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My Experience as a Trainee Gestalt Therapist

by Sandra Mullen

My background is in community development and I have been working with individuals and communities for over 20 years developing community-based services in partnership with statutory agencies. I am also a trainee Gestalt therapist with the Irish Gestalt Centre and I completed my third year of a four-year programme in July this year.

The most important theoretical concept within Gestalt therapy is the notion of the whole and according to Gestalt theory there is no meaningful way to consider any living organism apart from its interaction with its environment. In Gestalt theory, self implies self ‘in relation’; there is no self without contact with others or with the environment or field (Perls et al., 1951/1994). I was drawn to Gestalt therapy because of its emphasis on our experiences in the relational field and its humanistic, existential and holistic values which are similar to the principles of community development. The training involves four residential workshops each year where first, second, third and fourth year students come together with their trainers as a community, to grow personally and professionally and share experiences in a way which is both challenging and supportive. At the end of each academic year, as a community of Gestalt trainees and trainers, we celebrate the graduation of the fourth year students. The yearly celebration is a very special and unique event. I would like to share this poem which I wrote to express my deep gratitude to this year’s graduates for challenging and supporting me to come into deeper contact with myself, others and my environment and for sharing their journey with me:

The Dance
I came here
With lungs that needed to breathe and be breathed
With hands that needed to hold and be held
With feet that needed to move and be moved
With eyes that needed to see and be seen
With a heart that needed to love and be loved
With a soul that needed to feel and be felt

Thank you for giving me breath so I can breathe and be breathed
Thank you for giving me hands so I can hold and be held
Thank you for giving me feet that can move and be moved
Thank you for giving me eyes that can see and be seen
Thank you for giving me heart so I can love and be loved
Thank you for giving me soul so I can feel and be felt
Thank you all for dancing with me, for teaching me to dance,
The dance of contact, the dance of life

Sandra Mullen is a Trainee Gestalt Therapist.

Perls, F.S., Hefferline, R. & Goodman, P. (1951/1994). Excitement and growth in the human personality. London: Souvenir Press.

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