THE PARADOXICAL THEORY OF CHANGE

July 10, 2014

Gary Yontef

http://www.gestalttherapy.org/_publications/theory_of_change.pdf

 

Change is inexorable. From conception to death, people are constantly changing. The

universe itself is constantly changing, as are all events and structures in the universe. Even

when there appears to be no change, slow and subtle shifts are always taking place.

Apparently unchanging events are events that change so slowly that they merely appear to be

static; some processes appear to change so slowly that they take on the attributes of

unchanging structure. A standing wave looks as if it is not changing when it is actually a

repeating process that creates a static appearance by the repetition. A person who resists

change and stays relatively static still changes in relation to surroundings. The rest of the

field does not stop changing because some individual has slowed to the point of appearing

static.

 

The central question is not whether there will be change, but whether human change

will be toward growth, deterioration, or whether there will be apparent lack of change in

which the person grows or deteriorates so slowly in comparison with the surrounding world

that it appears as stasis. The central question for Gestalt therapy theory and practice is: How

do individuals and their societies, including psychotherapists, influence and support change

in the direction of healing, growth and wholeness and how do they interfere with healing,

growth and wholeness–or even precipitate deterioration?

 

In Gestalt therapy theory the therapist is not a change agent that makes change

happen. The Gestalt therapist is an agent in the quest to create conditions that maximize

conditions for growth, conditions that allow growth to happen when it has been arrested or

limited, conditions that focus attention where needed for healing and growth. Gestalt therapy

trusts organismic self-regulation more than therapist directed change attempts. Rather than

aiming to move the patient to be different, the gestalt therapist believes in meeting patients as

they are and using increased awareness of the present, including awareness of figures that

start to emerge (thoughts, feelings, impulses, etc) that the person might or might not allow to

organize new behavior. With this present-centered awareness, change can happen without

the therapist aiming for a preset goal.

 

 

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