Enhancing Your Therapy with Gestalt Approaches
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Section 9
Gestalt Two-Chair Dialogue

CEU Question 9 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Gestalt
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On the last track, we discussed three techniques for implementing fantasy situations to increase a client's awareness.  The three techniques were, the introductory scene, the Stump-Cabin-Stream technique, and the positive withdrawal.

On this track, we will discuss two Gestalt orienting points of implementing Dialogues. These two orienting points are the client plays both parts, and using two chairs. We will also discuss the Puppeteer Technique.

As you are well aware, the use of dialogues is one of the most readily identifiable methods that differentiate Gestalt therapy from other approaches. This method makes use of the tools of Identification and Projection, previously discussed. The client is asked to identify with and project into a part of him or herself, another person, or something in the environment, and to "become" it. 

Then, a dialogue is held between the client and whatever it is that the client is acting out. I find that when introducing dialogues to a client for the first time, it is important to remember that approaching a dialogue is usually a unique experience for the client.  In my experience, there are two orienting points to consider that can help make the implementation of dialogues easier for the client.

Two Orienting Points of Implementing Dialogues

Point #1 - Have the Client Enact both Parts
The first orienting point to consider is that the object of the dialogue is to have the client enact both parts so that the interaction between them becomes real and in the present. For example, in the case of a client with a big decision to make, a dialogue focused on the internal divisions of the client enhances the client’s awareness of each side so that adjustments can be made and conflicts resolved. 

For some clients, however, an intermediate step may be necessary before the client is ready to fully enact both roles. With Daniel, who we discussed on Track 7, I used the Write a Scene technique as an intermediate step. Daniel had recently been offered a job that paid well, but would require an extensive training period and long hours.

I stated, "Suppose the side of you that is for taking the job, and the side of you that is against taking the job were talking to each other. What would they be saying? Suppose you try writing a script about how the dialogue would go."  As you can see, this writing a script technique is one step short of enactment. I felt that this technique would be more appropriate for Daniel’s first experience with dialogue work.

Point #2 - Two Chairs
A second  orienting point to consider is that dialogues are usually conducted using two chairs.  In moving back and forth between the two chairs, the client physically changes places as he or she enacts one side and speaks to the other.  Clearly, this changing places helps the client to clarify and differentiate each side of the dialogue.  However, some clients may find shifting between two chairs uncomfortable at first.  I have found that in the initial implementation of dialogues, it may be useful to have the client enact both sides while staying in one chair.  As the client’s comfort and familiarity with dialogues increases, I introduce using two chairs.

Three-Part Puppeteer Technique
I have found that dialogues can be successfully implemented with the client enacting the roles of another person, parts of him or herself, or objects. Some dialogues can take the form of two objects speaking to each other. Usually, these two objects are related in a functional way, such as a car and a road, or a canvas and paints. 

I have found that these object to object dialogues help a client project two personal aspects which tend towards opposites. This can help the client heighten awareness of both sides. One example of this type of dialogue, which I implemented with Daniel, is the Puppeteer Technique. 

Here are the three parts of the Puppeteer Technique.
-- 1. Imagine yourself as a puppet.  Describe yourself with strings and all. Feel yourself as a puppet by yourself.  What can you do?  What feelings do you have? Now imagine a puppeteer approaching.  How do you feel towards the puppeteer? Speak to the puppeteer about your relationship.
-- 2.  Now switch over.  Be the puppeteer. What do you have to say in response to the puppet?  What are your feelings about the puppet?
-- 3. Continue this dialogue.  What differences do you feel in the two roles? Which feels more familiar to you?  Which do you prefer? 

Think of your Daniel. Would implementing the Puppeteer Technique with him or her be useful in your next session? Would discovering whether he or she identifies more with the controlling puppeteer or the controlled puppet help increase your client’s awareness of his or her feelings?

On this track, we have discussed two orienting points of implementing Dialogues in Gestalt therapy.  These two orienting points are the client plays both parts, and using two chairs. We also discussed the Puppeteer Technique.

On the next track, we will discuss three strategies for helping a client "presentize", or facilitating the client's bringing him or herself into the "now".  The three strategies we will discuss are presentizing the past, reclaiming, and presentizing 'when'.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Elliott, R. (2014). Review of Gestalt therapy in clinical practice: From psychopathology to the aesthetics of contact [Review of the book Gestalt therapy in clinical practice: From psychopathology to the aesthetics of contact, by G. Francesetti, M. Gecele & J. Roubal, Eds.]. Psychotherapy, 51(3), 462–463.

Greenberg, L. S., & Webster, M. C. (1982). Resolving decisional conflict by Gestalt two-chair dialogue: Relating process to outcome. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 29(5), 468–477. 

White, B. A., Miles, J. R., Frantell, K. A., Muller, J. T., Paiko, L., & LeFan, J. (2019). Intergroup dialogue facilitation in psychology training: Building social justice competencies and group work skills. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 12(2), 180–190.

Widiger, T. A., & Crego, C. (2019). The bipolarity of normal and abnormal personality structure: Implications for assessment. Psychological Assessment, 31(4), 420–431. 

Zoubaa, S., Dure, S., & Yanos, P. T. (2020). Is there evidence for defensive projection? The impact of subclinical mental disorder and self-identification on endorsement of stigma. Stigma and Health. Advance online publication.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 9
What are two orienting points of implementing Dialogues in Gestalt therapy? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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