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Treatment Plan

Creative and spontaneous intervention is the method of the experienced Gestalt counselor or therapist. The major goal of Gestalt counseling or psychotherapy, toward which interventions aim, is autonomy and growth of the client through increased awareness. According to Yontef (1995), this can be microawareness – awareness of a particular content area and awareness of the awareness process. Through heightened awareness, clients can know what they are choosing to do and can ultimately accept responsibility for these actions. They can also discover available choices and alternatives they may not have recognized due to limited self-awareness.

To help facilitate client awareness and growth, the practitioner does the following:

• He or she identifies themes or presenting problems that are central to the client's self-organization.

• He or she conceptualizes the issues and concerns of the client that will guide the sequence, timing, and methods of the counseling or psychotherapy process.

• He or she establishes and maintains a safe and professional environment.

• He or she provides an atmosphere that invites contact between client and counselor or therapist and encourages interaction.

Specifically, in the case of Maria, it will be very important to establish contact with her through a genuine, trusting relationship in which she can feel safe and supported and can explore her emotion regarding the hurt and pain she carries within. When a person is supported through a genuine and trusting relationship, that person can grow in a positive direction and can gain a positive sense of self. Empathic understanding through the dialogue between counselor and client is seen as an important part of this change process.

One goal for Maria is to help her develop awareness of her emotions and her own needs, goals, and priorities as separate from those around her. Once Maria can accurately know herself and know her own wants and needs as separate from those of others, she can differentiate herself from her environment. She will become aware of how the choices she has made for herself have constricted her life and growth potential. This will enable her to make decisions for herself that will be healthy and contribute to her positive growth.

Toward this end, it is important to keep Maria present in the here-and-now exploration of her feelings, beliefs, and values as she relates her experiences to her therapist. Maria will need help in exploring the unfinished business of her divorce and family situation and in purging unexpressed emotions. In this manner, she will gain insight and can truly work through her unfinished business in a productive manner. This may help alleviate her bad dreams and provide better sleep for her.

It is also important for the counselor to view Maria as capable and response-able to empower her to help her learn to be self-directing and self-actualizing. One caveat here would be to proceed within the boundaries of Maria's culture, but it may be important to help her explore her culture and help her own it rather than have it be an introjected part of her environment. Maria has the response-ability to choose what she values and discover for herself which parts of her culture is congruent with her core, true self. This, too, will also help Maria become more integrated and differentiated, and she will gain valuable self- knowledge. One way of doing this is to help Maria explore the "shoulds" in her life to gain a deeper understanding of where these come from, which are helpful, and which are those that contribute to her feelings of depression and sense of "stuckness."

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