A guide to being in Gestalt groups

The foundation of Gestalt practice is awareness, which is essentially mindfulness: paying attention to the present moment; noticing what’s going on inside you, and around you in the environment outside yourself; being aware of your thought processes, feelings and bodily responses, and being sensitive to those of others.

While there are no rules or expectations for Gestalt groups, there are some basic principles that it’s helpful to have an understanding of. If you endeavour to put these into practice, this will ensure you get the most from the experience, for the benefit of yourself as well as your fellow group members. 

Be authentic

Practising authenticity means being yourself and speaking your truth; saying what you really mean, think and feel, rather than what you believe others want to hear; speaking from the heart, being open and honest.

Be present

Engage with what is happening in the moment. Be aware of how you are currently feeling and thinking, here and now. Notice where your attention goes. If it wanders outside the group, be mindful of where to, then bring it gently back to the present, exploring what happened within the group to trigger its wandering.

Be curious

Ask how others feel and think rather than making assumptions. Avoid projecting your interpretations on others; instead of saying “You are…” or “You feel…”, use phrases such as “I imagine that…” or “I’d guess that…” or “I wonder if…”.  Follow your curiosity about others’ experience as well as your own, explore what arises and how this affects the group.

Be relational

Speak directly to others, avoid monologues and soliloquies, engage in dialogue. Experiment with different ways of being you; if you usually talk a lot, try listening more, and vice versa. Lower your guard and open up to others. Endeavour to be non-judgemental and to empathise with others. Share your perspective, thoughts and feelings.  Speak from your own experience, using phrases such as “I think…” or “I feel…” or “I imagine…”, rather than generalising (eg “People think…”, “We tend to…”).

Be respectful

Be sensitive to, and respectful of, the needs and feelings of others in the group. Respect their privacy; share your personal experience with family and friends if you want to, but keep that of other group members, and all identifying information, confidential. Respect yourself, take responsibility for your actions, choose when to opt out of situations that feel wrong for you.