The author of this report is asked to answer to several questions. First, a definition and summary of the major constructs of the Gestalt Theory are to be explained. Next, the practical applications and implications of the Gestalt Theory and how they apply to group counseling will be enumerated. Third, the goals, leader responsibility, member responsibility and techniques used will be laid out. Lastly, the author of this paper's perspective will be shared regarding how the Gestalt theory may or may not be used in a group setting and how it specifically can be used to help at-risk teens.
The two main tenets of Gestalt therapy is "here and now" experience and personal responsibility. It was developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman. The objective is to become more "alive" more aware and creative in addressing issues that require therapy. The method relies heavily on the relationship between the therapist and the person getting the therapy. One of the main benefits of the therapy is that it helps people understand how their physical and mental beings are connected. The therapy can be used in a group setting so long as everyone is "with" the program (Good Therapy, 2013).
The practical applications of the Gestalt theory are pretty obvious. The theory can be used in a solo or group setting to help people in therapy help and encourage each other. It is, basically, the idea of the rising tide raising all ships. However, there are also limitations. The use of this therapy requires that everyone in the session, whether it be one person or a group, be an active participant in the therapy and not resist the therapy. It only takes one proverbial squeaky wheel to inhibit or even derail the therapy results for everyone. As such, a group setting can be very effective if everyone ascribes well to the program or it can be chaotic to ineffective if the facilitator does not keep a handle on the pace and message and/or one or more participants actively or unconsciously sabotage what is going on. Basically, everyone involved (including the facilitator) have to be singing from the same proverbial hymnal and be committed to making the therapy go well or the results can be messy or at least ineffective (Good Therapy, 2013).
As for goals, it would depend on the person in question. For the leader, the goal of a group Gestalt theory would be to have everyone benefit, even if it's at their own different pace, from the therapy. Some people will go faster than others but that is alright so long as everyone is participating and progressing. As for the member goals, the goal should be to engage actively with the other participants as well as the facilitator and thus make it an engaging and effective experience for everyone involved. As for responsibilities, the facilitator must manage people and what they say/do as needed to prevent regression and keep people on task. An occasional tangent is fine and clamping down too hard can actually be hurtful but as long as the session is going along smoothly and progress is being made, the facilitator should just follow the proper scripts and tactics and things should be fine (Good Therapy, 2013).
As for the members, they have a responsibility to make sure they are contributing to the session and its good progress. If they are not ready or willing to progress along with the others, they should either do solo therapy or the shouldn't be doing therapy to begin with. This is not to discourage someone from doing the group therapy. It also does not mean that people can be a little reserved as they enter the program. However, if they are not interested in progressing or at least seeking a solution to their problems, they should not actively or unintentionally be a drag on the others. A bit of tepid behavior and/or hesitancy can be quite normal but much like recovery from alcohol or other drugs as well as diets, just as two examples, the therapy will not work unless the participant wants to change and is willing to take the steps to effect that change (Good Therapy, 2013).
As for the perspective of the author of this paper, a group setting would work best if one or more people seek the same general therapy and/or have the same general issue (e.g. At risk teenager). If the issue at hand is quite different from person to person or the situation with a given person is particularly volatile, then singular therapy is probably a much better option than group therapy. Also, people that are actively cynical and/or just plain rude to others (e.g. anti-social or otherwise hostile), that person should never be included in a therapy setting because there are potentially voluntary behavioral issues that need to be addressed in addition to the underlying anxiety, depression or other mental issues (Good Therapy, 2013).
As far as Gestalt and group therapy, there are a few wrinkles that make teen therapy that are quite different. First, teenagers (at least those younger than eighteen years old) are not adults and the use of therapy needs the consent of the parents rather than the teenagers themselves. Obviously, some participation and willingness on the part of the teenager is needed to make a group therapy setting for at risk teens for it to work, but the point is that teenagers do not have anything close to full control of their choices and their lives unless they are emancipated or otherwise not under the care of a parent or guardian (Good Therapy, 2013).
Even so, the use of group therapy can be useful because teenagers can bounce ideas and thoughts off of each other and they can perhaps see the consequences of their actions should they be unwilling to right the ship and act within the constructs of the law and the rules of their parents. Teenagers, though, can be a problem just because they often bristle at authority, even their parents, and this can translate into uneven results in a clinical and therapeutic setting as well. Really, any teenager that enters a group therapy setting should do so with some modicum of choice because if they do not want to be there, things will not work nearly as well as they could or should. Teenagers in a group therapy setting are no different than adults in this regard (PsychoTherapy.net, 2013).
However, the risks and challenges with teenagers make a group setting worth the potential risk, more often than not, because of just how far behind the curve teenagers can be placed if they enter adult life with certain failings or challenges. One example would be teenagers with self-control and/or anger issues. Being an adult means being able to measure one's words and control one's temper. Even if violence is not involved (more on this in a second), not being able to control one's words or actions in general can lead to devastating consequences (NCJRS, 2013).
As for violence, the use of violence is never acceptable except in terms of self-defense and if violence is not shut down early on, it can prevent people from being part of the best and brightest parts of society because they will surely end up with a felony record and this can literally set them back for life or at least for a very long time. Along those lines, criminal behavior in general is a high risk for teens that are in low-income or high-crime areas. If it is perceived that a life of crime such as drug-dealing and such is the only viable option to escape squalor and destitution, then the teens can tend to make very bad choices (NCJRS, 2013).