Working with Organizations: self-awareness program for individuals and teams

This article aims to describe how we as gestalt psychotherapists approach our work with organizations. The proof is actually in the experience itself. I will try to introduce our theory which is the foundation of how we work.

The Organization is a Team

A team is not just a group of people. It is a group of people interdependent on each other. If your organization were a dragon boat, this is how it should look like if it were to thrive. Company wins the race and everybody is satisfied.

Chances are, these guys go home happy after a hard days work. They bring their satisfaction home, they come back the next day ready to go.

What happens sometimes, unfortunately, is this:

Each member actually tries their best in their own way to get the job done. Somehow it doesn’t work. The harder they try the more stressed out they get. They bring their stress home. Home gets stressed. Sometimes people give up.

How we work…

Working in the here-and-now. During the sessions, we enter your world. We are trained specially to focus on what is going on in the here-and-now in our interaction with you and the team.

Observing Phenomenology. We do not come to the session with fixed programs or lessons. Neither do we come in with our ideas of what is right or wrong. Our ideas or judgements are of less importance to us than yours. When we enter a session, we are fully engaged in what is going on in the room. Coming into a session tabula rasa is a phenomenological way in which gestalt therapists are trained to work.

Paradoxical theory of Change. The premise of our work is to understand as deeply as possible the issues at hand; especially at an emotional and relational level. Understanding and observing before trying to change anything is fundamental to gestalt therapy. We call it the paradoxical theory of change (Beisser, 1970), since real change happens (almost spontaneously) when we take time to understand what really is going on, rather than rush to find fixes.

We work dialogically. Dialogue is fundamental bond in relationships. Where there is dialogue, there is connection. Where there is connection, we feel a sense of safety, belonging and solidarity. Organizations that comprise of individuals in dialogue are like large schools of fish that are able to swiftly maneuver itself and avoiding obstacles.

We work holistically. We view each individual as part of a field. The field is everything related to a person: his teammates, culture, family background, past and present relationships. In groups, we pay attention to the group as an organism. The group is different than the sum of its members. It is a living entity with a psychology of its own. In group work, we pay attention to the group dynamics and interaction of each individual and the circumstances that affect the group in the present moment.

Embodiment. The work environment demands that we stay cognitively focussed. The need to ‘push on’ with work often sees us neglecting our physical boundaries. We sometimes forget or ignore the fact that we are tired, or that we have feelings. Human beings are able to deny physical constraints by disassociating from awareness of the body. Disassociation is actually reaction to trauma. Trauma has much to do with feeling trapped or stuck. The long-term consequences of unconsciously disassociating like this is depression and anxiety; leading to burnout. In our sessions, through self-awareness exercises, we facilitate the embodiment of emotions. Regular work on emotions and body process is a good burnout prevention measure.

Creative License

Almost unique to gestalt therapy is the use of creative media. Clients can expect an interesting journey through the use of art, music and drama. Using art speaks to the emotions and facilitates embodiment of these emotions.

Conclusion

It is almost impossible to describe gestalt therapy in a few words. The word ‘gestalt’ means to ‘form’, to make what is unclear clear, to bring to the foreground that which is emerging from the background. The best way to understand gestalt therapy is to experience it, and the change that is felt by the participant after each session. This kind of change is holistic, integrated and permanent.

Bibliography

Beisser, A. (1970). The paradoxical theory of change. Gestalt therapy now1(1), 77-80.

Contact us for more information:

Nicole Chew-Helbig & Giuseppe Spano