Understanding Gestalt Coaching







Gestalt coaching is anchored in the theoretical foundations and methods of Gestalt Therapy, a school conceived by Fritz Perls in the 20th century as a derivative of Freudian psychology. Gestalt makes no distinction between change in an individual’s personal or professional lives; rather, it’s a process used by a coach to empower personal growth through the coachee’s exploration of their attitude, values, core beliefs and experiences.[1] It is premised on the idea that “human nature is organized into patterns or wholes.”[2]

Five principles guide Gestalt coaching:

  • It’s about awareness: of what is going on, cognitively and emotionally.
  • Concerned with the way in which we do (how), say, approach and experience.
  • Concerned with what is, in the here and now.
  • Relationship-centered, contextual, inclusive.
  • Change is constant, only happens in the present and will flow from focusing on the present—who or what you are now and staying with the experience.

While Gestalt coaching is about change, development and growth, it is not about outcomes like targets or performance metrics. Rather, it focuses on the beliefs and attitudes that support and hinder the progress. Core elements of the Gestalt Coaching model include:

It’s About the “How”: inquiry into the “whys” of the past tell us very little. The “how” inquires into the structure of an event, and once the structure is clear, all the “whys” are automatically answered.

Cycle of Experience Model: sequence of events the individual experiences to move toward desired behavioral change for personal development and growth: Sensation, Awareness, Mobilization, Action, Resolution & Satisfaction, Completion and Closure, and Withdrawal. Gestalt coaching offers specific interventions when a coachee is unable to advance to the next stage in the cycle and placing great emphases on co-awareness of Figures and resistances that may emerge during the awareness point “now I am aware” in the Cycle.

Paradox of change: change can only emerge when the coachee accepts the way things are and not what they want them to be.

Contact: the coach is considered a key instrument of the coaching experience. Building trust and exploring both the coach’s experience and the coachee’s is fundamental to effective Gestalt coaching.

Four Principles of Change:

  1. Responsibility and choice: we have total power over how we perceive and react to events
  2. Meaning: we have total choice over who we are and what life means to us
  3. Purpose: knowing consciously why we are doing something
  4. Goals: avoidance of premature goal setting downstream in process, focus on how we go about fulfilling our goals

Key Characteristics and Distinctions

  • Focus on the whole person, and not only on a specific goal
  • Leaves substantial space for the coachee to explore existential questions and avoids risks associated with premature goal setting
  • Cycle of Experience provides a clear framework for coaches
  • Believes that change can only emerge when the coachee accepts the way things are now
  • Empowers coachee responsibility and choice

[1] Fertile Void

[2] Fritz Perls, Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality


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