Continuing education

Gestalt Psychotherapy in multicultural contexts – Intercultural interventions

Does a Gestalt therapist need specific competence to work within multicultural contexts?

Does this specific competence help us also in everyday practice?

What are the instruments that can be used and redefined in Gestalt Therapy?

How much has the other to be different in order to be other? And how much does this variable, unpredictable difference challenge our way of working as psychotherapists? What instruments do we need to understand an immigrant or to work out what happens in different continents? Is it enough for us to be human and empathic? Or, turning to the opposite polarity, can we abstain from learning anything about multicultural contexts when we work only with people belonging to our own nation?

Gestalt Therapy has all the potentialities to give us an intercultural approach. The figure-ground dynamics direct us to consider the variety of backgrounds involved in the process, helping us to stay at the contact-boundary, despite the obstacles we find. The definitions of self as a boundaryphenomenon shows us that life is a continuous process of exchange and change. Gestalt Psychotherapy opposes the perspective that defines individuals as identities and subsequently as rigid and fixed structures.

Culture is not necessarily linked to a place, on the contrary it is set up at the boundary. And the boundaries are created at every contact cycle. Culture is continuously built up, re-negotiated and re-defined. It is the “figure” that is created at every encounter and also the background from which the figure emerges. Each and every relationship involves intercultural aspects. In order to see it we have to train ourselves to decentralize our own point of view.

In this workshop we will experience and re-build our theory together, working in the whole group, in little groups and in couples. We will experience decentralization, displacement and change in our point of view, making explicit the introjects and cultural prejudices which limit our presence at the contact boundary. We will experience and learn how to pay attention also to the positive prejudices that hinder the lucid vision and spontaneity as much as negative prejudices do.

We will use different stimuli, for example, descriptions of ourselves made by others watching us and experiments concerning our belonging and identity. We will challenge even our assumptions of experience (such as space-time coordinates), our logical schema, continuity and stability of our flow of experience. Afterwards we will support the assimilation of these new experiences.

Becoming trained in intercultural psychotherapy is not primarily to know another’s culture. The first step is to become aware of cultural differences and the most important step is to become aware of how we manage and cope with our own culture, as a very intimate and necessary part of ourselves.

Using the autobiographical method offered by Gestalt Therapy means entering slowly and thoroughly into the “small” steps of our daily life, into the moment of separation, break up, make up, and encounter. All the sudden and ever-changing roles in our daily lives can provoke a sense of disruption and loss if they are not revitalised by the flow of awareness. This applies even more to experiencing “strong” changes, such as the migration of individuals or families.

We can share and make explicit the paths through which we steadily develop, including significant places and contexts, even those hidden in memory and time.

We somehow know that psychopathology is influenced by culture, social system, political vision, but we do not usually experience the extent to which we are formed by our culture, social system, political vision. We are part of it. Considering how to hold a therapeutic role with possibly “very different people” helps us to enlarge our awareness and our critical approach to diagnosis and treatment.

Taking part in this workshop will be useful not only if working with foreign people but also and mostly with everybody, each person being “culturally” different from ourselves.

Fee: € 240.- for members of the ÖVG/ € 340.- for Non-members of the ÖVG

Maximum participants:  16

16 working units, each unit with 45 minutes

Registration form: Registration form.pdf

Dr. Michela Gecele, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, supervisor, teaches on the Gestalt Psychotherapy Training Programs of the Istituto di Gestalt H.C.C. She has been working for 21 years in a public mental health service, for three years has coordinated a psychological and psychiatric service for immigrants and she is supervisor of public mental health services and of programs for immigrants. She has authored articles and books in the field of psychiatry, psychotherapy and transcultural matters. She is a member of the HR&SR Committee of the EAGT.

She is also a fiction (detective stories) writer.