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Supporting Research

Gestalt therapy focuses on phenomenology and the subjective experience of the client. It is largely existential, experiential, and experimental in nature. These features do not lend themselves well to psychotherapy outcome studies (Strumpfel & Martin, 2004). However, evaluation of client outcomes in Gestalt therapy is idiographic – that is, assumed to be based on individual experiences unique to the subject of evaluation. Although individuals can be questioned about their unique experience of growth in Gestalt therapy, these reports do not lend themselves well to empirical research and the summation of findings via statistical analyses of group data. Therefore, Gestalt therapy has often been criticized for not having adequate research to support its claims (Burley & Freier, 2004). However, Clarkson (2004) asserted, "Gestalt is concerned with the quality of practice, of learning, of making sense or meaning of experience – so is qualitative research" (p. 182).

Gestalt therapy has been shown to be as effective as any other form of therapy (Crocker & Philippson, 2005). Current research regarding which therapies are most effective have concluded that common factors, which include the therapeutic relationship and the working alliance, are perhaps the most influential factors and that no one theory or therapy stands above the rest as more efficacious or effective as any other (Brown & Lent, 2008;

Gelso & Fretz, 2001). Gestalt counseling acknowledges the powerful role of the therapeutic relationship in the success of therapy, and much time is spent in development of the I-Thou relationship and equality between counselor and client.

Research shows a great deal of support for the efficacy of Gestalt therapy. In a metaanalysis of 31 clinical studies, Strumpfel and Martin (2004) noted the greatest effect size of Gestalt therapy for affective disturbances, substance dependence disorders, psychosomatic disturbances, personality disturbances, interpersonal problems, and chronic pain. Strumpfel and Martin stated that even though Gestalt therapy is not symptom oriented, it works as effectively on symptoms as therapies that are more symptom oriented.

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