Yontef remarks that:
The theoretical difference between behavior modification, Gestalt therapy and psychoanalysis is obvious. In psychoanalytic theory, actions are caused by unconscious incentive which is disclosed in the transference relationship. Scrutinizing the transference the repression appears and the unconscious turns into conscious. In Gestalt therapy the patient studies to use his internal and external senses completely. This is necessary to be self-responsible and self-supportive. In behavior modification, the behavior of the client is altered by the therapist's manipulation of external environmental stimuli. Gestalt therapy assists the person to find the key to the state and to be aware of the process of awareness. Behavior modification requires usage of stimulus control, psychoanalysis can help the client by speaking about and discovering the reason for mental problem. As for the Gestalt therapy, here-and-now experience in directed awareness leads self-realization. (1969, pp. 33-34)
Behavior modification as well as other therapies that first and foremost attempt to take control over symptoms (for instance, chemotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy, hypnosis, and so forth.) differs radically from psychodynamic therapies and Gestalt therapy and in that the systems promote change mostly by learning of the client to understand himself in the world by means of insight.
The methods of Gestalt therapy and psychodynamic therapy employ an accepting relationship and a technology to assist the client to have changes through both emotional and cognitive understanding of oneself. In psychoanalysis free association behavior of the person is considered to be the basic; the main instrument of the psychoanalyst is interpretation. To support transference, the analyst keeps away from direct expression of being an individual (no "I" assertions) and follows the "Rule of Abstinence"; that means, the therapist does not please any wishes of the patient. The same approach works in psychodynamic schools: object relations, classical, ego psychological, Jungian, Kohutian. The psychodynamic therapist separates the person to build a relationship plainly on transference.
Gestalt therapy develops understanding using the energetic, curing therapistís presence and presence of the patient. The relationship is founded on true contact at that. The methods of transference, examined and worked through as soon as it arises, are not supported in Gestalt therapy (Polster, 1968). In Gestalt therapy characterological matters are plainly dealt with through the dialogue as well as phenomenological method.
Gestalt therapists use actively the direct experience of the person. Differing from free associate who is passive and waits for the interpretation of the therapist and later change, the patient is regarded as an active participant who should learn the way to self-heal. The client "works", which differs from behavior of free associates. "What should I do to influence this?" is a usual question in Gestalt therapy and there is a solution. For instance, a couple which has some sexual problems might be offered to apply sensate focusing.
Unlike any other therapy, Gestalt therapy stresses that experience is more trustworthy than interpretation. The patient learns the discrepancy between talking about what happened 5 minutes ago (or previous night or 20 years before that) and experiencing what is taking place at the moment.
A psychoanalyst Applebaum notices that
In Gestalt therapy the client learns fast to see the difference between ideas and ideation, between everyday paths and fresh thoughts, between a statement of a statement and a statement of experience. The Gestalt aim of pursuing experience and insight which comes into view is more effective than insight provided by the therapist. This helps the client and the therapist to determine and keep these essential distinctions. (1976, p. 757)
Therapies, similar to reality therapy, behavior modification and rational emotive therapy dealing with the client's experience are not able to do this. In Rogerian therapy the imposed upon the therapist obedience sternly limit the therapy power to instruct upon these distinctions.
Applying different therapy systems contributes to intellectualizing: speaking about the absurdity of client beliefs, speaking about the behavior alterations, the therapist considers what the client should do, and so on. The methodology of Gestalt therapy uses energetic techniques that explain experience. Gestalt therapists will frequently experiment trying new things during the therapy hour. More than any other therapy, the procedure of detection by means of experimentation in Gestalt therapy is the final point rather than the sensation, content or idea.
The psychoanalyst is able to utilize interpretation. The Rogerian can merely reflect and make clear. Gestalt therapists can make use of any methods and techniques when (a) their goal is increased awareness, (b) they come out of phenomenologic work and dialogue, (c) ethical practice parameters are taken into consideration.
The patient has power and is also responsible for the present. The patient interacted with the surrounding psychologically before and this interaction was mutual. He was not just a passive psychological trauma recipient. Let us suppose that we find out the following during family therapy: the client may have obtained humiliating messages from parents, put up with it and tried to cope with self-blame on his own, but continued to blame himself. This viewpoint is in conflict with psychodynamic attitudes, though in accordance with Adler's and Ellis's opinions.
This point of view gives clients opportunity to be in charge of their existence, and their therapy too. When the therapist considers that the earlier period influences the present time and that clients are under control of unconscious motivation not accessible to them, they are urged to count more on the therapist's interpretations and not on the autonomy.
In therapies when the therapist tries to modify the behavior of the client, the clientís immediate experience and the experience of the therapist are not respected. This makes Gestalt therapy different from all other therapies. An offended client may contribute to awareness expressing anger. If the therapist offers this as a means of catharsis, it cannot be called the phenomenological focusing of Gestalt therapy.
Gestalt therapists do not use "shoulds." As a substitute for pointing out what should be, they emphasize awareness of something that is. What is, is. This keeps Gestalt therapists aloof from all therapists who "know" how the client "should" behave. For instance, modification of cognitive behavior, reality therapy and rational-emotive therapy - all try to transform patient attitudes the therapist considers to be absurd, immature or weird.
In spite of the fact that Gestalt therapy does not support the organismic assimilating process as it is aimed at cognitive explanatory intellectualizations, therapists working on the basis of Gestalt theory, do deal with belief systems. Gestalt therapy consists of explanatory thinking, explaining beliefs, and decisions of both parties what suits the client. Gestalt therapy points out thinking avoiding experience (obsessing) and urges thinking that sustains experience. Gestalt therapy keeps out from narcissistic attitude, teaching the client being out of contact and accelerating the self-discovery.
Many people assert that they practice transactional analysis (TA) and Gestalt therapy. More often they apply the TA theory and techniques of Gestalt therapy. Techniques are not so essential in Gestalt therapy. If they are applied used in an analytic way, these techniques have nothing to do with Gestalt therapy! This combination frequently terminates, puts off or neutralizes the awareness effort of the phenomenological-existential method. When notions of transactional analysis are integrated into a Gestalt structure, this combination is much better. So the clientís life can be transferred and interpreted on Gestalt language and then experimental and dialogical work with the client continues.
To understand Gestalt definition correctly one should know its distinction from other therapies. Another distinction of Gestalt therapy from others is its authentic care about holism and multidimensionality. People demonstrate their sorrow in the way they act, reflect and sense. "Gestalt therapy looks upon the whole biopsychosocial field, considering organism/environment, as important. Gestalt therapy enthusiastically makes use of physiological, cognitive, sociological, motivational variables. The basic Gestalt theory does not exclude relevant dimension " (Yontef, 1969, pp. 33-34).