GROUP THERAPY FOR
THERAPISTS IN GESTALT
A Therapist-Trainer's Perspective
The therapy that I am describing here is group therapy with trained and practicing psychotherapists. Some of these folks are in the early stages of their careers, but most have been active for some time and are now planning to acquire a new skill or a new orientation. They are interested in learning about Gestalt therapy with the intention of becoming Gestalt therapists or enhancing their work by learning how to conduct Gestalt therapy. Since I retrained as a Gestalt therapist nearly 20 years ago after studying, practicing, and teaching psychoanalytic therapy for the previous 20-odd years, I have a sense of affinity for the joys and challenges of such an undoing and rebuilding process. Similarly, because I trained as both a clinical and a social psychologist, worked for a decade in interdisciplinary research, and taught for 35 years in social work and psychology departments, I can relate easily to psychologists and social workers who make up the bulk of our trainees at the Gestalt Therapy Institute of Philadelphia, where this group therapy proceeds. Between this group therapy inside our training program, on which I will elaborate, and my part-time private practice working with individuals and couples, I estimate that 70% of my current work is devoted to therapy with persons who are themselves psychotherapists. It was not always so, obviously, and I can attribute this current situation to age and experience as much as to anything else.
The composition of the groups is much like that of the professions of psychology and social work: mostly women, mostly white, ages ranging from thirties to sixties, and orientations varying from behavioral to family systems to psychoanalytic.