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On the last track, we discussed four guidelines for implementing Gestalt therapy with clients. These four guidelines were timing in applying Gestalt approaches, gradations in approaches, differentiating behavior in and out of counseling, and individual differences among clients.
On this track, we will discuss three considerations in Gestalt approaches for enhancing a client's present awareness. These three considerations are: awareness helps in focusing on the "now", awareness of self, and awareness of surroundings.
Three Considerations for Enhancing Awareness
Consideration #1 - Focusing on the 'Now'
Suzanne stated, "But why is now so important!? What I'm worried about is graduating next year, getting all the credits I need, and keeping my grades up... and getting a job after I graduate!!" I stated to Suzanne, "Let's try an experiment. First, start tapping your foot on the floor. Now, at the same time, start snapping your fingers. What do you notice?" Suzanne stated, "Wow, it's hard to concentrate on doing both at the same time!"
I stated, "Right, it's pretty difficult to focus on two things at once; like focusing on now and the future at the same time. Human beings can only make changes in the now. But if our attention is divided, it's hard to make those changes, just like it's hard to tap your foot and snap your fingers at the same time. By training our awareness regarding now, we can learn to focus on the now, where we can make change."
Consideration #2 - Awareness of Self
3-Step Technique: My Movements
I stated to Suzanne, "I'm going to walk you through a set of movements. Try to focus on how each movement feels. As you make these movements, notice what you can observe about each one. Are your movements more fluid or more jerky? Can you notice how different movements in one part of your body result in sensations and movements in connected parts? Are you asking your body to move in ways that do not fit its structure?
Step #1. Start with your neck. Rotate your head and feel the range of motion your neck allows… Now, make your neck hard and rigid, focusing on the muscles near your spine. Does this feel familiar? Now release the muscles at the back of your neck… How does that feel?
Consideration #3 - Awareness of Surrounding
Six Step Sight Experiment
To help Suzanne learn to increase her awareness of her environment through seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling, I invited her to participate in a "sight experiment." Here are the six steps I used with Suzanne.
-- 1. Let your eyes explore your current surroundings. Let them rest on any object which holds some interest for you. Attend to this object. Notice its shape, color, and form. Notice the relationship between this object and its background.
Think of your Suzanne. Would your Suzanne benefit from using this sight experiment as a tool to help him or her increase his or her awareness of the now?
On this track, we have discussed three important considerations in approaches for enhancing a client's present awareness. These three considerations are, awareness helps in focusing on the "now", awareness of self, and awareness of surroundings.
On the next track, we will discuss three techniques that can enhance a client's awareness during counseling. These three techniques are repeating, exaggeration, and staying with.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Cavaleri, P. A. (2020). A gestalt therapy reading of the pandemic. The Humanistic Psychologist, 48(4), 347–352.
Furley, P., Kohlhaas, S., Englert, C., Nieuwenhuys, A., & Bertrams, A. (2019). The expression of ego depletion: Thin slices of nonverbal behavior as cues to momentary self-control capacity. Social Psychology, 50(5-6), 305–321.
Klapp, S. T., & Jagacinski, R. J. (2011). Gestalt principles in the control of motor action. Psychological Bulletin, 137(3), 443–462.
Wiekens, C. J., & Stapel, D. A. (2010). Self-awareness and saliency of social versus individualistic behavioral standards. Social Psychology, 41(1), 10–19.
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