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All Change is Incremental…

…and sometimes change is large, noisy, aggressive, and intense.  This is something we have all dealt with lately in our Gestalt community here in Columbus.  Losing our leader, mentor, trainer, supervisor, and friend, Norman Shub, left a large gap in our hearts.  It also threw us into a tailspin of organizing for the future while honoring the past and the legacy Norman had created in 45 years of changing people’s lives.

As most know, we have moved offices due to being in a space that became too large for us to manage.  We are happily adjusting to our new office space and supporting each other through the ups and downs that come with major life changes.  The special ability to support each other was instilled in us from working with Norman and it has helped us become a close knit group of therapists that know how to love and support each other.

What we’ve learned from Norman and Gestalt Therapy has also helped us be the best therapists we can be.  We are here to serve the community and continue the legacy of Gestalt Therapy and Norman Shub, but in our own, authentic way. We are constantly learning and constantly growing. We are excited about the future and everything that is to come.

By Matt Dunatchik, MSEd., LPCC

Gestalt Therapy in Columbus Ohio

From Band Aids to Foundational Change: The Power of Gestalt Therapy

By Stacy Ingraham, MSEd., LPCC-S

I am often asked why I decided to invest in learning and practicing Gestalt therapy, after utilizing other popular counseling techniques for several years as a clinician. My quick answer – I didn’t want to put “band aids” on my client’s symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other struggles anymore. Instead, I wanted be an agent of real, lasting change by helping clients get to the root of what’s keeping them stuck. This is Gestalt therapy. Now after two years of postgraduate training workshops, hours of individual consultation, observation of Gestalt therapy sessions, pages of reading, and working through my own stuff with Gestalt therapists, I’m starting to get it (while also realizing I have a long way to go) and am leaving most of my old counseling habits behind. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  1. Gestalt therapy really works. While I’ve experienced the power of Gestalt therapy personally, I have seen real, foundational change in clients. For example, a couple who repeatedly blamed each other for their marital problems now owns their part, does not blame (most of the time), and has a more intimate connection than ever before because they have learned to protect the closeness in their relationship (an important concept we reinforce in Gestalt couples therapy). Admittedly, I do utilize other counseling techniques when appropriate or out of habit, yet my foundation is the Gestalt approach, and it really works.
  2. Learning Gestalt therapy is hard work. Integrating the concepts of Gestalt therapy is sometimes like speaking a foreign language (i.e. encountering a client’s behavior, working an introject, pointing out defenses such as retroflection, teaching awareness, building steel rods). And learning Gestalt therapy requires on-going self-reflection and change (i.e. heightening my own awareness, strengthening my own steel rods, being vulnerable, letting go of perfectionism). To be a skilled Gestalt therapist, I need to surrender to the Gestalt way of living.
  3. The Gestalt approach can be used in a variety of professions. The Gestalt approach is utilized by conductors of orchestras, athletic coaches, organizational consultants, dentists, law enforcement officers, educators, and many more. Gestalt child therapists utilize play therapy techniques such as sand tray, clay work, therapeutic games, music, and drawing. Gestalt therapy is also effective when doing family and couples/marriage counseling, and of course, group therapy. Basically, any professional who cares about being a transformational leader, building successful relationships, and contributing in a real way to their organization will benefit from learning the Gestalt approach.
  4. Gestalt therapy is effective when practiced alone and combined with other theories. This idea is debatable, depending on who you talk with in the mental health world. In my experience, mindfulness based approaches, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, and Motivational Interviewing combined with a Gestalt theoretical foundation can be incredibly beneficial for clients based upon their presenting issues (trauma, addiction, anxiety, etc.).

There are many professional training and certification programs we have to choose from (and I’ve explored many). Deciding which ones best align with our values, goals, budget, schedule, and personality is key. Learning Gestalt therapy has been life changing for my clients and me. And while the struggle to learn and live Gestalt is real, it helps to remember that “all change is incremental.” Thank you, Norman Shub.

How often do you cross the line between caring and taking too much responsibility?

Caring and Taking Responsibility: How Often Do You Cross the Line?

By Stacy Ingraham, MSEd., LPCC-S

Do you have an innate desire to help others be happy and fix their pain? Are you a nurturer and enjoy taking care of others? When you see a loved one struggling, do you work harder than they do to find a solution? If you answered yes to any of the above, you may have a tendency to cross the line between caring and taking responsibility.

Intellectually, most of us know that taking away someone’s struggle is not only impossible, it’s not what they want or need. We all need to struggle if we want to grow. If you’re unsure whether you tend to cross the line, the following breakdown between caring and taking responsibility may help.

Caring for another involves the following:

  1. Listening with genuine care, respect, and an attempt to try to understand what a person is experiencing. If you want to learn how to be a better listener, check out the article, “What Great Listeners Actually Do” by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman.
  2. Offering assistance while setting limits to how much you’re able and willing to do.
  3. Asking someone if they want advice or feedback before giving it.
  4. Remembering that you are separate from the other person. Their feelings and behaviors may not have anything to do with you.

Crossing the line into taking responsibility involves the following:

  1. Helping by completing a task that takes away a person’s opportunity to struggle and therefore, grow. For instance, doing your son’s homework assignment because solving math problems is difficult and gives him anxiety.
  2. Planning or organizing someone else’s life in an attempt to make a day or an event go as smoothly as possible for others. This can involve questioning someone persistently, or asking “are you sure?” multiple times when he/she has stated their decision.
  3. Taking on another person’s emotional pain by taking the fault when it has nothing to do with you. Or, trying to make someone feel better by talking them out of their pain and then feeling irritated when they distance themselves or do not feel better.

Crossing this line over and over again becomes painful, exhausting, and feeds anxiety and depression. It can lead to loneliness, resentment, and frustration in relationships. A powerful gestalt intervention involves helping individuals enhance their awareness. Therefore, if you tend to cross the line from caring into taking responsibility and want to change, practice noticing each and every time you approach the line.

  1. If you feel resentful toward others when they dismiss your advice or help, you may be crossing the line.
  2. Perhaps you start worrying excessively about others and spiral into “what ifs.” You may say to yourself, “If I don’t do his homework, he’s going to fall behind, get teased, fail math, not get into college….”
  3. Perfectionists can cross the line in an effort to ensure that everyone is happy, having fun, and getting along. Along the same lines, if you need people to like you, notice when you start trying to figure out how you can help make things easier for them.

As your awareness increases, you can decide how to care and set limits so you avoid crossing the line. Remember, we can care deeply about others and help them without taking away their pain, fixing their problems, trying to make their life perfect, and enabling their troubling behaviors.

Thank you to Norman Shub for identifying this important theme.

 

 

Are You Sabotaging your dating life?

Are You Sabotaging Your Dating Life?

By Stacy Ingraham, MSEd., LPCC-S

We date for a variety of reasons, primarily with hope of falling in love with someone who has similar values, interests, goals, and of course, chemistry. And when the topic of dating arises, a variety of feelings are evoked. There are more ways than ever to meet someone, yet so many of us are unsatisfied with and jaded about dating. So why does it have to be so hard?

Since we can’t change others, let’s take an honest look at ourselves. What might you be doing to sabotage your dating life?

-Do you listen to, and trust your gut?

-Are you a good listener? Be honest…do you tend to prepare your response while the other person is talking? Tend to talk about yourself and try to convince him/her that you’re a great catch?

-How are you at asking interesting questions?

-Do you put yourself out there (this can be especially tough for introverts)?

-Do you let the other person do all of the talking?

-Are you so jaded that you nit-pick every little thing that’s wrong, or could be wrong, about the other?

-Do you rush into relationship mode, instead of really take time to get to know someone?

-Do you date the same type of person, over and over again?

-Are you presenting yourself authentically? Or, are you making adjustments to fit into what others want, or you think they want?

How we meet someone becomes irrelevant when we don’t know how to engage people in meaningful ways, listen to our gut and do something about the red and green flags, and have clarity about what we really want. If you are struggling with dating, take some time for self-reflection and consider the following:

-Ask friends you trust for honest feedback.

-Meet with a therapist who will not only listen, but also give you feedback with support and compassion.

-Recommended books: Heart to Heart: Learning to Love, by Norman Shub and How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk, by John Van Epp

Five Ways to Be More Engaging in Conversation and Relationships

5 Ways to Be More Engaging

By Stacy Ingraham, MSEd., LPCC-S

Imagine if you felt heard, important, and respected during most interactions. We do not often leave conversations feeling this way, because many of us aren’t very good at engaging others. When we engage someone, they feel like they matter, are heard, and appreciated. If you care about the person and especially if you want to grow a relationship (personal or professional), learning the skills of engagement is imperative.

  1. Be a really good listener. Listen for details, so that you can ask specific follow-up questions about what they share. If you are preparing a witty response, planning a grocery list, or consumed with worry about what the other person thinks about you, you are not being a good listener.
  2. Be curious. People who are interested, are interesting. A common mistake many of us make is talking too much about ourselves. This can come across as though you are trying to convince that person to like you. Instead, ask open ended questions, so it requires more than a “yes” or “no” response. And if you have been listening, you will be able to ask those follow-up questions.
  3. Is your anxiety getting in the way of being present, or really with someone? If so, you may be putting too much pressure on yourself to be liked and accepted. Take a few deep breaths and trust yourself. A little anxiety is natural and motivating. Too much can be debilitating – consider seeking counseling or coaching if you can relate.
  4. Speak non-verbally. Make eye contact, smile, have an open stance, lean in, nod…. We are always communicating.
  5. Show vulnerability. Giving someone a genuine compliment, accepting a compliment, sharing how you feel about something and asking for help are ways we can be more vulnerable. For instance, if you are enjoying the conversation, tell them. If their smile is warm and friendly, let them know.

These skills do not come naturally to many of us. If you want some help, consider the following:

-Get connected with a skilled coach or therapist whom you trust to provide feedback with support and compassion.

-Seek feedback from friends.

-Get out of your comfort zone and practice. Take small risks in your everyday life by striking up conversation, making eye contact, and noticing when your body language could be more open.

-Watch Amy Cuddy’s “Your Body Language Shapes Who you Are,” and Brenè Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability”

-Read Developing High Self-Esteem and Leadership From the Inside Out by Norman Shub, Gestalt as a Way of Life by Cyndy Sheldon