The Istituto di Gestalt H.C.C..



Panic Attacks and Postmodernity
Gestalt Therapy Between Clinical and Social Perspective

Gianni Francesetti
with the collaboration of Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb and Giovanni Salonia, Istituto di Gestalt H.C.C.

Preface by Dan Bloom


    Why are panic attacks so widespread today?

    What relationship exists between this acute symptom and contemporary society?

    What new insights and methods can Gestalt psychotherapy offer in order to face up to and resolve this problem?

This book was written with the aim of answering these questions by considering panic attacks both as an expression of personal history and as a phenomenon emerging from a historical period characterized by uncertainty, fragmentation, and complexity. Panic attacks can be read as symptoms of a widespread and indefinite social malaise, a manifestation of the fragility and of the knotty problems that characterize the postmodern context. Clinical discourse is interwoven with a social outlook throughout the text, since both of these perspectives are necessary for those who wish to understand and care for those WX suffering from this disorder. From this point of view, panic is revealed to be an acute and sometimes unbearable condition, which nonetheless can provide a valuable opportunity for opening up new avenues of experience in the individual's life. Panic attacks can represent the beginning of a journey that will lead the patient towards different and more up-to-date creative solutions.

This volume is the fruit of the theoretical and clinical reflections of teachers on Gestalt Psychotherapy Training Programs at the Istituto di Gestalt H.C.C, Italy. Its various chapters provide an original reading of the cultural and clinical context from which this disorder arises, revealing new theoretical and therapeutic prospects.


Preface to the English Edition

by Dan Bloom

(...) But more than merely being a fine book of basic gestalt therapy, this volume is itself an important original contribution to our literature. It is a phenomenological and clinical discussion of a specific disorder we find in our psychotherapy practices. Gestalt therapy traditionally excels as an experiential practice; but the literature in gestalt therapy has been deficient in serious scientific research and clinical case material. This book from the Italian branch our gestalt therapy family is a continuation of the foundational model that fills a deficiency in gestalt therapy literature. (...)

(...) The authors develop contact , contact-boundary , the sequence of contact , the critical role of support for contact making , the interruptions to contact , self functions and structures , creative-adjustment , and the relationship of therapist to patient , and show these concepts deployed in the successful treatment of panic disorders. These are the central ideas of Frederick and Laura Perls (1992), Paul Goodman, and Isadore From, which were transplanted to Italian soil. The terms found in the glossary to this book itself are words first defined in Perls et al., and are continuing to be refined and developed in the worldwide practice of gestalt therapy. Look closely at this glossary: The definitions are not mere repetitions from Perls et al. or any subsequent source, but a careful synthesis of those sources with this book's authors own research. In this unity of theory and practice, the authors bring new understanding to basic themes of gestalt therapy. (...)

(...) The temporal and cultural contingency of meaning is at the heart of gestalt therapy. The narratives and metanarratives which inform our work have long been our concern. The authors of this publication take this from gestalt therapy and link it explicitly to postmodern ideas. Drawing on sociology, psychology, and philosophy, the authors show the relevance of gestalt therapy to other contemporary approaches that consider panic disorders from a broad cultural perspective. By doing so, they firmly establish gestalt therapy as a continuingly developing psychotherapy, not as an artifact of any time or fashion. Moreover, they do this while using the concepts of the foundational model itself, clearly and succinctly applied to the clinical situations of their research. It is gratifying to read how clearly the phenomenon of panic can be understood when viewed through the lens of gestalt therapy.

Importantly, this volume is not restricted to the clinician's perspective. In keeping with gestalt therapy's attention to experience as emergent of the social field, and that psychotherapy itself as a phenomenon of the contact-boundary par excellence , this work includes a chapter written from the perspective of an actual patient. This is both a dramatic entry into the world of someone suffering from panic disorder and a direct example of the phenomenological research method of the authors. (...)

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