An Analysis of The Similarities and Differences of Gestalt Therapy and Alderian Therapy

Before a therapist can decide on the model of therapy that resonates well with them or would be effective for a particular client it is important for the therapist to understand the dynamics of the model. Of interest are the Gestalt and Alderian therapies both of which are based on the existential and humanistic philosophy.


Both Gestalt and Alderian therapy are existential and humanistic in nature. Both theories operate on the premise that human beings have the freedom to choose and change the direction of their life. According to Adler, human beings live in the realm of meaning. Gestalt on the other hand suggest that therapy is about the awareness of choice everyone has in creating their lives.

Gestalt therapy aims at growth and education of the individual with the focus on health and not on pathology. Alderian therapy also believes in education although as a first level of intervention and as a future investment. This education is aimed at parents, caregivers and schools as a preventative measure of psychopathology.

Both Alderian and Gestalt therapies focus on bringing insight or awareness to the client of their behavior with the aim of changing behavior. For Alderian therapy, the focus is on specific problems, like parenting, marital relationships and career choice and development. The client is led to moderate insight, attitude change and behavioral change. These interventions can help individuals cope with development milestones, like life crisis and change points in their lives.

Gestalt therapy will focus on awareness. Different awareness can come to the foreground at different times. Consequently, awareness is integral to dialogical relations. In effect Gestalt deals with symptoms and claims that therapy enables the client to become fully and creatively alive. This supposedly leads to freedom from the blocks and unfinished issues that may diminish optimum satisfaction, fulfillment and growth.

Both therapies utilize the principle of role playing at some level depending on the need. With Alderian therapy, role playing in the middle sessions offers a client opportunity to add a missing experience in their life and to explore and practice new behavior in the safety of the therapists office.

Role playing is recommend in a group setting where the group members, rather than the therapist, play the role of a missing parent or sibling. This helps the client engage in a healing experience while the members are able to increase their own feeling of community by contributing to the growth of their peers.

In Gestalt therapy, role playing is considered a powerful technique whereby the client talks to an empty chair representing a person the client has unresolved issues with. Sometimes clients use padded bats to hit chairs as a way of expressing anger in a safe place.

The Goal of Therapy

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