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Gestalt Psychology & Therapy

Gestalt psychology traces its origins to 1912, when Max Wertheimer studied "phenomenal movement" in the way the cinema operates (Litt, 2004). Moving pictures do not actually move, but we see movement because we impose our perception of a series of pictures as movement, and this is an example of Gestalt organization. We don't passively respond to the world, but we interact with it. Our environment is not just reality, but is also subject to our perceptions of it - the gestalt laws of organization, figure/ground, closure, good form, open form, etc. Wertheimer, and two other gestalt theoreticians, Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Koffka, all German professors, all moved to the United States and brought the Gestalt movement with them.

Hans-Jurgen P. Walter is a German psychologist and psychotherapist who founded Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy. He worked with Wolfgang Metger, an eminent representative of Gestalt theory of the second generation in Germany. Many Gestalt psychologists before Walter from the Berlin School (Erwin Levy, Abraham S. Luchins, Erika Oppenheimer-Fromm, and other students of Karl Lewis) had elaborated theoretically and practically on how to apply Gestalt theory to psychotherapeutic problems, but it was Walter who is recognized as the first to stringently use Gestalt theoretical and practical possibilities of Gestalt theory into an encompassing Gestalt theoretical approach to psychotherapy. He showed that it was possible to use Gestalt theoretical principles to extend the Gestalt therapy of Fritz Perls.

Working in Germany before World War I, Max Wertheimer, Koffka and Kohler led a revolt against the type of mental analysis being performed by Wundt and his followers (Hall and Lindzey, 1970, 299). They begun with the perceptual field as a whole, and then differentiated it into figure and background and studied the properties of each of the components and their mutual influences. The replaced the doctrine of...

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