Why this discussion?
Being a Gestalt psychotherapist and practitioner, I wanted to elaborate a bit on the concept of contact and how it is important for all of us really.
It seems that some psychotherapy and counselling approaches focus on the importance of understanding the reasons why a particular behaviour or pattern is troubling a client (psychoanalysis / psychodynamic approach) while other approaches focus on strategies to change “problematic” behaviour (CBT for example).
Integrative or eclectic counselling, on the other hand, try to integrate different models in order to provide more tools for psychotherapists and counsellors. Another model, Gestalt, focuses on raising awareness (allowing the client to become aware of what they are doing and how) in order to be able to create meaningful contact with their environment.
So what is contact? And why is it important?
Try this experiment:
Bring your hands together. Your hands are now in contact through the sense of touch. How do you know they are in contact with each other? What are the sensations connected with contact?
This very simple experiment will help you make some simple observations for yourself. How does contact feel?
The difference of one hand from the other makes contact understood and meaningful.
OK. Got that. But what has that to do with people and therapy?
This can be seen as a metaphor for how people connect. And beyond touch, becoming visible to another human being as we truly are, makes meaningful contact possible. Differences and similarities can be felt through the senses and appreciated.
And here comes the magic. It is truly magical and beautiful to be able to be present as you are with another human being. And actually, this is what is healing in the therapeutic relationship.
But at the same time, it is also challenging because at first, it might feel awkward. We might feel “exposed” at the gaze of someone who can actually (and sometimes for the first time) see parts of us as who we really are below the surface. And that might be high risk and intimidating. But this challenge holds many benefits if one persists and understands how deeply nourishing for the soul meaningful contact is.
Have you had any contacts in your life where you were truly yourself in the presence of another? How was that for you?