gestalt school
Posted by: Sangre ()
Date: May 22, 2005 07:11PM

First of all: I have read things here that are so helpfull to me! Thank you all so much!!!!!

The most stories I read on this board are very clear (from behind my desk) to read. I don't want to call my school a cult, because I think a cult is much more heavy then what I went through.
But there are definately similarities I think.

I am a student of gestalttherapy, but after two years of having my doubts I have decided to stop this school. Allready from the beginning I had my doubts about this school, but since it is an education that exists for 30 years I really thought the standard was good.

When I started gestalt I had read many things about it. One of the things that made me want to study this is that it was supposed to be a psychological direction where individuality is highly respected and where the goal is to gain more personal freedom through awareness. I had allready be in contact with some of the methods, like the empty chair work, and that I can (still) find beautifull methods. (Pardon me if my English is bad, I'm Dutch)

My school has a leader who is seen by some people (like the other teachers) as a very charismatic woman. Personaly I think she is a rough selfish woman who can be very rude to her students. I don't see anything charming about her, but she is allmost worshipped by the other teachers.

Last year I had a conflict with them. In this conflict I felt manipulated and mistreated. When I confronted them with that they played it back to me, telling me that I had a problem with authority and also with contact. According to them I really had a contactual problem and besides that I was to rebellious.

The conflict was as follows: in this school you are supposed to choose your own sequence of the first three years. They urged us to choose quickly (in the springtime) because otherwise the classes would be full (yeah, right). So I choose, but I wanted to change my choise after one month. They didn't allow me, first they told me that it was the best for me not to change ("Can you not take an advise?" when nobody actually gave me any advice) , then later they told me that they wanted to wait for more males in the group. I found out that two women who wrote themselves in after me got accepted, so that was just a lie. Logically, if I think about the true reason, I think it was a logistical thing. This other year was highly wanted, but the year I had written into was less wanted. So, if I would change, that might cost them an other student, and so it might cost them money. If I stayed where I was they could let one more person follow that other year.

Anyway, it would not have been a problem if they would have told me that honestly. But instead of being honest they gave it back to me, telling me that I really had a problem with accepting their 'advises' (which they didn't give). They also told me I had a big problem with contact and this year they wanted me to follow was just right for that. When I had her on the phone she laughed at me, telling me that she recognized some old behaviour in me. She ment that I was just rebellious.

That really gave me a mindfuck, and I felt very bad about myself. I started to doubt my whole contactual abilities untill my boyfriend told me that I was getting to confused about that, he never saw me as having contactual problems. When I spoke about that with him I could feel the clouds in my head dissapear and I realised it was just not true!
Pissed off I send them a letter in wich I explained my feelings, and I told them that they where wrong with me and that I do not lke to be manipulated.

They send a very very small letter back that I just saw everything wrong and it was all one big misunderstanding.

I had to pay for the year, as it says in the contract. I thought: What the hell, I still find all the techniques interesting, let's give it an other go.

Off course I could know that it was a bad start for that year. I had critisized them and they did not like that at all! Especcially I had critisized the leading woman, who had allready gave me pretty rude comments. But since she is allmost worshipped by the other teachers, my new teacher had allready something against me.

Sometimes she said things like: "A gestalttherapist can never do anything wrong, because as long as you get a reaction, it is good"
or: "You choose your own parents before you are born, so it was your own choise, deal with it"
And slowly more religious aspects came into the group. In one part they gave us there religious views and told us that 'people who don't believe in God or have at least a vision about God can never be truly aware of themselves'. Then they also told us what god-image was the best, according to them.

With me, I really felt half way the year that the way they wanted us to work was unhealthy for me. I tried to discuss that, what I was feeling, but from that moment on she told me (and the whole group!!) many times that I did not want to work. I was far too rebellious.

Then I told people from my homework group that I had my doubts about the whole education, but I asked them to keep that quiet until I told it myself at school. The next time at school one of them turned to me and told the rest that 'I had a secret'.
Then, I really had a problem, because the whole group turned against me and my teacher made it very very clear that I was not allowed to have 'secrets'. I got very angry, telling them I did not sign a contract witch made me their possesion. Off course then they told me that I was hostile and I saw everything wrong. My teacher asked me what lesson I could learn from that. I told her that the lesson I learned was to keep my mouth shut. That satisfied her clearly!

She sometimes played pretty weird tricks on me. One day I again told her that working the way they wanted us to work was at that time a bit much for me (we could only focus on things that where not 'right' about us). She then had an exercise, she told everybody to really think if we wanted to do that exercise, because we would have to write things down 3 times a day. I was the only one who didn't do the exercise. The time after that she told me that I was really putting myself outside the group and that she was so annoyed by me that I refused the exercise. But she gave the choice herself!
All the time throughout the year she says that you only have to do what you really want to do, that you allways have the freedom to say 'no'.

I have seen many more things happen to other students. In one session one student was attacked because she also 'couldn't handle authority'. At the end it was made clear that she had made a comment about the leading woman, and that had pissed my teacher off.

I can give many examples. But the thing is that it really cunfused me big time! Every time I went to school, I came back depressed. More and more and more. I started to doubt myself so much that I was getting a real crisis inside of me, feeling very confused.
Every little critisism they put back at you. Everything is a 'projection' or your 'resistance' and so on. Off course the whole thing I felt was just my 'motherprojection'

I send them a letter last time and off course she only answered in front of the whole group. I couldn't say one word, give one example, without her telling me how annoyed she was at me and how fucked up I must be.
Then, somebody told her that I might be true in the fact that my teacher treats me different. And then she told me that 'maybe she had been a bit short' with me.

I want to finish this year, it's one more time to go and I want to have the certificate. I have learned a lot about it, not from them directly, but mostly to take my own feelings seriously. I will be sooooooo relieved when the whole thing is over!!!!

I think gestalt can be interesting, but it can also be very very easily abused. Especcialy with terms as 'projection' you can really fuck people up! It is so easy to put everything back on other people and then deny responsibility. But I think that psychotherapists can never, never deny their responsibility! You work with people in vulnerable positions and it is really easy to give somebody a mindf*ck and then blame the person for the mindf*ck as well. I really think things like this can screw somebody up big time!

Okay people, my compliments if you have read this all, it's not a small piece of text :wink: !

So this is the story that made me look for things about psychological manipulation on the internet. And so I came to this discussionsite.
I realize that this was not a cult and it could have been much worse. My deepest respect for any of you who came out of such heavy indoctrinations as in cults!!

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gestalt school
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: May 22, 2005 10:34PM

Gestalt groups can be very helpful, but it depends on the person leading the group. Even when a group is based on an excellent methodology, it may becomem dysfunctional if the leader starts to isolate from other professionals, neglects continuing education, and only socializes with admirers.

This material may help:




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gestalt school
Posted by: Mia ()
Date: January 17, 2007 12:02AM

It's not gestalt theory's fault. You teacher/leader was a crooked woman, who tried to manipulate you and do it her way. I don't think any sensible psychologist or mentor would humiliate or torture someone like that. It was really unkind of her. It must have been a hard time for you. My condolences.

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gestalt school
Posted by: kath ()
Date: January 17, 2007 08:59AM

I saw a counsellor one-to-one that used some elements of Gestalt therapy and found it very helpful.

However it should be remembered that Gestalt began with the 'encounter groups' at Esalen and these were the inspiration for some Large Group Awareness Trainings.

Also Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt, was said to have been quite cruel on occasion.

It looks like you have the two elements in your own nasty experience- a bullying individual and a pressurising group setting.

The Gestalt prayer goes:-

I do my thing and you do your thing
I am not in this world to
live up to your expectations,
and you are not in this world to
live up to mine.

You are you
and I am I
and if by chance we find each other,
it's beautiful.

-Some people have said that this can lead to an abdication of responsibility towards other's wellbeing, to an extent that can be seen as neglectful on the therapist's part.

I did find seeing a therapist who practiced some Gestalt therapy helpful, but it was one-on-one and she did it as part of a model based on my needs and an eclectic range of techniques, combining it with person-centred counselling.

What you are describing sounds like a destructive guru/leader, and some bullying which used some elements of a LGAT.

I've no conclusions to draw for you but hopefully given you some food for thought,

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gestalt school
Posted by: Sangre ()
Date: February 28, 2007 04:58PM

Wow, I have just read my first post here back after two years. I see I still got some replies, even after that time. Thank you people!

At the time of the post I was still in this group. I have much more distance from the whole situation now. I stopped after getting my certificate and went to study counselling. In that studygroup I didn't have any problems at all and i really like my study.

The thing is, with my experience on the gestaltschool, that I still absolutely think that gestalt itself has some very interesting ways of working. Yes, it can be very helpfull and has some great methods. So my story is not about gestalt, it is about these teachers and the founder of the school. Individuals.

I think they really had a problem.
To be honest, it took me quite a while to give things a place inside myself. The good thing about it was that I managed after all to stay with myself allthough I went through a lot of confusion, even with the pressure and humiliation they put on me. So not because them, but inspite of them I grew a lot from it.
The bad thing, that still pisses me off, is that I am very sure that I was/am not the only one they play(ed) mindgames and powergames on, and that I think you can easely break people down and do some real damage there. After all, in that school you are only a good student if you follow exactly what is expected of you. This way you have to deny things of yourself, and have to start to believe in a false self-image. Only if you are believing in the image they want you to believe in, they say that you are truely aware of what is going on. Of course students want to 'please their teacher and become a good student'.
An in my eyes pretty bad example of this is when a woman was working about her anger towards herself. She was cheating on her husband at that time and she felt really bad about it. But the teachers told her that it was ímpossible to feel anger towards yourself so it really had to be anger towards her father. (no-one had mention her father before that, no-one knew if the relationship she had with him was a good one or not) So, she told them it was not her father. But they convinced her that it must have been her father, so then she started to direct her anger towards him.
This way, they can create false ideas. Which might even hurt the relationship she had with her father as an adult.

After the whole schoolperiod, I felt pretty damaged myself and it took me quite a while to get over that.
The way the founder of the school was almost worshipped is into my opinion pretty unhealthy.
It is like the gestalt prayer one of you posted here, taken to an extend. They where sometimes very rude to people, and if the people (or me) would have a problem with that, they denied their own responsibility for it. Hey, it is your feeling, deal with it.

Again, thanks to you all for your replies! At the time I wrote this post I felt still very confused. I didn't react anymore at that time because after writing it, I felt guilty towards my school, thinking that maybe after all it was just me being rebellious.
I know better now.

And again, my deepest respect to people who did came out of a cult. My situation is nothing compared to what you must have been going through!

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gestalt school
Posted by: kath ()
Date: March 01, 2007 11:23AM

The bad thing, that still pisses me off, is that I am very sure that I was/am not the only one they play(ed) mindgames and powergames on

If you google and search the teacher's name + destructive, and other searches like that, you may find others have written about their experiences with this school online.

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gestalt school
Posted by: Vic-Luc ()
Date: October 02, 2007 01:21AM

Yeah, watching the standard therapy types at the uni, it was glaring which therapist was fucking up:

It was ol' psycho Fritz Perlz creating a destructive counseling session. The guy was like Werner: COMPLETELY UNHINGED with no boundaries or respect.

Gestalt therapy is really only used by the unlicensed and the clueless. That type of therapy has been found to be largely unproductive and counterproductive to say the least...dangerous and harmful is usually the outcome.

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Re: gestalt school
Posted by: survivors ()
Date: April 10, 2008 12:55PM

I have just returned from a Gesalt Theory 1 week retreat. It was very similar to Sangre's experience. Heirarchical it was. Degrading as well and although the guru was very intuitive, she was downright mean most of the time other than a few giggles at times, almost inapproriate. And the poor followers were so F%^&*#$ up. Most were return students. The method was to wear you out by waking early and demanding meditation, yoga in between 3 long sessions during the day to break you and show your feelings(anger, sadness,hurt,happy) by loud screaming action. I was told that I was defiant over and over, if ever even questioning queen bee.It was a slow brainwashing, not really realizing what was happening to you BUT
I have survived and remain confused but better every day.
So much cruelty, for so much money. What a scam.

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Re: gestalt school
Posted by: karen ()
Date: August 05, 2008 11:29PM

I think there are alot of right on things about gestault therapy, in itself.
From what I understand, it's all about accepting responsibility for ones

I like what gestault says about not blaming our decisions on our up-
bringing or past and living in the now.

We're not a product of our enviorment but a product of our own

I like that and I think it's a statement that is true.

As far as the 'gestault school' you say you went to, Sangre, I don't
know how to respond but if you think it was a negative thing for you
then I'd say you should find another avenue somewhere.

To many of the methods used in therapy only cator to a persons
sickness if you ask me and offer excuses to blame.

Rehasing old sad sagas of ones past doesn't get anyone anywhere
and there comes a time when a person has to move on.

That's just my opinion though and I appreciate being given the
liberty and the freedom to do just that on this forum.

Thank you and good luck to you, Sangre.


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Re: gestalt school
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: August 05, 2008 11:56PM


It's also important to recognize that many things in life that happen to people are not their fault.

Others may do bad things that cause damage and circumstances my beyond an individual's control.

Victim bashing isn't very productive in such situations.

And there are also bad therapists that hurt people.

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