The Istituto di Gestalt H.C.C..



Hence, the particular prospective on relationships supplied by this model integrates in an innovative synthesis Sullivan's interpersonal prospective,Horney's  focus on experience and the  Theory of Object Relationships.(The latter  has much in common with our approach,but excludes an prospective on relationships  from the experience of the "contact boundary".)

 Gestalt psychotherapy is so bound up in this "betweeness"  that we are led to  substitute the concept of the self-determination of the organism with that of the self-determination of the relationship,the concept of social regulation  with that  of the self-regulation of the group.It is precisely the evolution of the relationship, in its constant fluctuations between the dimensions of the 'I' and the 'you', of the 'I' and the group, that leads to the creation of  social living which can be considered self-regulating.


The first of the  two essays which follow examines the divergences with psychoanalysis by expounding the hermeneutical epistemology of Gestalt, whilst the second is dedicated  to clarifying the theory of the "organism-environment field".The latter, in its role as background and framework in which the relationship occurs,is a container which is by no means inert,but is instead a place of unceasing productive tensions,and from which vivid figures emerge, objects of contact, in a continual  flux.

Although initially influenced by it,the concept of the field in Gestalt psychotherapy goes beyond Lewin's configuration .Here the field is the perception of dynamic forces in interaction rather than experience of the boundary, and it also differentiates itself clearly from systemic thought,which is focused on controlling the relationship and not on  experiencing  the relationship.


The  initial, theoretical part of the book ends with a work which underlines the time dimension of the experience of "being-here with" the other, and it goes beyond the concept of "Da-sein" expressed in Heidegger's writings.In so doing it reveals the essence of the gestaltic prospective concerning the integration of "otherness".

The phenemenological tension of the first four studies becomes fundamental clinical reflection in the essay upon the self which follows.It also forges a link with the second part of the text, which deals with the concrete reality of mental suffering today.

From the four contributions that deal with strictly clinical matters  a concrete gestaltic model of intervention with seriously disturbed patients emerges. The treatment of the seriously disturbed poses a challenge for all types of psychotherapy in the third millenium, both in traditional private setting and in psychiatric community structures. This section also includes an essay that deals with  the question of psycho- pharmacology.

 The book closes  with  an essay that uses gestaltic hermeneutics and clinical practice to analyse living in society , an important component in all types of psychotherapy  but which is often only taken implicitly into consideration.It examines the dynamic interaction   in which  the subject and the  Polis are constantly engaged, in search of an adaptation which is never a form of conformity, but is creative and "politically" possible.

Three contextual elements have determined the nature of this work.


The first concerns the way in which it was conceived. The essays that make up this work express ideas elaborated within a group, not a collection of individual writings. We have put our belief in  the self regulation of the group into practice and, as Frederick Perls wrote in the original introduction to  Gestalt Therapy  (the fundamental text of this approach, written in collaboration with Ralph Hefferline and Paul Goodman), "our differences were numerous, but by bringing them to light rather than politely concealing them, most times a solution emerged that none of us expected". The gestaltic method is above all a method that allows things to happen, the ever-new creation of adequate solutions to the degree in which everyone is present,in the here and now of the relationship, at the "contact boundary".We have therefore preferred in our Institute to remain faithful to the attraction  of a choral and phenomenological representation of a reality to which the founders of Gestalt psychotherapy bear witness. From our point of view it a fundamental historical and epistemological element.


The second aspect concerns the relationship between Gestalt theory and Gestalt psychotherapy.


Created in the fifties in an anti-institutional socio-political context, it was expounded in a work ( Gestalt Therapy , ) which is difficult to understand and, at the same time, extremely evocative. Its way of proposing the theory generates experiences rather than supplies information; it stimulates the reader's creativity rather than fosters the introjection of concepts. In the course of the fifty years that have followed, the relationship between Gestalt therapists and this work has been difficult, having been focused more on a sort of irritation caused by  its difficult but rewarding logic than on the cultural background from which it emerged or on the genial anthropology that it proposes.On the other hand, theoretical and epistemological contextualization were not very fashionable in the Humanistic Movement, of which Gestalt psychotherapy was part.Anything with a theoretical flavour, which was therefore cerebral and consequently almost "antihuman" , was thrown out like the bathwater, baby and all. Some Gestalt therapists have created a  theory justifying the lack of theory (as if any  clinical intervention were possible without referring to a theory of human nature -albeit implicit-  describing its development and pathology), whilst others have found it easier to assert that Gestalt therapy does not possess sufficient theoretical instruments and therefore is to be integrated with something else.The hermeneutical dialogue which has animated our studies has led us to discover, in the theoretical map with which Gestalt psychotherapy was founded, concepts and ideas, that have never been sufficiently developed till now, and that are  capable of giving answers to today's cultural and clinical problems.


The third element is a heartfelt "thank you" to the students of the Institute. Their intellectual curiosity has stimulated and continues to stimulate us  to give comprehensible and in- depth answers to their questions and to their need for personal growth.

Besides, if they had not  obliged us to write down the things that we teach, we would not have easily overcome our resistance to doing so.


This book is dedicated to Gestalt psychotherapists, in the hope that it will enhance their sense of the beauty of their clinical work,and that it will help them to progressively  bond it in the theoretical profoundity of this approach.It is aimed at anybody who, to whatever extent, is interested in human relationships, to assist  them in creatively modulating their relationship both with theory and clinical practice.




Introduction, by Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb


1. Comments to "Gestalt Therapy", post-word to the Italian edition, by Giovanni Salonia, Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb, Antonio Sichera


2. A Comparison with Gadamer: Towards a Hermeneutic Epistemology of Gestalt Therapy, by Antonio Sichera


    1. Premise

    2. The Background: The Relationship with Science and Tradition in Gestalt Therapy

    3. Beginning the Hermeneutic Adventure:The Simptom as Text of the Problem Tradition

    4. The Simptom as Call: The "calling" for a relationship (and the Role of Theory)

    5. The Knowledge of Psychotherapist as Hermeneutic Phr˛nesis

    6. Therapist and Patient in the Experiencial "Play"

    7. Language and Gestalt: Poetry as Paradigm of Contact

    8. Conclusion



3. From the Field to the Contact Boundary. A Contribution for Reviewing the Concept of Contact Boundary in Gestalt Psychotherapy, by Pietro Andrea Cavaleri


    1. A Removed Dimension

    2. Towards a "Culture" of the Boundary

    3. The Dwell of the Boundary

    4. The Boundary as a Place od Identification and of Interconnection

    5. Lewin and Gestalt Therapy: From the "Phenomenology of Representation" to the "Phenomenology of the Boundary"

    6. Mind as Boundary

    7. In Conclusion



4. Time and Relationship. The Relational Intentionality as Hermeneutic Horizon of Gestalt Psychotherapy, by Giovanni Salonia

    1. Premise/Background: Psychotherapy as "Fusion of Horizons"

    2. Relational Intentionality/Intentionality for Contact

        2.1. At the Beginning there Was the Relationship

        2.2. Time and Relationship/Time and Contact

        2.3. Interrupted Paths

    3. Conclusion



5. The Theory of Self in Gestalt Therapy, by Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb


    1. The Epistemology of the Self: A Phenomenological Event

        1.1. The Self and the Spontaneity of Life

        1.2. The Field

        1.3. The Anthropology of the Self

        1.4. The Self as Creative Adjustment

        1.5. The Self as Function

        1.6. The Self and the Holism

    2. The Three Basic Functions of the Self

        2.1. Id Function

        2.2. Personality Function

        2.3. Ego Function

    3. The Unfolding of the Self in the Contact-Withdrawal Experience

    4. The Pathology of the Self

    5. The Aim of Psychotherapy: Between Egotism and Relational Creativity



6. Working with a Seriously Disturbed Patient: The Development of a Therapeutic Relationship, by Valeria Conte


    1. First Year of Therapy

    2. Second Year of Therapy

    3. Third Year of Therapy

    4. Fourth Year of Therapy

    5. Fifth Year of Therapy

    6. Sixth Year of Therapy

    7. Last Six Months

    8. Last Three Months

    9. Among the Last Sessions



7. Gestalt Psychotherapy as a Community Therapy, by Paola Argentino


    1. A Gestalt Definition of Therapeutic Community and Its Tools of Intervention

    2. The Novelty of the Gestaltic Communitary Model

    3. Contact Cycle and Therapeutic Support in Psychiatric Communities

    4. The Awareness Process in Therapeutic Communities

    5. Psychotherapy of a Community

    6. Final Considerations



8. Guide Lines for a Gestalt Therapy Model in Psychiatric Communities, by Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb


    1. Premise

    2. The Concept of Riabilitation

    3. Therapeutic Goals

        3.1. Aims of the Therapeutic Intervention with a Seriously Disturbed Patient

        3.2. Aim 1: The Terapeutic Environment

        3.3. Aim 2: Differentiating the Self and the Environment

        3.4. Aim 3: The Orientation and the Rithm of the Self

        3.5. Aim 4: Differentiating One's Own Needs

        3.6. The Individualized Therapeutic Project



9. Gestaltic Psychopharmacology, by Paola Argentino


    1. Selfregulation of the Relationship and Neuromodulation

    2. Times and Modes of Contact

    3. From the Pharmacological "Compliance" to Gestaltic "Transfering"

    4. Pharmacological "Transfering" and Disfunctional Contact Modalities of the Patient

    5. "No-Compliance" and Disfunctional Contact Modalities of the Therapist

    6. Pharmacological "Transfering" and Functional Contact Modalities of the Therapist: An Example

    7. Resistance and Creative Adjustment

    8. Final Considerations



10. From the "Discomfort of Civilization" to Creative Adjustment.The Relationship between Individual and Community in Psychotherapy in the Third Millemnium, by Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb, Giovanni Salonia, Antonio Sichera


    1. The "Discomfort of Civilization" as Definition of an Inconceavable Relationship

    2. The Intuitions of an Heretic

    3. Gestalt Psychotherapy and the Relationship between Individual and Community

    4. Creative Adjustment as Overcoming of the "Discomfort of Civilization"

    5. From the Utopic Perspective to the Perspective of Contact

    6. Towards the Third Millemnium


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