Gestalt Case Studies L4

Marion – Figure & Ground

Marion got up late and went to work without eating breakfast. she had been stressed the night before, because her five-year-old child had a temperature and was clearly unable to attend school.

Throughout the morning at work Marian felt hungry and slightly unwell. She found it difficult to cope without food, and although she also worried about her daughter, she was constantly aware of the empty and queasy sensation in her stomach.

In this situation, Marion’s current physical needs controlled her experience, and it wasn’t until she managed to eat in the cafeteria that she was able to address the next most pressing need which was information about her child. 

When she had eaten, she phoned her babysitter and got news of her daughter’s condition. After that Marion was able to deal with the other pressing needs of the day.

If Marion had not been able to eat when she did, she could not have dealt effectively with other figures or needs which emerged over the day.

Her perceptual field would have been cluttered and confusing.

Counselling Skills & Theory – Margaret Hough

Simon – Figure & Ground

A patient attending his GP surgery was referred for counseling because he was depressed. The patient had been bereaved two years earlier, when his father died of a heart attack. Since that time Simon was unable to shake off the depression and had been taking medication for sleeplessness and anxiety.

During counseling it emerged that his brother had also died 10 years previously as a result of suicide.

His brother was a student at University at the time, an Simon had never been able to accept his death. In fact, he felt a great deal of guilt and responsibility in connection with it.

Because of his unresolved grief about his brother, Simon could not adequately address the issue of his father’s death either. In addition to this, there were other factors in Simon’s life which had never been dealt with. His relationships were problematic, largely because (as he said himself ) he was difficult and Moody to live with. Simon felt drained of energy and confused about which issues he should tackle first since his job situation was not good either.

It was some time before he came to see that the unfinished business of his brother’s death needed to be dealt with if the other factors were to be seen in clearer focus. In Simon’s case there was a lack of purpose and clarity, which meant that he was unable to separate the important from the unimportant things in his awareness. Figure and ground had become indistinguishable as far as he was concerned.

Counselling Skills & Theory – Margaret Hough

Eamonn – Wholeness

Eamonn, who was in his early 30s, received stressed counseling because of problems at work and the breakup of his marriage. He did not entirely believe in counseling but decided to try it as a last resort.

His friends and relatives were unable to give him the kind of help which he needed, so on the advice of his line manager he received counseling over a period of six sessions. Despite his initial reservations, Eamonn found the experience helpful.

At first, he had some difficulty in expressing his feelings, and the counsellor who worked with him used a Gestalt approach to help him.

Eamonn was emphatic that he has recovered from his marriage breakup, but the counsellor noted that his body language was incongruent with his verbally express statement.

Client:             I am over the worst of it, and I don’t have grudges against Sian.

Counsellor:     I would like you to become aware for a moment, of your left hand and what you are doing with it.

Client:             My hand? [Slightly disconcerted] I’m holding my neck with it, my throat.

Counsellor:     And what is it your throat wants to express?

Client:             I don’t know what it wants to say……..but I know I had problems with my throat which the doctor said were due to stressful stop

Counsellor:     Your throat is you. Say what it is your throat is saying.

Client:             [slowly, after a pause] I can’t swallow it. That’s it……I have to say…….I can’t swallow it yet. I suppose I’ve been fooling myself that I could get over something like that so quickly.

Counselling Skills & Theory – Margaret Hough

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