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Unformatted text preview: THE PEOPLE WHO DEVELOPED GESTALT THERAPY Frederick Perls, known as Fritz Perls, was born in 1893, the middle child and only son of a middle- class Jewish family living in Berlin, Germany. Although Perls was not always a motivated student, he succeeded in receiving an M.D. degree with a specialization in psychiatry (Perls, 1969b ). Interested in becoming a practicing psychoanalyst, Perls moved to Vienna, home of Sigmund Freud, where he met many of the leaders in his field. Perls studied with Karen Horney and was psychoanalyzed by both Horney and Wilhelm Reich. R eichs emphasis on the use of facial, bodily, and linguistic cues to promote understanding and personal growth had a powerful influence on Perls and on the concepts and strategies of Gestalt therapy (Wulf, 1998 ). Perls also was strongly influenced by several other experiences. During World War I, he served as a medical corpsman, a powerful personal experience. After the war, he worked with the neurologist Kurt Goldstein at the Frankfurt Neurological Institute, a treatment facility for people with brain injuries. Both experiences led Perls to reflect on the workings of the human mind, on Gestalt psychology, and on better ways to help people (Simkin, 1975 ; Wheeler, 1991 ). Even early in his career as a psychoanalyst, he was becoming disenchanted with that mode of treatment as well as with behaviorism. The versatile and extroverted Perls also worked as an actor in the 1920s. He later reported that his experiences in the theater gave him an understanding of and appreciation for nonverbal communication, an essential aspect of Gestalt therapy In 1930, Fritz Perls married Laura Posner, a concert pianist and dancer (Serlin, 1992 ). While Fritz Perls emphasized independence and confrontation, Laura Perls advocated support and connections. She studied existentialism with Martin Buber and Paul Tillich and drew on this background as she became involved in developing Gestalt therapy. When Hitler came into power, the couple left Europe, relocating first in Holland and then in South Africa, where Fritz Perls served as a captain in the South African Medical Corps. During his years in South Africa, he outlined his theory of personality integration, which later became Gestalt therapy (Simkin, 1975 ). In 1946, the couple immigrated to the United States, where Fritz Perls published Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality (Perls, Hefferline, &amp; Goodman, 1951 ). In 1952, he established the Gestalt Institute of America. The most important impetus for the growth of Gestalt therapy was Fritz Perlss work between 1962 and 1969 at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. He became best known there for his use of the hot seat in his workshops and soon was regarded as an innovative and charismatic advocate of the human potential movement....
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- Gestalt therapy