Wednesday 23 November 2022

The Gestalt Cycle as a structure for coaching.

I have been continuing to read and think about Gestalt, and in Nevis' Organisational Consulting, A Gestalt Approach I found him suggesting The Gestalt Cycle as a map of the consultancy process. Which prompted me to think of it as a possible structure for a coaching session.  

So here are my first thoughts:

Sensation: one might start by inviting clients to attend to their physical sensations in the here and now, as a way of arriving fully at the session; such an invitation also does something to establish the coach’s presence.

Awareness: one might then invite them to consider what comes to mind as the issue(s) to explore at the session.  It may be that many figures emerge from the ground; the coach will then encourage the client to increase awareness and contact with these figures to see which become salient. This can take time as the client processes the possibilities, and also as the client gains the confidence to talk about the serious stuff  Again, the coach’s presence may be key here.

Mobilisation: when the client decides what the most salient figure is, there is likely to be an increase of energy in both client and coach. It may be helpful to comment on this (self as mirror), to help the client to channel energy towards the salient figure. 

Action: at this stage, the coach and the client work together to address the issue, which may take many forms.  In Gestalt, the aim is always to help the client to increase awareness and maintain contact, in the here and now, with both the issue and the coach. This may involve heightening the client’s awareness of ways in which contact is being blocked (by retroflection, introjection etc).

Contact: this is the moment at which learning occurs: the moment when what is desired and what is possible are brought together. Bothe Perls and Nevis suggest that there is the need for an ‘aggressive’ contact with the figure of interest: it needs to be chewed before digestion, as it were, rather than simply swallowed whole. Thus the coach might want to ensure that a client doesn’t  reach to quick or simplistic a sense of resolution, but has really engaged with the figure with sustained attention.

Resolution and Closure: the learning from the moment of Contact is interpreted; and the figure is no longer salient: it has, in some way, been resolved. Again, the presence of the coach, including an acknowledgement of what has occurred and reflections on what has been observed and experienced by the coach may be valuable here. 

Withdrawal: attention is then withdrawn from the figure, the learning is assimilated into the ground, where it is available for future use.

 I should stress that this is purely theoretical at this stage.  I have not (or not consciously) sought to structure a session in this way; but as I wrote it out, it seemed strangely familiar...

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