About one in 29 people in the U.S. suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and without psychological support using approaches such as gestalt therapy, it can be an overwhelming and debilitating condition. Most people know it affects veterans, but anybody who experiences a shocking, terrifying or otherwise traumatic event is at risk. Finding out how gestalt treatment of PTSD works can help you determine whether the approach is a good fit for yourself or your loved one’s condition.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is a long-term, persistent version of something a lot of people experience after a trauma. If you’ve been threatened or attacked, for instance, you may feel scared or jumpy for a short while afterward. In most cases, this abates naturally, and the symptoms never really interfere with the individual’s ordinary life. However, in some cases, the symptoms experienced after the event are severe and continue for much longer.
The symptoms of PTSD are arranged in groups:
- Disturbing or frightening thoughts
- Avoiding thoughts or feelings that remind you of the event
- Avoiding places, people and objects related to it
Arousal and reactivity symptoms
- Being quick to anger
- Being easily startled
- Feeling stressed or tense
Cognition and mood symptoms
- Not enjoying things you used to like
- Negative thoughts
- Difficulty remembering the details of the event
What Is Gestalt Therapy?
Gestalt therapy is a unique form of “person-centered” therapy that puts the focus on the present moment — the here and now — rather than dwelling on events from the past. The most important things in gestalt therapy are becoming aware of what you’re experiencing in the present, and learning to value and be aware of your subjective experience of the world around you.
Gestalt Therapy for PTSD
The focus on the present in gestalt therapy makes it a good approach for dealing with PTSD, trauma and anxiety. In simple terms, by focusing exclusively on the here and now, people suffering from PTSD get the opportunity to take a break from re-experiencing what happened, which helps disentangle the links between the past trauma and how they’re feeling in the present.
However, some gestalt therapy techniques are a bit more direct. In “the empty chair,” you have a dialogue with an important person, feeling, aspect of your personality or even an event that’s causing you trouble. By playing both roles in the dialogue, you explore the issue from both perspectives and focus on your moment-to-moment feelings, recollections and experiences as you do. This is often challenging, but with the guidance of an experienced therapist, it can be incredibly rewarding for PTSD sufferers.
Getting Help to Overcome PTSD
Gestalt therapy is just one approach you can use, but the focus on the present rather than the past and the ability to explore your emotions in a safe, non-judgmental space makes it a particularly appealing option for many PTSD sufferers.
“The Power of ‘Moving on’ – A Gestalt Therapy Approach to Trauma Treatment” by Ivana Vidakovic