Gestalt Therapy: Why & How ‘Empty Chair Technique’ Is Used?

How Empty Chair Technique Is Used

The literal meaning of Gestalt is ‘an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts’. And so Gestalt therapy is a self-centered psychotherapy that revolves around your present moment (along the environment and social contexts), without bothering about the past or future. It helps a person to deal with his own emotions, finding self-value and taking the responsibility of his own life rather than depending on others.

The Role Of ‘Empty Chair’

Developed by psychologists Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman, Gestalt therapy is a very simple approach where a person sits in front of an empty chair and pictures someone whom they want to express their feelings. It is not necessary to picture someone else, one can picture half of themselves as well.

The role of an empty chair actually twists when you move to the other chair and face where you were sitting earlier. Here, you begin to answer your own questions from the perspective of another person. Yes, it may require you to switch between the two chairs multiple times but this therapy frees you from webs of relationship by understanding both sides.

Gestalt psychotherapy is also beneficial in treating conditions like:

 Why Gestalt Therapy Is Used By Therapists?

If you believe that you have understood the therapy and you can use it at home, you may need to clear this doubt here first. A therapist or an expert sits with you during the therapy for guidance, motivation and other multiple reasons like:

1. Identify Your Own Hidden Feelings:

There are instances when you cannot express yourself to the other person out of embarrassment or hurting them but this is exactly what needs to be done here. A therapist helps you with identification of anger, fear, sadness, guilt or any other feelings by noticing your words, gestures or expressions.

2. Express Freely & Openly:

When you normally express yourself to someone, they may avoid you, curl away their eyes or interrupt in between with their own discussion but when you are into Gestalt therapy, you are allowed to express everything in detail. You certainly feel relieved and able to pass through the burden in your heart and mind.

3. Makes You Understand Relationships:

Sometimes we forget to understand perspectives of our partner in a relationship and become self-centered. As soon as you understand both the sides with the help of a therapist, relevant changes could be made for a long term relationship.

4. Taking Self-Responsibility:

In order to grow and accept your experiences, Gestalt therapy encourages clients to make themselves better as well as take responsibility for making their surroundings better. It also grows people emotionally and cuts down the painful memories.

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Key Ideas Of Empty Chair Technique

1. Clear Words & Language:

Gestalt counseling allows the person to speak his heart out in the context of the present moment without If’s and But’s. It encourages a person to open up thinking that the person whom they want to talk to is present in the room at the moment and speaks up in the desired words and preferred language.

2. The Empty Chair:

An empty chair gives the person to use his imagination in whichever way they want to heal themselves.

3. Multiple Roles:

The therapist only acts as a guide in the process as the client has to play a self-role as well as the role of the one they are talking to. It is helpful in understanding conflicts that he is going through inside out.

4. Expressive Body Language:

As the words are expressed, the body language and expressions change as well. From throwing your foot away to sweating profusely, the Gestalt therapist notices your body language to interpret the meaning and feelings.

With all these key ideas, Gestalt therapy helps a person to exaggerate his feelings and describe what he feels in different parts of the body. For example, ‘I am feeling butterflies in my stomach’ or ‘there is a sinking feeling inside my heart’. 


The whole theory of Perls revolved around being aware of the inner soul that ultimately heals you as well as your surroundings. However, the therapy mostly focuses on the present and needs the therapist to be very attentive at the moment. The therapy can be applied by intermingling it with other psychotherapies to make you a mentally strong and healthy individual.

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