By Herb Stevenson
VER THE LAST 40 years, the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland has refined Gestalt theory for use in coaching as well as OD consulting. In 1960, Edwin Nevis and Richard Wallen began to applyGestalt concepts to organization development. Around 1974, Nevis, John Carter, Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Leonard Hirsch and Elaine Kepner founded the Organization and Systems Development Center at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland (GIC). During the late 1990s, Carter and Dorothy Siminovitch developed the Gestalt Coaching concepts that led to GIC’s International Coaching Program, that was launched in2002. Most readers of this journal have been exposed to Gestalt theory and the structure of its “unit of work” as applied to OD consulting (OD Practitioner, volume 36, number 4). The Gestalt approach is applied in coaching with some similarities but also with some unique features, as this article will discuss. The Gestalt approach begins with a set of core assumptions that place high value onpresent-centered awareness, clientcoach interaction and experimentation, as outlined in Table 1.
USE OF SELF Awareness The Gestalt coach is trained to become an awareness expert by remaining focused on the present. The goal is to be as fully present with oneself and with the client as possible, thereby enabling new awareness or heightening existing awareness in the client system. Maintainingpresent-centeredness enhances the Gestalt
CORE ASSUMPTIONS IN THE GESTALT APPROACH
(Modified from Nevis, 1997, p. 112)
Learning occurs through examination of here-and-now experience. Awareness is the precursor to effective action; awareness leads to choice. People have an inherent drive to behave as effectively as possible. The coach’s task is to help them learn this. Growth isfacilitated by the interaction of client and coach. The presence of the coach is a critical element. Growth occurs at the contact boundary between that which is known and that which is unknown or rejected. Experimentation is a critical source of learning. Change is the responsibility of the client, not the coach. Individual autonomy is crucial to healthy adjustment.
GESTALT COACHING STANCE Thedevelopment of a Gestalt coaching stance distinguishes Gestalt from other forms of coaching. The Gestalt coach is trained to a) use self as instrument; b) provide a presence that is otherwise lacking in the system and c) help the client to complete units of work that result in new insights, behavior or action. Table 2 on the next page profiles each of the aspects of the Gestalt coaching stance.
O D PR AC T I T I O N E R | VO L . 3 7 | N O . 4 | 2 0 0 5
GESTALT COACHING STANCE
(Adapted from Gestalt Consulting Stance, Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, Organization and Systems Development Center)
A. Use yourself as an instrument 1. You must become an awareness expert. 2. There should be congruence between your behavior and what you want to teach others.B. Provide a presence which is otherwise lacking in the system 1. Stand for certain values and skills. 2. Model a way of solving problems and of dealing with life in general. 3. Help to focus the client’s energy on the problems, not the solutions you prefer. 4. Teach basic behavioral skills. 5. Evoke experimentation. C. Employ Gestalt-based techniques: 1. Observe and selectively share what yousee, hear and feel. 2. Attend to your own experience (feelings, sensations, thoughts) and selectively share it, thereby establishing your presence. 3. Focus on energy in the client system and the emergence or lack of themes or issues for which there is energy. This supports mobilization of energy so that something happens. 4. Facilitate clear, meaningful, heightened contacts between members of the...