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50 Questions to ask Clients in Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt Therapy is a therapeutic approach that takes a holistic stance when supporting clients. Gestalt Therapy focuses on the present moment and current experience rather than the content of what is being shared. Another way to describe Gestalt Therapy would be that it focuses on exploration, rather than behavior changes. Your work with your clients can help them build awareness within themselves so that they are able to fully, and consciously respond to experiences in their life. This can also help clients live in the Here and Now.  Keep reading to learn 50 questions to ask clients in Gestalt Therapy.

Gestalt Therapy can be used to help clients move past unfinished business that they have been carrying while learning to live in the present. This allows clients to gain a sense of closure for unresolved concerns that they haven’t been able to shake. This can be relevant to clients who are living with grief, and bereavement, and those who are unable to speak with the other party in a situation.

The Empty Chair technique is a great example of a Gestalt Therapy activity that can help clients find closure for something that they have been carrying. In this exercise, you will encourage your client to imagine they are sitting across from someone that they have unfinished business with, when in reality they are across from an empty chair. Clients have an opportunity to say the things that they have been wanting to say, and can allow themselves to feel any buried emotions they have been carrying. Clinicians will encourage their clients to feel the emotions that are coming up for them, verbalize them, and express them. While this can be an emotional exercise for clients, the reprieve they can obtain from getting closure can be immeasurable in terms of emotional growth.

View all of our Gestalt Therapy Worksheets

Clients are encouraged to own their behaviors- the good, the bad, and the ugly. You may find yourself encouraging your client to use “I” statements and trying to find another perspective on the situation that brings the responsibility back to them. This accountability allows the clinician to help the client work within the Gestalt Therapy framework. Clients who are unable to take accountability for their actions will not make much progress with Gestalt Therapy, because they aren’t taking ownership of their behaviors and choices. This resistance or hesitation would then become the focus of your clinical work.

Experiments can be used in sessions to help clients build self-awareness and find direction.  The Empty Chair Technique and role-playing are two examples of experiments you could use. 

Getting Ready for Your First Gestalt Therapy Session with a New Client

Clinicians who use Gestalt Therapy in their clinical practice are often described as warm, honest, and direct.  They often provide feedback to their clients about how they are experienced, and observations of their behavior in session. Clinicians can also model living in the here and now and being mindful of their own experiences.

Clinicians are often busy and balance a variety of responsibilities throughout their day. This can make it challenging to be in the here and now without the proper use of self-care and coping skills. It is important that we allow ourselves to check in with our own experiences and address any struggles or challenges we are working through ourselves. Maintaining a healthy self-care routine outside of work can help us focus on our clinical work when we are working. Simple practices that may be able to fit into your routine at work include mindfulness breathing practices, meditation, going for a walk, listening to a song, and stretching.

Before you meet with a new client, it can be helpful to review or familiarize yourself with the documentation that you are expected to complete. Your documentation will be dependent on the population that you work with, and the clinical setting that you practice in.

Additionally, reviewing any paperwork that you received prior to meeting with your client can be informative. This can include self-assessments, referral forms, and documentation from other mental health or medical health professionals. 

Gestalt Therapy Questions to Ask Clients

Gestalt therapy questions can be used to guide and reinforce topics and skills discussed in therapy sessions. Gestalt Therapy questions do not focus on any of the client’s “shoulds” and can help lead clients away from focusing on them. Your questions can be used to guide your client through experiments, worksheets, and other Gestalt Therapy exercises.

Examples of Gestalt Therapy questions to ask clients include:

  1. What is on your mind?
  2. What are you doing?
  3. I suspect that you are in your thoughts right now, can we talk about them?
  4. Can you tell me what you’re experiencing?
  5. What are you aware of?
  6. How are you feeling in your body?
  7. Can you tell me about (insert observed change; folded arms, moved legs, clenched fist)? 
  8. What can you tell me about the change in your posture that just occurred?
  9. What do you think led to the change in your body that you just experienced?
  10. I noticed a shift in your voice just there, and I want to check in and see what you’re experiencing.
  11. Did you notice the shift that just occurred?
  12. What are you needing at this moment?
  13. What would be helpful for your boy at this moment?
  14. What helps you release tension in your body?
  15. Have you noticed any areas that you tend to hold tension within your body?
  16. How does that make you feel?
  17. How does that feeling reflect in your body?
  18. What keeps pulling you back to that rather than staying in the present moment?
  19. What skills help you stay present?
  20. Can we explore that experience slowly and with more detail?
  21. How would you feel about trying an experiment with me?
  22. Can we try some relaxation skills that may be helpful?
  23. How has this practice changed your experience?
  24. How do you see this practice helping you?
  25. Can we try some grounding skills?
  26. What are your strengths?
  27. What is something that you are good at?
  28. What emotions do you find challenging to sit with?
  29. Can you show me where in your body you’re feeling this?
  30. How do you feel this in your body?
  31. What are you noticing happening in your body?
  32. Can you tell me what you are feeling?
  33. How do you feel after sharing that?
  34. Can you think of a way that you can shift that statement to take responsibility for your part?
  35. How could we shift that comment to an “I” statement?
  36. Can you share the role you played in that experience?
  37. What did you choose to do with that information?
  38. If you could give your leg a voice, what would it say?
  39. What do you think your fist would say at this moment?
  40. How do you feel your eyes would verbalize their tears?
  41. How would you feel about using a role play to act that situation out?
  42. How does your body feel when you are happy?
  43. How does your body feel when you are sad?
  44. How does your body feel when you are content?
  45. How did you feel when you walked into my office today?
  46. What do you need to focus on today?
  47. Is there anything you have been avoiding talking about?
  48. Where in your life do you feel you need closure?
  49. What has kept you from getting closure?
  50. How do you feel now that you have achieved closure for this situation?

Final Thoughts on Asking the Right Questions in Gestalt Therapy

Thank you for taking the time to read our article about Gestalt Therapy questions to ask clients! Gestalt Therapy can be an effective approach for clients who are struggling with a number of mental health concerns. A key component associated with the successful use of Gestalt Therapy is having a comprehensive understanding of the different mental health concerns within your niche. You would not use the same strategies with someone who is living with borderline personality disorder that you would with someone living with obsessive-compulsive disorder. A thorough knowledge of mental health concerns can help you tease out the differences you should include in your clinical work. Additionally, you should have a strong understanding of Gestalt Therapy and the application of its associated mindset, skills, and principles.

With the growing popularity of getting closure and staying in the here and now, the number of clients who can benefit from the use of Gestalt Therapy is growing.

There are a variety of great resources available to mental health professionals who are interested in learning more about Gestalt Therapy. Since its development, access to Gestalt Therapy resources has grown online as well as in various countries around the world.

To learn more about Gestalt Therapy, we encourage you to look at Continuing Education courses and other training opportunities in your area and online. As noted above, it is crucial to gain the necessary knowledge and skills before applying Gestalt Therapy to your clinical work. Once this is achieved, you may begin applying your new knowledge in therapy sessions.

TherapyByPro is an online mental health directory that connects mental health pros with clients in need. If you’re a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your practice listing here. We have assessments, practice forms, and worksheet templates mental health professionals can use to streamline their practice. View all of our mental health worksheets here.

View all of our Gestalt Therapy Worksheets

Resources:

Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC
Author: Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC

Kayla is a Mental Health Counselor who earned her degree from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She has provided psychotherapy in a residential treatment program and an outpatient addiction treatment facility in New York as well as an inpatient addiction rehab in Ontario, Canada. She has experience working with individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and trauma.

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