Graduate school for future clinical psychologists is an extensive, demanding, and multifaceted process, in which students will acquire a plethora of knowledge, skills, and experience. In addition, clinical psychology students, especially those pursuing a therapeutic-based career, should develop a theoretical orientation during that time. The development of a theoretical orientation will influence how a therapist conceptualizes and treats his or her clients. Nevertheless, developing a theoretical orientation can take a significant amount of time, understanding, and self-reflection.
Although I have completed about one year of graduate school, I do not have a comprehensive understanding of what my theoretical orientation is or will be. However, I am able to recognize which orientation most closely resembles my values and experiences and which does not. Thus far, I have recognized that my personality, experiences, and values align most with Gestalt Therapy, where as they do not align as well with Client-Centered Therapy. I was immediately drawn to Gestalt therapy because of the therapeutic goals, methods, and style.
Wedding & Corsini (2014) stated that the primary goal of Gestalt Therapy is to raise awareness in the client. Moreover, therapists assist clients to become more aware in certain areas and aspects of their lives, such unconscious habits, along with how and why they have avoided learning from experience (Wedding & Corsini, 2014). As a result, client’s will ideally continue grow and become more proficient at functioning independently. The aforementioned therapeutic goals were easy for me to relate to because of my athletic background.
Specifically, coaches had the biggest impact on me when they noticed small mistakes or habits that were negatively affecting my performance. It was extremely beneficial, then, when they made corrections and then instilled an awareness about when and why I was doing it. For example, in high school, I was very successful at hitting inside pitches, but struggled with pitches that were low and outside, but could not understand why. My coach made me aware that it was because of where my front foot was landing during my swing.
Therefore, he worked with me to correct it and taught me how to notice when I started doing it again. I believe some client’s can benefit from the same approach, as, in some instances, client’s may not be aware of their behaviors and/or cognitions that inhibit their functioning. In addition to the therapeutic goals of Gestalt Therapy, I also liked some of the methods used in this therapeutic style. Again, one primary goal of Gestalt Therapy is for the client to grow, and Gestalt therapists argue that growth occurs more through lived experiences, as opposed to explanation (
Wedding & Corsini, 2014). For example, if a client had an aversive childhood experience, then the therapist will encourage the client to recreate that experience to the best of their ability during the session. This exercise can help the client gain a better understanding of what he or she felt and thought at the time of the incident, and what thoughts and feelings he or she has during the session. In addition, it helps clients become more aware about why this experience may be holding them back at the present time. I have always learned far better through experience, as opposed to direction.
Therefore, I was immediately able to understand and relate to the benefits this technique can produce. Another aspect of Gestalt therapy I related to was the confrontation and direct contact from the therapist. Gestalt therapists take an active role in the therapeutic process and continually engage the client with a warm, excited, and direct presence (Wedding & Corsini, 2014). Specifically, this type of interaction allows the client to get immediate feedback about how he or she affects the therapist and is experienced by the therapist (Wedding & Corsini, 2014).
Moreover, after watching a progression of over 70 Gestalt therapy sessions on the same client, it appeared that the therapist continuously held the client accountable for his maladaptive behaviors, cognitions, and emotions. The client therapist relationship, then, quickly evolved into one that was comparable to a player, coach or mentor, mentee relationship, and it appeared more natural than some other client therapist relationships. Again, this aspect was easy for me to relate to because I am someone who likes to set a goal and start working towards gaining results.
While I understand that significant changes will not occur immediately from therapy, I believe that acting as a direct presence for your client and using confrontation to help increase awareness, is a highly effective way to see results. In addition, I believe that honest communication is very important in developing and maintaining a healthy relationship. Moreover, immediately pointing out certain issues and aspects that is holding a person back seems natural to me.
While I have not comprehensively studied Gestalt Therapy or chosen a theoretical orientation, I was able to easily relate to the therapeutic style, methods, and overall goals of this orientation, and I will continue to research it in the future. Although it was easy for me to relate to Gestalt Therapy, I could not relate as well with Rogers’ Person-Centered Therapy. While Person-Centered Therapy has multiple aspects | would like to incorporate into my therapeutic style, I do not envision myself performing it in the future, mainly because of the nondirective attitude and approach of the therapist.
Again, because I am very results-oriented I like everything I engage myself in to have a purpose and be working towards a goal. Person-Centered Therapy, then, to move too slow for me. While watching a video of Carl Rogers perform Person-Centered Therapy, I found myself becoming impatient because it felt like he could have made more progress with the client during that session. In addition, I do not completely agree with unconditional positive regard. I believe that sometimes clients o need direct feedback, advice, and/or direction, which is sometimes why they have been unsuccessful on their own. Therefore, I believe it would be quicker and more effective if the therapist deviated from unconditional positive regard, in some cases.
While I agree with and like certain aspects of this style, (i. e. , highly motivated clients, client’s have the potential to understand themselves, and client’s are able to ignite their own growth), I do not envision myself performing this type of therapy in the future because it is too non directive. The developme nt of a theoretical orientation is a significant milestone for most graduate clinical psychology students because it will become a significant part of who that person is as a therapist. More specifically, future psychologists will evaluate, conceptualize, and treat clients based on his or her theoretical perspective. While it takes time to develop one’s theoretical orientation, it is interesting and exciting to watch it evolve over time. After completing nearly one year of graduate school, I do not have a concrete understanding of what my orientation is.
However, I have recognized that my values and experiences are correlative with Gestalt therapy, where as they do not align as well with Rogers’ Person-Centered Therapy. Interestingly, at the beginning of the quarter when we filled out the “top ten ways to find your theoretical orientation”, client-centered therapy was not one of my lowest scores, rather it was more in the middle. Again, I think it has some great aspects, but I just cannot see myself doing that type of therapy. On that same sheet, Gestalt Therapy was my second highest score, which could be an indication that it might be a significant part of my future orientation.