What is depression? Can Gestalt therapy help with depression?

Gestalt Psychotherapy differs in its view of depression from the commonly held view of depression as an illness. It focuses on feelings which have literally become ‘depressed’ or pushed down inside the person rather than openly expressed. The commonly experienced depression symptoms such as lethargy, low mood, suicidal and bleak thoughts, disturbed sleep and poor concentration are understood as expressions of hidden needs. These needs, once uncovered within a supportive, safe, therapeutic relationship can be explored and the underlying feelings expressed. This allows the release of held in energy, reconnection with the self and the environment. This process can bring relief from the symptoms of depression.

Causes of depression


Gestalt psychotherapy explores the underlying beliefs, thoughts and feelings a person has about themselves and the world. In the past these ways of functioning may have been a solution to their difficulties. Over time however this way of living may have set up a pattern which has become fixed. This pattern may now no longer be serving the person well and rather than being a solution has become the problem.

Contact between human beings is vital for good health and well being. Depression often isolates people and it is contact and reconnection that brings relief from symptoms.

For example, as a way of managing feelings of failure a person may have chosen to withdraw and avoid contact with others. Initially this may have protected them from feelings of shame, anxiety and of not belonging. Although the withdrawing offers a short term solution to the problem, the feelings of isolation and not belonging can eventually manifest in the symptoms of depression. In therapy we might explore what happens in the therapy room as a microcosm of the person’s life outside the session. Contact in therapy can begin a process of reconnecting with the self, others and with the person’s environment.

Gestalt Psychotherapy for depression


In Gestalt Therapy we may focus on current thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and behaviours with the intention of gradually allowing these to surface and be safely expressed. As these feelings are expressed, energy is released, a greater sense of being alive and connected with the world usually returns and this can bring relief from the symptoms of depression.

For many years I worked in all areas of Mental Health within the NHS as a psychiatric nurse. This gave me first hand experience of working with people with moderate to acute and severe depression. As a psychotherapist I have come to understand and respect the need at times for both medication and psychotherapy for depression. I sometimes work with clients who are prescribed antidepressants by their GP and a combination of the two can in some instances be very effective. Each person responds in their own individual way and the success of any therapy depends upon many factors.


counselling for depression