Volume 24, 2 (2015)


Volume 24, 2 (2015)


The British Gestalt Journal 2015, Volume 24, 2


Editorial - Christine Stevens 

The many voices of the self - Frank-M. Staemmler 

The healing encounter of dance, Gestalt, and art based on Anna Halprin’s Life/Art Process - Ursula Schorn

The body as a ‘vehicle’ of our being in the world. Somatic experience in Gestalt therapy - Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb 

Can you let your dog into the room? Clinical zooanthropology and Gestalt Animal Assisted Psychotherapy - Aluette Merenda

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The editorial is the last piece of the jigsaw in the process of putting each issue of the BGJ together. As I read through the final proofs, I feel my focus changing from the minutiae of the separate parts to a sense of the whole. After months of correspondence with authors, deliberations and action on the part of the editorial team, the critical gaze of the peer reviewers, and the detailed work of the production editor, the whole issue, typeset as it will soon appear to the reader, scrolls down my computer screen. Elements that in preparation seemed disparate, now display a pattern of emerging themes, subtle interweavings and interstices of connection and divergence. Of course my gestalt of this issue will be different from yours. However, much of the writing here is indubitably concerned with facets of embodied experience.  I hope that you will enjoy the experience of peering through the prism and making your own patterns of meaning from what is offered here.

Frank Staemmler’s article explores the dialogical nature of self, formed in relationship with others. He contextualises the theory behind the well-known device of the empty chair. Although a substantial piece in itself, this paper is a teaser for his recent book published in German, where his ideas are developed in more detail. (Das dialogishe Selbst 2015). Having read this article, you might like to turn to the book review section and engage with Sharon Beirne’s detailed evaluation of Kellogg’s book on the technique of the empty chair which he has developed into a stand-alone therapy method.

I have come across the name of Anna Halprin a lot recently – it is as if she has been rediscovered, perhaps due to a recent book by Wittmann, Schorn and Land, Anna Halprin, Dance – Process – Form (2015). This article by one of the authors, Ursula Schorn, herself a dance movement therapist, discusses Halprin’s connections with Perls and early Gestalt therapy groups. Schorn gives an outline of Halprin’s theory and methods and discusses how she integrated principles of Gestalt therapy into her understanding of the creative process. There are close connections between the approach of dance movement therapy and Gestalt therapy, and this paper helps to open up some of the context for this.

The embodied theme continues with Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb’s article, the flavour of which is conveyed in the question “What do I feel in my body as I am here with this client?” In this substantial theoretical essay the author explores in detail and with examples the somatic experience formed at the contact boundary.  She thinks about how we can use this not as a set technique, but as part of the relational matrix that informs our way of being with our clients. 

When your client asks “Please can you let your dog into the room?” you might be pleased to have read this well-informed article by Aluette Merenda. She writes about her clinical experience of working in partnership with her Rottweiler, Fey. Her contribution to this rapidly developing area of practice draws on research and methodology developed by studies in zooanthropology, looking at the relational dimensions between humans and animals, and discusses this in relation to Gestalt therapy theory.  She also addresses our attention to ethical aspects of working in this way with animals.

Belinda Harris’s interview with Gaie Houston is another in our series of interviews with senior practitioners from the Gestalt Community, and gives a warm and appreciative insight into the life and work of someone who has been a stalwart of psychotherapy practice and training in the UK and further afield for many years. Houston herself has also written a letter to the editor in this issue reflecting on the UKAGP conference held in Nottingham in the summer and commenting in particular about the importance in her view of small process or “home” groups as part of making sense of the experience of a conference as a whole.

The letter from Peter Philippson is a contribution to the on-going debate about culture and what this means in today’s world. It is another way of looking at embodied experience. This has particular poignancy and relevance as I sit here writing in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015. Philippson’s points about the complexity of “culture” are being reflected in the struggle to work out how to respond at government, community and individual levels to the mass movements of refugees and migrants taking place in Europe, and the violence and conflicts which are giving rise to this. These are also themes that those of us attending the joint EAGT and AAGT conference in Taormina, Sicily, September 2016 will be able to explore further together.  In the meantime, former BGJ editor, Malcolm Parlett’s timely book Future Sense: five explorations of whole intelligence for a world that’s waking up offers a framework for engagement and connections between personal development and the global challenges we are facing. 

Claire Black reviews Yes we care, a collection of essays on cultural and political issues published by the EAGT, which includes a contribution by Ken Evans, founder of the Sherwood Psychotherapy Training Institute in Nottingham, UK, a former EAP and EAGT President and a campaigner for human rights and social responsibility. His sudden death as this issue was being finalised came as sad news to many in the European Gestalt community and space will be given in the next issue to honouring his life and contribution to Gestalt therapy. 

Adam Kincel reviews Kennedy’s treatise Healing Perception which looks at the significance of the philosopher Merleau-Ponty’s work for Gestalt therapy in relation to embodied phenomenology. Katy Wakelin’s opinion piece is a searingly personal reflection on her own profound, embodied motivation to become a therapist. This paper was written during a recent BGJ writers’ group retreat. A new BGJ writers’ workshop weekend will take place 2-5 June 2016 – see the advert in this issue for more details.

As many of you will have heard, we are looking forward to celebrating 25 years of the BGJ.  We are planning an international 25th Anniversary Conference, to be hosted with the UKAGP, which will now be held in the summer of 2017 rather than 2016 as previously announced. This is to enable as many people as possible to attend the Taormina conference in September 2016.

Finally I would like to thank all those who have been involved in the process of producing this issue, and to draw readers’ attention to the BGJ website. Short features, news, events and foreign language papers on Gestalt Therapy issues are posted here on a regular basis. Subscriptions and digital downloads of back copies are available on the website, and the archive has a search function making it easy to find articles on specific subjects.  Well over 300 people have now signed up for the newsletter which keeps readers up to date with news, forthcoming articles and topics of interest in between the twice-yearly issues of the Journal itself. 

We value your feedback and look forward to hearing from you.

Christine Stevens PhD

In her own voice

Belinda Harris interviewing Gaie Houston - Belinda Harris

Letters to the editor

Response to Fernandez Hearn and Madrona Rodenas - Peter Philippson 

UKAGP Conference 2015 - Gaie Houston

Book reviews

Sharon Beirne reviews Transformational Chairwork by Scott Kellogg 

Adam Kincel reviews Healing Perception by Desmond J. Kennedy

Claire Black reviews Yes We Care! edited by Guus Klaren, Nurith Levi and Ivana Vidakovic


Why would anyone want to be a therapist? - Katy Wakelin