When talking about therapeutic interventions, we now the targets that they aim at. The therapeutic experiments and exercises aim at increasing the awareness of patients and, at the same time, at changing some aspects in their lives for better. Exercises are pre-established techniques that help the patient express some emotions at a certain point, for example the anger. On the other hand, the experiments are developing as the therapeutic session goes on and are based on the immediate interaction between the therapist and the patient. They are characterized by spontaneity and they are usually unique and appropriate for applying only at a specific moment in time, based on a specific patient issue, like a need, a fantasy or a dream. Experiments are meant to make the patient want to try different behavioral approaches in different situation, rather than making him or her achieve a specific result. The work during the experiments is done by both the patient and the therapist, who must collaborate.
Gerald Corey depicts some of the many forms in which the therapeutic experiments manifest. Some of these would be: the dramatization of a disturbing past event, the therapist playing the role of the patient’s father or mother, imagining a painful event that would take place in the future and arranging an imaginary dialogue between the patient and an important person in his or her life.
The participation in the experiments provides the patient the chance of experiencing the feelings that resulted from conflicts from the here and now, rather than passed ones. The environment in which he or she experiences them is a safe one, where he or she can benefit from the therapist’s support at any time and the employment of such feelings is done gradually. Besides the focus on the here and now, Gestalt therapy also focuses on the entire person and on all his or her aspects, both verbal and non-verbal, behavior, emotions and thoughts.
One of the techniques employed by the Gestalt therapy is using the questions and statements meant to focus the awareness in the present on one aspect or another. “What do you feel?” or “What’s on your mind right now?” are some of these questions.
The patient’s language or behavior can also lead to some consistent information about his thoughts and emotions. For example the recurrent avoidance of using the pronoun “I” and its substitution with “you” or “it” can indicate that the patient avoids a particular area of the discussion. He is to be encouraged to substitute those two pronouns with “I” as often as possible.
Non-verbal behavior can be used to increase awareness. The therapist needs to make the patient aware of how some body parts are manifesting while he experiences a specific feeling. For example, the therapist needs to make his patient be aware of the fact that he is smiling while expressing anger.
The technique of self dialogue usually is used to bring two different and often contradictory aspects from within the patient (the good versus the bad side, the parent versus the child, etc) face to face. In this way, the patient learns how to accept some of his polarities, rather than trying to get rid of them.