Volume 8, 2 (1999)


Volume 8, 2 (1999)


The British Gestalt Journal 1999, Volume 8, 2


Editorial - Malcolm Parlett 

Interviewed by Neil Harris - Dramas, Groups, Gestalts - Gaie Houston 

A Gestalt Approach to Learning and Training - John Bernard Harris 

Performance Anxiety in Classical Singers and Musicians - A Gestalt Perspective - Elisabeth Wingfield

Daniel Stern: A Developmental Theory for Gestalt? - Marion Gillie

On Spirituality and Selfhood - John Kirti Wheway 

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A striking feature of the Gestalt approach is its diversity. There is an abundance of therapeutic styles and fields in which Gestalt is applied. In writing and teaching, authors and trainers champion different Gestalt concepts. Priorities and values of training schools contrast sharply.

Such colourful variation is not surprising. There is no central Gestalt 'Vatican', or International Committee enforcing an orthodoxy. The anarchistic leanings of Gestalt may limit its influence in the world. On the other hand, they remind us that each practitioner has ultimately to take responsibility for him/herself, as an artist cum practitioner, both in respect of identifying with the Gestalt 'brand’ and in making individual integrations of life experience with Gestalt ideas, methods, philosophy.

The British Gestalt Journal seeks to recognise and celebrate diversity. At the same time, it needs to counter centrifugal tendencies which get to the point of ‘anything goes'. The purpose is to act as a container, a sturdy and known container, within which novel thinking can sprout and grow. As editors, we want to bring on new writers and broadcast a variety of voices. We are for extending the kind of subjects covered and supporting the deconstruction of too-settled thinking. We believe that the present issue lives up to these ambitions.

A Diversity of Writing

We begin with Neil Harris's lively interview with Gaie Houston, who herself extols differentiation. Gaie is a senior and highly respected trainer in Britain who speaks here about a variety of topics and interests of hers. The interview, as the title suggests, focuses particularly on groups and on drama. She seems to emphasise the need for Gestalt to embody its radical nature, returning us to themes to do with the arts and politics which were more in evidence in Gestalt's earlier days.

Second comes an important paper from John Bernard Harris. He investigates Gestalt training - its implicit learning theories, the styles and assumptions of trainers, and much else on which all providers and receivers of training need to ponder. Harris's account is the first of its kind, certainly in the BGJ. We need more. It is shocking to realise how much training takes place with so little discussion of it which is shared between institutes and centres. This is one place where too much variation may be counter-productive, if we are to ensure the long term survival of Gestalt therapy as a profession.

Next comes Elisabeth Wingfield's intriguing account of how she works in therapy with classical musicians and opera singers. This article follows in our tradition of inviting specialists to write about their work in more detail. Bringing together her own experience as a singer with what she knows as a Gestalt therapist is a good example of the kind of individual integration that Laura Perls encouraged all Gestaltists to make.

Marion Gillie follows with an article reviewing the ideas of Daniel Stern, considering whether his views of child development are compatible with Gestalt concepts. This authoritative theoretical review will be of interest to many in the Gestalt community and particularly to trainees. We are glad to be publishing her paper in a subject area Gestalt thinkers still have too rarely ventured into.

Finally, among the main articles, is a slightly edited version of John Kirti Wheway's Marianne Fry Memorial Lecture. This new lecture series aims to focus on the live, changing, and ever provocative boundary between spirituality and Gestalt. Wheway has set a high standard for subsequent lecturers. His (at times) autobiographical account is erudite and passionate. Those who heard the lecture were enthused. Though something is lost, obviously, by its not being spoken, something is also gained - not least that many more can now be stimulated by Wheway's thinking.

There are two other significant, welcome, and shorter contributions to this rich collection. In her review of The Dreamer and the Dream, Jane Jameson Milner gives a vivid portrayal of one of her trainers, Rainette Eden Fantz, of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, whose essays and talks have been gathered together and published this year. The review - and the book - are well worth reading. The book has been edited by Arthur Roberts who also (fortuitously) - has contributed an 'Opinion’ for this issue. He writes persuasively about our use of language in Gestalt, and the need for a more vibrant, body-oriented way of taking, especially in relation to concepts of ‘field'.

Readers will find that the present issue of the BGJ draws together many and various strands and themes. There are a number of interesting linkages too: for instance, Milner's review has much to say about training; Wheway is exploring new language in a way which Roberts might approve; and, unusually, several writers make explicit reference to the arts.

As usual we welcome written reactions from readers, for publication or simply for our information as editors. Remember, this is YOUR professional journal.

Belated Acknowledgement 

In the last issue we published a paper on Gestalt Family Therapy by Joseph Melnick and Sonia March Nevis. The original version of this paper appeared in Handbuch der Gestalttherapie, edited by Reinhard Fuhr, Milan Sreckovic, and Martina Gremmler-Fuhr, and published by Hogrefe Verlag, 1999. We are sorry that this information was not included at the time of re-publication.

Malcolm Parlett 


Book Review:

The Dreamer and the Dream: Essays and Reflections on Gestalt Therapy, by Rainette Eden Fantz (Edited by Arthur Roberts) - Jane Jameson Milner 


Digging Up the Bodies - Arthur Roberts