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Conversation and Play in Gestalt Therapy: How We Understand the Other – Presenter: Carol Swanson @ Zoom
Dec 12 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Conversation and Play in Gestalt Therapy: How We Understand the Other – Presenter: Carol Swanson @ Zoom


“There is no higher principle than this: holding oneself open to the conversation.”
Hans-George Gadamer

Gadamer’s quote stands in stark contrast to today’s political polarization as the defining feature of early 21st-century Western politics, both American and European. How we understand the other is a compelling question, whether this is on the geopolitical scale or an interpersonal one.

For Gadamer, conversation is the encounter out of which understanding can arise. I quote Gadamer: “We say we conduct a conversation, but the more genuine a conversation is, the less its conduct lies within the will of either partner. Rather, it is generally more correct to say we fall into conversation. No one knows in advance what will come out of a conversation.”

Play for Gadamer represents our fundamental relationship to the world. This is not something that happens in the mind of the subject, not a subjective act, but an activity that always goes on between the players and reaches beyond the behavior of any individual player. Play has a spirit that emerges from the players’ engagement in their to-and-fro rhythm. This echoes the field-emergent process of Gestalt therapy.

This presentation is a modest effort to lay some ground as to how we grapple with questions surrounding communication and understanding others whose ideas are different from our own. My focus will be primarily on the clinical setting, where we clinicians struggle to understand our clients, yet there are implications for the wider social and political field.


Carol Swanson has been a Gestalt therapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon, for over 40 years. She is the co-founder of the Portland Gestalt Therapy Training Institute and has trained therapists in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. Her current interest is studying phenomenology and other philosophical resources for clinical work.

Therapy has been an important part of her life along with cycling, hiking, skiing, kayaking, gardening, and cooking. When not in the Zoom room, you can find her doing one of the above activities.

The Great Experiment: Laughter as a Therapeutic Tool – Presenter: Michael Cotayo @ Zoom
Jan 16 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
The Great Experiment: Laughter as a Therapeutic Tool – Presenter: Michael Cotayo @ Zoom


Gestalt therapy is about authenticity, being in the present moment, and having the courage to take risks. These are the same things that are needed to use laughter as a therapeutic tool.

Laughter has been shown to increase T-cell production, improve brain function, and foster an overall sense of resilience. As a therapeutic tool, it has the power to help people heal from trauma faster and with more confidence.

This presentation will begin to show you the science behind what makes laughter an innovative tool to help people heal in a healthy and positive way, while remaining true to Gestalt theories and principles. Gestalt modalities will also be explored, showing how to make the most appropriate interventions for your clients.

1. Attendees will learn how laughter can benefit the immune system.
2. Attendees will identify the specific areas of the brain that are impacted by laughter and humor.
3. Attendees will learn skills and strategies that they can use to incorporate humor into their work immediately.


Michael Cotayo is a licensed clinical social worker who received his master’s degree in social work from NYU in 2000. A majority of his post-master’s career has been spent working within the HIV/AIDS community as a social worker, advocate, community organizer, counselor, and administrator. It is working with these communities where he learned the benefits of using humor to help heal physical and emotional trauma.

Michael is also the founder of Funny Shrink University, an online program that teaches healthcare providers how to incorporate humor into their work to achieve better outcomes. Funny Shrink University offers continuing education units and monthly webinars.

Intimacy, Tenderness, Encounter – Presenter: Jean-Marie Robine @ Zoom
Feb 13 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Intimacy, Tenderness, Encounter – Presenter:  Jean-Marie Robine @ Zoom


A few thoughts about some concepts that could help clarify the vocabulary of the therapeutic “relationship.”

I don’t like using the concept of “relationship.” Too wide, too vague. Of course, I know that a relationship can be healing, and I also know that every psychopathology has be created by relationship. So, step by step, I will try to explore some components of the therapeutic “relationship,” which could narrow our focus and contribute to unfolding and understanding what happens in this specific face to face. “Intimate” is an interesting concept because it belongs both to the innermost and to a special kind of very close way of being together. Perhaps “encounter” might be considered as an extension of our paradigm of “contact,” when contact rises and grows between two people. “Love” is often referred to, in our therapeutic context. Is it an appropriate reference? What about “tenderness,” which seems to better designate a therapeutic attitude that does not exclude confrontation or distance. A few tracks that need to be pursued…


Jean-Marie Robine has been a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist since 1967 and a Gestalt therapist since 1976. After more than 15 years as a psychologist, then a director, in a public health service for children, adolescents, and their families, he created in 1980 the Institut Français de Gestalt-thérapie (IFGT), the first Gestalt institute in France. To date, it has trained hundreds or maybe thousands of Gestalt therapists not only in France but also in Europe, Eastern Europe, Africa, the USA, and Latin America.

He was a co-creator of the Societé Française de Gestalt, then of Collège Européen de Gestalt-thérapie, national societies for Gestalt therapy, and the European Association for Gestalt Therapy. He was also the president of EAGT in the early 1990s.

In addition, Jean-Marie created the two French journals for Gestalt therapy and was their editor-in-chief for several years. Then he opened a nonprofit organization for publishing a series of Gestalt therapy books, l’Exprimerie, as a division of IFGT. More than 50 Gestalt therapy books, originals and translations, have been published, mostly in French but also some in English. He has authored or edited nine Gestalt therapy books, which have been translated into several languages. He is the co-editor and publisher of the last manuscript from Fritz Perls – with wonderful comments from several famous colleagues – already available in many languages, and also the editor of Self: A Polyphony of Contemporary Gestalt Therapists, published in many languages.

Now retired from heading IFGT, he remains the organizer and coordinator of its international programs, teaching mostly abroad some supervision groups, postgraduate programs, and training for supervisors and trainers, but also enjoys his (partial) retirement in the countryside near Bordeaux to grow his vegetables and fruit trees.


Bullying and Workplace Harassment: A Gestalt Perspective – Presenter: Lee Zevy @ Zoom
Mar 13 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Bullying and Workplace Harassment: A Gestalt Perspective - Presenter: Lee Zevy @ Zoom


The understanding of bullying and workplace harassment is usually limited to one side, the victim or the other, the bully/perpetrator.

Only recently has the relationship itself been explored as central to the process of how aggression, harassment, and violence progress over time.

However, just separating or punishing any one of the parties involved, as is often the case, is inadequate to prevent both individuals from continuing their role with someone else.

Locating the relational interplay within a field of intersecting forces would add depth and understanding to the wider field. This would allow for greater awareness of the points at which the building aggression can be interrupted. Then the participants can be helped to understand the forces driving them and the relational engagement of the process.


Lee Zevy is one of the founders of Identity House, a walk-in peer counseling and psychotherapy community mental health center for the LGBTQIA community in New York City, which began in 1971. After completing her training at the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy, where she is now a fellow, she became the clinical director of Identity House for many years and still does supervising and training there. In addition to becoming president of NYIGT twice, she teaches, supervises, writes, and publishes on the theory and practice of Gestalt therapy. Her current interest is how the fluidity of gender and sexuality today is moving to change the discourse of society around these topics.

Applying Philip Lichtenberg’s Four Corners Model to Working With Couples – Presenter: David Picó Vila @ Zoom
Apr 3 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Applying Philip Lichtenberg's Four Corners Model to Working With Couples – Presenter: David Picó Vila @ Zoom


The paper “Creating a Distinct ‘I’ and a Distinct ‘You’ in Contacting” by Philip Lichtenberg proposed an apparently simple model for describing relations, with an emphasis on how to relate in a contactful manner. The model was succinctly described as an algebraic combination of factors. This presentation aims at unfolding the power of this model as a clinically useful way of describing different types of interactions in couples. Several relationship dynamics are described in terms of agency and figure/ground formation. This provides a useful map for clinical intervention.


I work as a Gestalt therapist in Valencia, Spain. I was trained in Gestalt therapy by the Institut Français de Gestalt-Thérapie and, later, in developmental somatic psychotherapy by Ruella Frank. I’m a psychologist and musician. I have a Ph.D. in computer science.

Gestalt Therapy and Art – Presenter: Hilmar Schmiedl-Neuburg @ Zoom
May 1 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Gestalt Therapy and Art – Presenter: Hilmar Schmiedl-Neuburg @ Zoom


Taking inspiration from how psychoanalysis was successfully applied to art and art theory, film, literature, literary studies, and cultural studies over the course of its history, in this presentation, I would like to explore how Gestalt therapy can be applied to works of art, including literature, music, film, drama, and cultural phenomena in general, be it in the experiencing and understanding of cultural phenomena like art or their creation. We will look at:

  • How do we contact works of art?
  • How do Gestalt therapy concepts like the cycle of contact, the different contact functions, awareness, field, etc., play out in our contacting art?
  • Can we apply Gestalt concepts like figure and ground, polarities, and unfinished business to works of art and their form, content, and structure?
  • What place might Gestalt experiments, dreamwork, and Gestalt “techniques” have in understanding art?
  • How can the process of creating art and artistic creativity be understood from a Gestalt point of view?
  • Can Gestalt therapy be applied to cultural (including social and political) phenomena in general, and how so?


Hilmar Schmiedl-Neuburg, PhD, is a philosopher and psychotherapist. He received his PhD in philosophy at the University of Kiel in Germany, and graduated as a Gestalt therapist from the four-year program of GSK Werkstatt Nord in Germany. He received additional training at other Gestalt institutes in Frankfurt and Cologne, and also trained in psychoanalysis. For over 10 years, he worked as a Gestalt therapist in part-time private practice and taught in the Philosophy Department of the University of Kiel. After his habilitation and visiting professorships in Hamburg, Prague, and Vienna, currently, he is a faculty member in the Philosophy Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Additionally, he serves as an Adjunct Lecturer for Humanistic and Existential Psychotherapy at the Medical School Hamburg. He is the director of the Institute for Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Cultural Studies in Berlin, and is on the faculty of the John-Rittmeister-Institute for Psychoanalysis in Kiel. His publications focus on continental philosophy as well as humanistic-existential and psychodynamic therapy.