Gestalt Therapy is a very useful tool in a therapist’s arsenal. While most substance abuse treatment programs would agree that the support of others is most beneficial in helping one to stay sober, it is through one’s personal journey that the change really starts to occur behaviorally, cognitively, and emotionally. I have found that there are many modalities of treatment that helps one to recover, but very few stay focused on the emotional component that the Gestalt modality brings us. It uses the “here and now” concept so that one can understand and gain an awareness of their feelings and learn how to manage them usefully.
Sometimes people go through difficulties in life and don’t always feel emotionally equipped to deal with feelings. Some might say, “I feel empty, I feel numb, I feel dead inside.” Unfortunately, in these situations, we are unaware of the “real” feeling and this can lead to impulsive behaviors as a way of taking care of ourselves (drinking, doing drugs, gambling, compulsive shopping, etc.). It’s almost compulsive and without much thought.
According to Gestalt theory, our minds have developed a creative adjustment to the pain we might have experienced in earlier life traumas and now one tries to get their needs met in a way that works “best” for them. In Gestalt therapy, we discover how our creative adjustments were developed to meet our needs and tolerate stressful experiences, social contact, facing unpleasant painful feelings, thoughts, and memories (Perls, 1944). Creative adjustments are an important part of living because our situations are constantly changing. We are forever making and breaking contact with various aspects of our situation, and it is necessary for survival that we creatively adjust to our present situation. The problem occurs when our present creative adjustments become “fixed” (addictions) and we no longer feel we are able to make a change.
This “fixed” feeling is how we develop an addiction and do the same behavior expecting things to be different for us.
Gestalt therapy gets to the bottom of the problem. It allows the client to sit in that uncomfortable place and learn to sit with the very emotions that we once tried to ignore or push out of awareness, ie. “I’m empty, numb, etc.”
If you feel a new treatment approach to dealing with addiction will help, please feel free to call Specialized Therapy Associates at 201-488-6678.
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