The gestalt approach in play therapy is used by a wide spectrum of professional persons operating in the fields of health, psychology and education. The objective of the research study was to investigate the practicality of the gestalt approach as applied by play therapists. A collective case study within a qualitative research approach has been utilized in this study. Ten play therapists had been identified by means of random sampling and a semi-structured interview was conducted with each one. The researcher applied a systematic random sampling as this method prevents bias. The researcher gained information by means of a literature study as well as from discussions with experts. A theoretical framework was formed regarding the gestalt approach and the utilization thereof in practice. The objective of the gestalt approach is to support the client during therapy to enable the client to function as a complete entity. When the client functions as such an entity he or she is able to complete a gestalt. The healthy person according to the gestalt approach will satisfy his own needs without harming himself or others. The gestalt approach consists of several main concepts namely: holism, awareness, contact and contact boundary disturbances, figure/fore ground and back ground, self regulation, the here-and-now concept and polarities. Techniques can be added throughout as the approach is spontaneous and creative. The focus in gestalt approach techniques is based on language usage and bipolar ways of thinking to enable the client to achieve a balanced outlook in life. The client learns to acknowledge and accept the positive and negative aspects of problem situations. An empirical study has been undertaken to determine how play therapists experience and utilize the gestalt approach. A qualitative research approach was suitable as it sheds light on the usefulness of this approach in practice. Semi-structured interviews led to in depth discussions with play therapists. These interviews were recorded and processed according to Creswell’s qualitative data-analysing process. The findings of the empirical study are that: play therapists experience the gestalt approach as scientifically justified; the main concepts and various techniques of the gestalt approach are utilized although there is a need to adapt some of the techniques in practice; the gestalt approach can be utilized in conjunction with other approaches and the gestalt approach can be implemented in the treatment of both children and adults. The research investigation has proved that the gestalt approach is practically useful and thus applied by play therapists in practice. The researcher recommends that further in depth research be undertaken to identify specific techniques that can be combined with the gestalt approach when utilized in practice. Further investigation could also be undertaken in respect of specific problems that play therapists experience in practice.
Dissertation (Magister Socialis Diligentiae)--University of Pretoria, 2007.