Erving Polster demonstrations

Erv Polster demonstrates Gestalt at the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference in 1990 . Includes several sessions, and Q & A.

Erv Polster

Erving Polster received his Ph.D. in 1950. In 1953, he began learning Gestalt therapy, as it was being formed by the Perls, and their circle in New York.

In 1956 he began to conduct Gestalt workshops. In 1958 he became first faculty Chairman of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and remained in that position until 1973, when he and his wife, Miriam, moved to San Diego. There they formed the Gestalt Training Center-San Diego, where for 25 years they taught Gestalt therapy. People came to San Diego from all over the world to attend their training programs. They traveled internationally since 1968, giving lectures and workshops and presenting at conferences. One of Erv’s unique offerings is to demonstrate the principles and procedures through live therapy sessions in front of professional audiences.
Erv and Miriam authored a widely read text, Gestalt Therapy Integrated, published in 1973.
He also wrote Every Person’s Life Is Worth a Novel, spelling out the kinship between the novelist and the psychotherapist. One of the book’s perspectives is that the stories created by novelists are extracted from a background of ordinary humanity. This source of storyline and revelation has much in common with the personal background, from which therapists evoke stories from their patients. By the evocation of these stories, people are led to rediscover the importance of neglected events and overlooked characteristics, restoring self-value.
His next book was A Population of Selves, published in 1995, in which he explores the means for establishing personal identity. His portrayal of a variety of selves provides a base for people to experience their internal range of characteristics while joining these characteristics together to feel a dependable identity.
Another book, From the Radical Center, is an anthology that traces the evolution of ideas that he and Miriam presented over a 45-year period. In 2006, he authored Uncommon Ground: Harmonizing Psychotherapy and Community, transposing the medical model of office therapy into large group formats. The book envisions the creation of lifetime assemblages of people, guided by designed exercises targeted to enhance attention to the common aspects of how people may best live their lives.

At 102 Erv is still writing and teaching, having published several more books.

I studied with Erv and Miriam in 1997; that was a precious experience, which gave me fuel on both a personal and professional level. Both of them were very gracious, very knowledgeable, and both had a great sense of humour.

Here is an interview with Erv when he was 95:

Here is an interview with him on Humans of Gestalt:

Here are 44 videos with Erv, available for monthly subscription on the Zeig website:

Discussion with Erv Polster on Gestalt

Relational therapy with Chris Campbell

Interview with Dr Chris Campbell about the practice of relational psychotherapy

Chris Campbell

Dr. Chris Campbell has been developing his work and teaching in the field of Relationship and Body Oriented Psychotherapy since 1978. He has led training groups throughout Europe, the USA and Australia. He has an extensive background in Bio-dynamic body work, a subtle grasp of Neo-Reichian character frameworks, and is a leading exponent of dialogical therapy. He trained with the Boyensens in England, and in Reichian and Gestalt modalities in Los Angeles in the 1970’s.

I first worked with him in 1985, and learned from him over many decades. His approach to the I-Thou is solidly grounded in his own presence, and his ability to be consistently authentic, whether in or out of therapy.

Introduction video:


The Biofield with Dr Peter Nelson

Dr Peter L Nelson is a psychologist and social scientist who has 50+ years experience in personal and business coaching, transpersonal counseling, psychological assessment and research into behavior and consciousness.

As a scientist, he studied the psychophysiology and the psycho-phenomenology of attention, perception and consciousness. His ongoing research continues his earlier explorations of how people experience and understand reality—whether seen through the visions of mystics or the daily perceptions of ordinary people.

He has published original research on perception and, including articles that show a connection between cannabis use and aspects of personality, attention and transpersonal knowing.

He is an expert on the nature of direct attention, and has demonstrated that the results of expanded awareness are increased perception, which can help in both personal life and professions such as therapy.

Dr Peter Nelson interview Part 1 • Personal context

  • Science teenage geek, grants on brain research 1959
  • Start of computing
  • Psychophysiology. Haight Ashbury
  • What are we doing with consciousness. Deploying attention
  • First meeting of consciousness studies. ‘The hard problem’, not interested.
  • Phenomenological basis of our knowing: the how of consciousness
  • Walk into a room, pay attention to what you dont normally notice
  • Assumptions about people
  • Fundamental attribution error
  • Bottom up processors
  • Perceptual experiences in India
  • People projecting their own realities
  • True skeptic
  • Ontological neutralism
  • Experiences on Audsley LSD 1960’s
  • Intuitive knowledge

Dr Peter Nelson interview Part 2  • The rustle in the bush - a question of perception

  • Living with open questions
  • Learning to deploy attention, without psychedelics
  • People see what they want to see
  • Learn to use attention differently to see who they are
  • Teach people how to do it
  • Coaching how to change how they deploy awarenes
  • People basically paranoid
  • Rustle in the brush
  • Paranoid tilt - completing the story
  • They think they are intuitive, but just fast thinking
  • If dont know how to use attention, just filling in the gaps
  • Written off phenomenological abstractions
  • Phenomenogical reduction simplistic
  • Tell me something about myself I dont know
  • Declare philosophy dead
  • Who are you, before look at you
  • Anyone could open that door
  • You dont know how to do it, talking is not it
  • To deepen perception more is necessary

Dr Peter Nelson interview Part 3  • The biofield

  • Biofield
  • Examples
  • Friend thinking about suicide, leaves a field after image
  • Perceive footprints, markers
  • Appointment with cardiologist cancelled
  • Know they are deeply unhappy
  • Not super natural
  • Not a theist not athiest not agnostic, respond to what is as it is
  • People build ego selves on this
  • Differentiate own projections, Plato’s cave
  • Witnessed Perls
  • Listen to the background sounds
  • Notice the inbetween, the reach Epoche
  • Hypnogogic, but more difficult
  • Everything seems more three dimensional
  • Emergent ground

Dr Peter Nelson interview Part 4  • They rang your bell

  • Stan Grof turbulence
  • Dreamwork, get the dream, as a picture, left out the table, in the dream with her
  • The problem with ‘intuition’
  • Like seeing a chair in the room
  • Feelings in your body, self referencing
  • Mistaking feelings about it for who that person is
  • Have to say what dont know, just perception
  • They want to be entertained
  • TV entertainment show in Sweden
  • Deploy attention to get to their field from an object
  • His younger brother going insane
  • North German TV, he was going through divorce
  • Paying attention, intended direction of intentionality
  • Attempt to draw people in
  • Women perceive me as rescuer
  • Some males want to dominate, dont get swept up
  • Interviewing surgeons
  • Why am I always getting into this mess
  • They rang your bell, top down programming, they are looking for something
  • I see what you are looking for, and it never works

Dr Peter Nelson interview Part 5 • People dont like ambiguity

  • Personality disorders, hard to get them to question it
  • People dont want to change
  • See the drive and what its trying to create
  • Overweight woman cure
  • Worlding and worldview
  • People dont like ambiguity, attached to their ideas
  • A theory of the real, obstacle to noticing something else
  • Jungian rigid worldview, constantly reality testing worldview
  • Willingness to deal with fear, ruthlessness to examine own story
  • Skeptics would be skeptical about themslelves
  • William James empirical thinker

Dr Peter Nelson interview Part 6 • The first black psychoanalyst and the unconscious

  • Own existential psychoanalysis
  • Some is inferential
  • What to do more than solving problems in therapy
  • First black psychoanalyst
  • What does the unconscious mean
  • You’ve been talking to my sister…
  • I am going to say what I perceive
  • I dont want to do therapy - help them solve a problem
  • Applying to therapy - building a picture, but missing information streams
  • Top down bottomup
  • Limitations of therapy
  • Coach, get someone functioning to the best of their attention, to my level
  • Psychological healing is a slow progress
  • EMDR about shifting attention
  • I like to perceive, and map out my perceptions
  • The problems with closure
  • Coming to rest, not finishing, about self management
  • Thats my bitch about closure

Frank Farrelly

Frank was not a Gestalt therapist. But he combined several essential elements of Gestalt in a completely unique way. His legacy is his book, Provocative Therapy (in our library), and a few of these videos left for posterity.

The features of his work that are important are these:

  1. Very skillful confrontation - using non-shaming, relational playfulness
  2. Paradoxical exaggeration - by going much further than the client’s pathology, he ends up being ‘the crazy one’
  3. Therapeutic use of humour - being outrageous, saying ‘the unsayable’, using sarcasm and irony to undermine fixed positions, yet done with love and an open heart
  4. Refusing to be hypnotised by the tragedy of the client’s story - addressing underlying process, using phenomenological clues in the present.

Most of these are translated sessions, but even then his humour and style and affection shine through. Gestalt therapy was originally characterised by confrontation, as that was often Fritz Perls’ style, which included an emphasis on self support and taking responsibility. Although this style was copied for several decades, it is no longer a core part of the identity of the practice or theory of Gestalt therapy. Using confrontation in a skilled way is very difficult in therapy, and there are few schools of therapy which promote that anymore.

These include Radical Honesty, based on the work of Brad Blanton, which is a contemporary version of classical Gestalt group encounter; and the school of Strategic Family Therapy, which uses vertical power-based strategic interventions to disrupt fixed family systems.

There is also the skillful work of David Schnarch, who emphasised differentiation and self support, in a systemic context.

However, as Schnarch pointed out, Attachment Theory is now dominant in how we perceive trauma, and thus confrontative type of therapy has been intentionally blunted and slowed down, in order that clients are not retraumatised in therapy.

This could be an ongoing dialogue, but the literature tends to have moved away from the possibilities of a more differentiated, skillful provocative approach to therapy. Hence my posting these videos as an example of an alternative to current therapies, albeit a unique approach somewhat connected to the personality of Farrelly.

Frank Farrelly - post session discussion with client

Frank and Judy session

Frank Farrelly and Dave session

Frank Farrelly in Germany - I cant say no

Frank Farrelly in Russia - baby blue innocent eyes

Frank Farrelly in Russia - because you are slow and stupid

Frank Farrelly in Russia - I pretend to be a leader

Frank Farrelly in Russia - I want multiple women

Frank Farrelly 2005 - Talking about Provocative Therapy

Frank Farrelly interview 2011

Jaap Hollander interviews Frank Farrelly

Frank Farrelly workshop in Russia

Frank Farrelly talks to Nick Kemp

Bob Resnick

Robert W. Resnick, Ph.D., was a Gestalt and Couples Therapist and international trainer for 50 years. Trained (1965-1970) and personally certified (1969) by Drs. Fritz Perls and James Simkin, he is the youngest of the “old timers”. Bob was chosen by Fritz Perls to be the first Gestalt Therapist to introduce Gestalt Therapy to Europe in the summer of 1969 where he presented both a lecture and a training workshop. He continued presenting GATLA European Summer Residential Training workshops in Europe until his death in 2023. He is author of many articles, and created a high quality series of demonstration films. In 2019 he was winner of the APA Distinguished Award for the International Advancement of Psychotherapy.

Interview with Bob Resnick

Bob Resnick on Gestalt Therapy And Homeorhesis, keynote speech

Bob Resnick - introduction to Gestalt therapy

Eva Gold

Dr. Eva Gold is the founding co-director of Gestalt Therapy Training Center—Northwest in Portland, Oregon (, with her partner Dr. Steve Zahm, who passed away recently. They have written hundreds of Gestalt related articles, and published a book on Buddhist Psychology and Gestalt Therapy. Eva has practiced Gestalt for over 40 years, and has been a student of Buddhist psychology and an Insight meditation practitioner for twenty years.

I first met both of them at the Polsters’ training - they attended every year for several decades.

Violet Oakalander

Violet Oaklander was born in 1927, and lived to the age of 94. She was the foremost exponent of the Gestalt approach to working with children. She leaves behind a legacy of books and training ( and She herself suffered some childhood trauma, which she recognises as a motivation to work with children. For 27 years she conducted training in child play therapy in California. She attended a Gestalt workshop with Jim Simkin in 1969, when her son was dying of lupus. Her classic book Windows to Our Children is in the library. she often said, ‘I don't fix kids.’ Her focus was on the authentic relationship between client and therapist, the I-thou, cultivating genuineness and openness, and working in the present.

Violet Oaklander - 3 cases and discussion

Violent Oaklander - case demonstration and discussion