Embodying collective gestalts
: an autophenomenography of culture, masculinity and sexuality in Gestalt Therapy

  • Adam Kincel

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Gestalt therapy has been concerned about social and political issues from its very beginning. Although
Gestalt therapy theory considers the relationship between the person and their environment, that
environment is often reduced in individual and group therapy to early development within clients’
family or relational one to one dynamics. Yet our personal embodied experiences are never separated
from the social, political and material context.
Grounded in contemporary materialistic philosophy this research study interweaves the social, the
material, the professional and the personal. It describes and analyses the personal journey of
becoming a Gestalt therapist in Poland and England, through analyses of masculinity, sexuality,
relationality and culture. The autophenomenographic method employed enables the embodied
personal experiences of the author to be studied as a gateway to the most significant personal,
historical and societal events that enable its creation and maintain its shape.
Although this study is predominantly based on an understanding of embodied experiences produced
through autobiographical writing, other methods are used such as interviews with the researcher’s
mother and sister, a reflective journal, drawings, a family diagram and photographs. Each of these
methods was selected to enhance the awareness of the meeting points between the researcher’s
body and different cultures.
Embodiment is also central to the design and implementation of this study. It informs the data
analysis, starting with phenomenological attention to embodied sensations that are considered
dialogical and culturally embedded, and ending with the production of the research body that is
personal and vulnerable yet informative. Furthermore, embodiment is at the centre of the ethics of
this study, with detailed embodied attention guiding the researcher through ethical considerations to
maintain the dignity and safety of each research participant. The focus on embodiment guarantees
that every part of the research is produced in the emerging relationship between the researcher and
the environment that includes the diversity of academic and gestalt cultures.
This thesis advocates for a more collective understanding of embodied sensations emerging in the
therapeutic context as collective gestalts. Special consideration is given to Gestalt therapy cultures
where practitioners are encouraged to explore their collective gestalts and bring their own collective
vulnerability to the consulting rooms. Collective gestalts can be explored in various context and large
groups are discussed as an environment that provide suitable challenge for this exploration. A
proposition is made to expose psychotherapists’ vulnerability to collective gestalts in support of the
dialogue that can bring about social and political change through individual, group and large group
Date of AwardDec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorLaetitia Zeeman (Supervisor)

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