulation of therapists there should be and whether the moves in recent years towards more emphasis on accreditation are welcomed or not welcomed by the Gestalt community. There is no doubt that in the history of psychotherapy as a whole in Great Britain the establishment of the Register is a milestone. It has come about after lengthy negotiations and not a little soul-searching, as the various psychotherapy institutes-across the whole field of psychotherapy from psychoanalysis to behaviour therapy and hypnotherapy-have been compelled to examine their professional and ethical standards. The formation of this Register has been compared to the establishment of the British Medical Register more than a century ago, which had a similar aim -to keep out unqualified practitioners and to reassure the public through insisting on greater professionalism and ethical standards. The UKCP Register arrives at a time when psychotherapy has come under considerable public attack on account of the discovery of ethical malpractice and abuse of power on the part of a small number of its practitioners.

The Gestalt community in Britain is moving towards establishing a second Gestalt accreditation body which would seek membership of the UKCP and enable a greater number of Gestalt practitioners to be formally listed in the Register. There is now widespread acceptance of the pragmatic need to 'join the club' rather than remaining an 'outsider'.

Obviously, given our known editorial policy, we welcome steps to increase further the professional standing of Gestalt psychotherapy, which includes accreditation and an insistence on the highest ethical standards; we believe that Gestalt philosophy and practice has already had a wide impact on psychotherapy (often without this being recognised) and that Gestaltists can be at the leading edge of psychotherapy developments. Given this, we hold that it would be wrong for Gestaltists to stand outside the process of increased professionalisation, even though some of the side effects(e.g., some bureaucracy or hierarchialism) are not to our taste. The Gestalt Psychotherapy Training Institute, our publishers, have been at the forefront of UKCP from its inception, as has been the Gestalt Centre, London, and the aims of this Journal and the aims of GPTI are closely linked. The Journal and GPTI also welcome and support the work of the Gestalt Association of the United Kingdom, now established and functioning with greater efficiency.

All these changes are signs of a maturing profession of Gestalt psychotherapy. The scene has changed drastically over the last twelve years in particular, and the prospect is of further rapid growth and evolution of structures and organisations. Gestaltists will remain mindful of the need to find the balance between the needs of individuals and the needs of the collective, between standardisation and creativity, between adherence to systems and questioning of systems, and this will doubtless (and hopefully) occupy the Gestalt community for a long time to come.

Another important development and a significant step in the emergence in Britain of something that truly merits the term 'Gestalt community' was the extremely well organised Seventh British Gestalt Conference in Cambridge in July, 1993. Conference participants have reported that there was evidence in Cambridge of more trust, more networking and more collaboration than ever before, and that, for the first time in a collective setting, there was a feeling that differences existing between Gestaltists can be fully acknowledged without rancour. The Journal staff wish to congratulate the conference organisers for the excellence of their work.


A word about business. At this point it can safely be said that the British Gestalt Journal has rightly taken its place with other recognised professional periodicals in the field of psychotherapy, and we have increased our readership greatly, both in the UK and abroad. Nevertheless, we cannot rest easy with this accomplishment and urge readers to spread the word about the Journal and to recruit new regular subscribers. We cannot stress enough how important it is to increase our revenue if the British Gestalt Journal is to continue to grow in quality and range of contributions.

Pat Levitsky 


Farewell from your Production Editor

I appreciate Pat Levitsky’s kind words, as set out above, and I want to add a few words of my own.

As I sit at home, eating breakfast, here in the sun, gazing occasionally out to sea, I am interrupting my process of deciding my priorities and preoccupations for this day. My first move must be shopping for lavender plants in Bridport. Second, general work in my garden preparing for winter. Or second, page setting work for BGJ. This dilemma vanishes and my confusion abates as I decide to use the good weather and be outside. The BGJ work can be done after dark. But now, at 10.30, I have, through the post, the video copy of Jarman's Wittgenstein and I want to see that after dark. Darkness is 10 hours away and both options will vanish if a friend drops in this evening.

Ten hours have passed; 30 lavenders in a row will grow and make a hedge, I will have to watch Wittgenstein again if I am to understand it and I wonder at my coolness since I had no feelings whilst watching this video- not even revulsion at such imprecise waffle. What do I want to say as words of farewell? First to praise the advantages of blindness. Six years ago my concept of a journal was very simple indeed - every discipline must have a journal as a forum for interested supporters. Such a gestalt* journal would present the observations and ideas of gestalt practitioners. My 30 or so years of experience as a writer, referee and editorial board member of other journals ancillary to medical practice lead me to expect a generally smooth run. I was also at one time technical editor of a music journal.

My experience in my role in the team creating BGJ has been that progress was generally smooth. However I expected trouble from printing firms: we have certainly had such trouble.

I expected senior gestalt practitioners to be dispassionate referees when examining submitted communications: some were not, probably because they were presented with a new experience with no information and insufficient guidance. I did not find a way of sharing my experience.

I expected gestalt practitioners to be able to describe their experience verbally and on paper, and organise such experience to make it economical of time and space and interesting to a reader. Frequent discussions with them taught me that my concept was naive. All too frequently, in my judgement, valuable experience became lost in exhaustive waffle of the type indulged in by Freud and the Freudians. Perls called this stuff ‘elephant shit’ and with good reason. My early gestalt training was with people who were hypersensitive to elephant and lesser forms of intellectual shit so perhaps I too am hypersensitive. And I find that the faeces I favour are not generally appreciated. My ways of thought are based in physiology as much as in psychology.

Grousing disposed of I can now enjoy sharing my positive experiences. First, delighted greetings to Malcolm Parlett. I chose him to be Editor and put my ideas to him over lunch during one of his workshops in Devon, at Grimstone Manor. I saw his job as being a figurehead, the grand master with little work to do. Reality was soon otherwise as he spent long periods of time in the thickets of detail, getting papers in, talking referees into working for us for free, correcting punctuation and spelling, having arguments with printing firms, and on and on. We were joined by Pat Levitsky and Judith Hemming and teamwork has created BGJ as it is today.

From time to time I have worked with eminent gestalt Practitioners and have enjoyed my contact with them when they have written for BGJ or commented on (refereed) the writing of others.

I have enjoyed my contacts at the Gestalt Conferences with so many participants, particularly the enthusiastic younger people, who treated me with kindness as I tried to induce them to write for BGJ. 

As production manager I have often had the scotomatous experience up setting up papers in BGJ style without comprehending their contents. Only later, when they were in BGJ format, did I give myself the pleasure of settling down and really reading each one. Two hats, one might say, myself as artisan typesetter and alternatively as gestalt person. 

So now I lose my privileged status of knowing the news before it is published. My disappointments and pleasures, expressed above, are very personal. The impression I want to leave is that I have to express my disappointments to be true to myself. And more strongly I proclaim my pleasure in the general tenor and development of BGJ. In the polarity of presentation of practical experience contrasted with avoidance of experience in waffle, I sense that the median position has moved steadily away from the latter towards the former, issue by issue and I am very happy.

Whilst I am proud of the formal aspects of BGJ, presentation, page layout, etc., it is the content that really matters. Contributors have sent in a steady stream of valuable essays. I am very grateful to them for giving me employment and hope that they, indeed we, will carry on developing the beneficial work.

As I foresee the end of my typing, my clock shows it is already the early hours of tomorrow. Not far off is the early hour of my 70th birthday. It is time for me to pass to others the production tasks of BGJ and, though I shall still be around the gestalt scene for many years, from the journal desk I say farewell.

Ray Edwards

* For this message I have insisted on the indulgence of treating the word gestalt as an ordinary English adjective with a lower case g. Gestalt, for me, is an everyday model of perceived reality. I have confidence as I know that and need no emphasises. 

Book Review:

Fritz Perls in 1993 : A review of Fritz Perls by Petrûska Clarkson and Jennifer Mackewn - Joseph C. Zinker 


The Pattern, The Poetry - Michael Mackmin 

Letter to the Editor:

A Note of Lee McLeod’s Paper: The Self in Gestalt Therapy Theory - Peter Philippson