There is a form of psychoanalysis called Gestalt therapy. It aims at analyzing personal responsibility of the client. It was developed by psychotherapists Laura and Fritz Perls, and Paul Goodman in the 1940s. It is considered to be a mighty experiential psychotherapy that focuses on knowing or awareness and contact in the here and now. The therapy submits the patient to come to conclusion and awareness about himself/herself. The Gestalt therapist uses many ways to assist their patient to evaluate and analyze themselves. One such way is the popular empty chair technique, also known as chair work. Let's first learn about some fundamental facts on Gestalt therapy.
The term Gestalt means a figure or a pattern that can be distinguished against a background. It is a type of psychotherapy that uses various ways involving a sum of the client's communicative abilities. The Gestalt therapist studies the whole presentation, including how the client reacts, speaks, the words he/she chooses, and his/her body language throughout the session. A characteristic of Gestalt therapy is mindfulness. The patient needs to be fully aware of his/her conscience and surroundings to pursue his/her relation with self and others.
This helps the patient to understand when and how the contact fails. The therapist enlightens the patient by his/her comments and observation. The therapist follows his/her client's ongoing processes carefully and with special attention to analyze both the therapeutic relationship and the style of interrupting that process. The therapist assists his/her client to work through, as well as move beyond, their dreadful emotional blocks.
Empty Chair Technique
As is already mentioned, the empty chair exercise is one of the several techniques in Gestalt therapy. In this, the therapist uses an empty chair to help increase the patient's awareness of his/her own feelings and develop a stronger ability to cope with the daily situations and difficulties. The therapist asks the patient to imagine a person sitting on an empty chair in the counseling room. This imaginary person is the one with whom the patient has sexual, parental, or friendly relationship and is having some sort of emotional issue. Sometimes, the imaginary person can be the patient itself.
The patient is asked to speak out on the subject of conflict. The therapist focuses and studies many things for the evaluation and analysis of the patient. Some examples are repeated significant statements, exaggerated gestures for clarification, and the relationship between the patient's verbal and non-verbal behavior. By analyzing the patient's overall behavior during the counseling, the therapist tries to understand the root problem of the emotional issue.
He/she helps the patient by teaching him/her means of responding and coping that can be effective in his/her particular case. The aim of the therapist is to make the patients aware of what they do, how they do it, and the way they can change themselves to face life as it is, in a better way. The result of a successful empty chair exercise is that the clients learn to accept and value themselves.
Empty chair exercise is generally used with cases of interpersonal problems. A few examples are a patient who feels too submissive, lonely, left-out, angry at someone else, etc. The purpose of this counseling is to help the patients learn how to help themselves. The client is empowered with the ability to self-heal. This is the reason that it has gained popularity with school children. The rate of success of this technique of counseling is quite high.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for the advice of a mental health expert.