The right therapist or counselor can help people confront the issues that make relapse so difficult to prevent. With so many types of addiction therapy services, however, it’s hard to keep track of them all. One type that doesn’t get the attention that it deserves is gestalt therapy. Below is more information about this helpful addiction treatment program.

gestalt therapy

Gestalt therapy is a treatment that helps people focus on the present. Unlike other counseling methods that focus on the past, it emphasizes the here and now. Gestalt counseling helps people get in touch with what happens in their lives. It breaks them away from the control that past experience has over them.

During gestalt treatment, people typically become more self-aware. They see their negative behaviors and thought patterns. Often, they start to recognize that their behaviors block their true selves. They have no one to blame for their unhappiness but themselves.


Experts use gestalt therapy to treat both mental and physical conditions. Some of these include:

  • Low-self esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Migraines
  • Back spasms
  • Relationship difficulties

More recently, however, experts have taken note of the benefits of gestalt therapy for addiction. First, it helps people with addiction see that the choices they make cause their own unhappiness. Secondly, it helps them with underlying mental illnesses.

Addiction is a mental illness that doesn’t typically appear alone. Another underlying mental illness can spur on the addiction or vice versa. Depression and anxiety are common co-occurring disorders, which gestalt counseling treats. Overall, this psychotherapy is a good choice for a dual diagnosis treatment program.


Gestalt is a German word that means shape or form. Fritz Perls, a German psychoanalyst, and his wife developed the treatment in the 1940s. Gestalt therapy techniques help people better express themselves by becoming more aware of their own feelings through observation and also experience.

Therapists and counselors at a mental health treatment and addiction center use many techniques in this type of therapy to help those fighting substance use. These include:

gestalt therapy techniques portland oregon

Roleplay: Through role-playing, individuals understand and experience various emotions. They also observe how they present these emotions to others.

The empty chair: In this technique, the individual sits in front of an empty chair. He or she then imagines that another individual is sitting in this empty chair and starts to communicate with this individual. In the next step, the individual switches chairs and communicates from the perspective of the individual in the empty chair. This activity is highly beneficial in making people recognize different perspectives and how to deal with these differences.

Dream interpretation: The technique asks clients to relive their dreams by assuming the role of other people who appear in the dreams. This also helps patients understand what other people may have been experiencing in the dream.

Interpreting body language: Teeth clenching, muscle tension, or finger tapping are some of the unconscious ways of expressing emotions. This process aims to make an individual more conscious of his or her own body language.


The primary objective of Gestalt therapy is to provide a safe environment for people to present or express themselves. Through Gestalt therapy techniques, people become comfortable with their own feelings and learn to make positive choices. It also helps these individuals recognize their own dysfunctional or destructive behaviors. As they become more aware of their triggers and responses to triggers, they are also better able to develop coping strategies.


In different types of counseling, therapists or counselors ask their clients about their feelings, and they discuss past problems. Gestalt therapy, however, focuses on solving past problems and discussing current situations.

That’s not to say that people don’t talk about past problems during gestalt treatment. Instead of just talking about them, counselors might have clients act out the moments when the problems took place. While clients act out the problems, therapists or counselors ask how they currently feel.

In fact, role-playing and guided fantasies are often important aspects of gestalt counseling. The goal is for people to get in touch with their true feelings. At the same time, they learn to take responsibility for their behaviors and accept the consequences.


Out of all of the gestalt therapy techniques that counselors use with gestalt treatment, people know the empty chair the most. During this exercise, people sit in one chair and face another that’s empty. They imagine something or someone in that empty chair. It must be important to them or a problem that causes them distress.

With the imagery in place, therapists or counselors encourage the clients to talk with it. The conversation typically brings up a lot of emotions.

At some point during the exercise, therapists or counselors reverse the roles. Clients become the objects or people in the empty chair.
The goal of the exercise is to give people a different perspective on their problems. The technique isn’t possible without role reversal.


Are you ready to start treatment for addiction? Consider getting help at Crestview Recovery. We offer a wide range of programs that can help you overcome the disease. Some of them include:

Don’t let addiction cause you any more trouble. Find out more about gestalt therapy at Crestview Recovery. Reach out for help today.