Volume 21, 1 (2012)


Volume 21, 1 (2012)


The British Gestalt Journal 2012, Volume 21, 1


Editorial - Christine Stevens 

Obituary: Serge Ginger (1928-2011) - Gonzague Masquelier 

Paul Goodman's contribution to the Gestalt theory of self - Peter Philippson 

Field-relational coaching for Gestalt beginners: the PAIR model - Sally Denham-Vaughan and Mark Gawlinski 

Gestalt organisational work with a family business: a story of awareness, emergence and co-creation - Nicky Burton et al. 

Companion animals as assistant therapists: embodying our animal selves - Veronica Lac and Robin Walton 

Where Gestalt and qualitative research merge: a heuristic inquiry into mothers' experiences in stepfamilies - 
Claire Asherson Bartram 

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This issue of the British Gestalt Journal demonstrates the varied areas of interests that concern the contemporary Gestalt community. It might be more accurate to describe the current Gestalt world as a community of communities, with members often belonging to more than one interest group and practising in a range of clinical settings. The articles published here all in some way push at the boundaries of Gestalt theory and practice in their respective areas, organisational coaching and consultancy, therapy with individuals, and research practice. 

We begin by honouring our elders. Gonzague Masquelier from the Gestalt Institute in Paris writes an appreciation of the life of Serge Ginger who has been a major Gestalt leader in France and throughout continental Europe. Last year was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Paul Goodman, whose contributions as a cultural theorist are currently undergoing a revival of interest. Peter Philippson's paper, from a speech given at a conference commemorating Goodman's work in Germany, gives a succinct overview of Paul Goodman's contribution to Gestalt therapy. Philippson also includes his own model of the Id, Ego and Personality boundaries (It/Not-It; I/Not-I; Me/Not-Me) as a helpful development in clarifying inconsistencies in the original formulation of self. 

Two articles in this issue reflect innovative developments in Gestalt approaches to working with large organisations. A feature of both these papers is the way the authors deal creatively with the pragmatic and commercial realities of having to operate within tight time frames. Sally Denham-Vaughan and Mark Gawlinski's paper discusses their challenge to come up with a seven-hour course for National Health Service managers in the UK, who have no prior knowledge of the Gestalt approach: 'how to develop a process-based synthetic model for teaching and delivering field-relational coaching in one day'. Although this sounds daunting, they go on to outline how they translate basic Gestalt principles into simple, memorable actions that can be experienced and assimilated in a one-day workshop. They emphasise working relationally with what is emergent, rather than being goal-driven, and point out how this differs significantly from other approaches to coaching on offer in this arena. For readers whose experience is mostly with individual clients, it is fascinating to see how the authors have found ways of communicating their understanding of Gestalt into language which is accessible to NHS management. By extension, the paper may offer unexpected insights for therapists needing to communicate their approach clearly in workplace settings. 

In the paper co-authored by Nicky Burton, Marie-Anne Chidiac, Neil Harris, and Andy Norton, the interest lies not only in the account of the organisational consultancy offered to an inter-generational family business looking at succession, but also in the discussion of the process between the members of the facilitation team, who had not previously worked together. They describe how each brought their own particular experience and knowledge areas, and how they came to understand parallels between what was going on between them and within their client group. 

Veronica Lac and Robin Walton write about Gestalt Animal Assisted Therapy. We are familiar with the use of guide dogs by blind people and hearing dogs by deaf people, but the wider therapeutic use of animals is something that is more familiar in the US than in the UK. In this paper, the authors give an account of their own relationships with their dogs and describe in case examples how these animals have played a part in their therapeutic work with individual clients. An example is also given of working with horses in a therapeutic way. We would be interested to hear from readers who have also experienced working with animals as part of their clinical work. Considering the range of pets commonly cared for by children, we are wondering whether any other kinds of animals might be involved. 

It is a challenge to change from thesis-writing mode to writing an article about one's research which is accessible to the general reader, and one that, as editor, I am often asked about. Claire Asherson Bartram's article is a good example of how this might be done. Her doctoral studies were concerned with the experience of women taking on a family along with a new partner and becoming stepmothers. Not only does she discuss some of her discoveries and implications for practice, but she writes about the doing of the research itself, including some of the pitfalls! She draws parallels between her methodology, which was heuristic enquiry, and the process of Gestalt therapy, exploring what it is like to be a practitioner-researcher. She shows how the work has been fruitful in enabling her to set up new initiatives and develop her practice in new ways. 

Doctoral study is increasingly being taken up by Gestalt practitioners, especially the newer work-based programmes, which provide the support to reflect at depth on clinical practice or a specific context or issue. They also offer the structured opportunity to develop a service, write a book, or make some other significant contribution to the profession. Claire's paper may well inspire readers to consider this challenging but rewarding undertaking for themselves. 

We are pleased to publish a letter from Bud Feder with a pertinent and appreciative comment from his own experience in relation to Frank-M. Staemmler's article published in the last issue. 

Increasingly, we are being spoiled for choice with interesting books for review and besides the four published here, we have a substantial number of Book Reviews in progress as I write. This is an encouraging measure of the numbers of books now being published in the field of Gestalt practice, but is also indicative of the wider interests and activities of people with Gestalt training. The four in this issue all reflect this broad involvement; they range from philosophy on organisational processes, to essays on contemporary Gestalt theory and practice, to a self-help book on eating disorders, to a practical book of creative ideas for youth work. We would be surprised if a reader was unable to find something that appealed to them from this collection! 

Finally, we publish something quite different; an Opinion piece from a new author, Katie Wood. She writes creatively as a client, rather than a practitioner of Gestalt therapy, about her experiences on her journey towards relational integration. 

Many hands have contributed to the preparation of this issue, writing, rewriting, consulting, peer reviewing, editing, and our warm thanks to all of you. There are countless informal conversations and chance remarks that surround creative activities, from the fertilisation of the tiniest seed of an idea, through the long processes of incubation and nurture, development and refinement. We continue to be excited about new writers emerging from Gestalt communities around the world and are committed to playing our part in supporting this process, as well as pleased to be able to publish established authors. 

In relation to this, I would like to draw your attention to the advance notice for the Writers' Conference we are organising in June 2013, which is intended as a stimulus for both emergent and established writers. It could offer the opportunity to set yourself a writing goal and the supportive framework to carry the project through. The conference is based around writing in progress, so there is a long lead-in period in terms of planning and preparation, and this is a good time to start to engage in the process. Do get in touch to register your interest and intent, and in the meantime please continue to send us your articles, letters and ideas for publication. 

Christine Stevens

Letter to the editor: 

What's in a word? A response to Frank-M. Staemmler - Bud Feder

Book reviews: 

Works, worlds and human being. A review of Ontological Fundamentals for Ethical Management: Heidegger and the Corporate World by Dominik Heil - Rob Farrands 

Revisiting the past to develop the future — staying still may not be an option. A review of Gestalt Therapy: Advances in Theory and Practice edited by Talia Bar-Yoseph Levine - Bill Waistell 

Exploring causes of overeating — a search for kindness and self acceptance as a way through. A review of Love Myself Slim by Jonathan Whines - Shirley Summers 

A mixed bag of ideas for youth work. A review of Creative Expression Activities for Teens by Bonnie Thomas - David Greenwell 


This Sisyphean life: a journey towards wholeness - Katie Wood