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Program Overview

The Gestalt Institute of San Francisco‬ offers the following schedule through online conferencing.

Training Program Schedule Winter/Spring 2020

Theory Classes/mini workshops are held Mondays 6:30 – 8:30 Location: Gibbs Hall (Part of the greater complex of Easton Hall) 2449 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709. – call (415) 729-5942‬ or email

Workshops will be held at 333 Miller Ave, Suite 3, Mill Valley CA 94965

Monday February 10th: The Gestalt Approach G-THEORY 1
This class covers the origins of the Gestalt Approach along with general milieu and zeitgeist of the times.  Special attention is paid to Fritz Perls background as a psychoanalyst and Laura Perls contributions and grounding in Existentialism as well as the somatic work of William Riech.  Gestalt Psychology is contrasted with General Systems Theory and parallel approaches such as psychodrama, drama therapy, intersubjectivity, Lomi School, and other related systems are touched on.

Monday, February 17th: The Empty Chair G-THEORY 2
Our primary focus for the evening will be on the intra-personal integration of disowned parts and how that is carried out through projective-dialogue and proprioceptive-repostioning.  We will demonstrate how moving from chair-to-chair strengthens the projective and integrative processes as well as how to recognize when a client has already moved from one part to the next and a natural polarity is showing itself in the clients psyche. This evening will show the nuts and bolts of the process.

Monday, February 24th: Relational Gestalt  G-THEORY 3
Here and Now – I and Thou will be the topic. Particular emphasis will be on how to use presence and contact as a relational bridge to the intersubjective field and how to recognize the formation of the phenomenological gestalt between client and therapist. The client’s therapeutic needs will be discussed in relational to the therapist’s capacity to be present and attuned. Lots of practical  information on how to meet the client and get a sense of what the client is “pulling for” will be included as well as how what is traditionally called counter-transference evokes the therapist’s defenses. Practical exercises and clear interventions will be offered for participants to directly experience the process in themselves and others.

Monday, March 2nd: Gestalt Dreamwork G-THEORY 4
Unlike the Freudian approach where dreams are seen as wish fulfilment, the Gestalt approach emphasizes the dream as an existential message. The client is every part of the dream from form and color to object and function. Gestalt identification techniques will be explored to expand awareness and bring the dream into the here and now relational field. Participants will learn to shuttle back and forth between the dream and the relational present receiving important existential messages and discovering their unmet needs.  Practical exercises and clear interventions will be offered for participants to directly experience the process in themselves and others.

Monday March 9th: Confluence G-THEORY 5
The boundary between self and other is essential for growth and maturity. This class will focus on the recognition of difference as a road to contact and authenticity. The infantile demand for sameness will be contrasted with the mature sense of a boundaried-self that can tolerate the existential terror of being an individual and support authentic difference rather than reactionary rebellion. Practical exercises and clear interventions will be offered for participants to directly experience confluence in themselves and others.

Monday, March 16th: Introjection G-THEORY 6
The tendency to swallow information whole and accept experience without proper assimilation is often forced on us from early childhood. Primary caregivers, educators and society-at-large tend to invade our psyches before we can take the time to sort out our personal experiences and opinions. The result is a fragmented psyche where accepting the perspectives of others is traded for authentic feeling and expression. We do what we “should do” rather than what we feel is truly appropriate for us. We trade our own integrity and authenticity for the acceptance and love of stronger ego forces. Our personal compass is exchanged for the internalized morality and judgement of the group. This class focuses on identifying and reintegrating introjected conflicts and psyche splits. Practical exercises and clear interventions will be offered for participants to directly experience introjection in themselves and others.

Monday, March 23rd: Deflection G-THEORY 7
At times we all change the subject, forget what we were talking about, can’t remember the issue, or conveniently don’t understand the other – even when it is totally obvious. Unconsciously: forgetting, denying, disagreeing, misdirecting, pretending, lying, and confusing, all can be deflection tactics to gas-light ourselves or blame others. Of course the worst deflections are the ones we play on ourselves so we don’t have to face what we really are feeling. Deflection is the first and most often used tactic when we can’t tolerate our experience and want to make it about someone or something else. This evening we will identify our preferred methods of deflection. How we escape into the past or the future and what interventions we can employ to bring ourselves back to the present. Practical exercises and clear interventions will be offered for participants to directly experience deflection in themselves and others.

Monday, March 30th: Retroflection G-THEORY 8
I do to myself what I want to do to you. Retroflection means to “turn back against.” Rather than take the risk to support my own experience, I take my introjections and turn them upon myself. I hate myself for being different than you want me to be. It is  an “I am the problem vs you are the problem” polarity. In “projection” you are the problem. In “retroflection” I am the problem. We see the neurosis in the inauthentic stance that negates the relationship and wants to assign blame to one side or the other. The relationship is forgotten as judgement and blame take center stage. In the extreme this becomes shame as in ” I am not worthy of existing next to you.” I have done wrong becomes I am wrong.   Practical exercises and clear interventions will be offered for participants to directly experience retroflection in themselves and others.

Monday, April 6th: Projection G-THEORY 9
“If only people would get there shit together my life would be so much better. Everything I feel is about you, and what you are causing to happen to me, rather than about how I am responding. My life and how I feel is because of you. You are the cause. I am the victim.” This also happens in reverse: I am the cause and you are the victim. “you feel just as I feel. I cause you because you are an extension of me. Don’t deny it! I know you really feel like me but can’t accept it.”  Practical exercises and clear interventions will be offered for participants to directly experience Projection in themselves and others.

Monday, April 13th: Unfinished Business G-THEORY 10
The whole Gestalt theory is based on the clients perceptual-emotional completion of bio-energetic movement toward life giving sources in the environmental surround. When our natural movement toward health and well-being is interrupted neurosis starts to develop. This evening will focus on recognizing and remobilizing interruptions in self-experience. The five primary Contact Boundary Disturbances will be emphasized along with the manipulations that often accompany them. Participants will be encouraged to explore their own unfinished business and opportunities for remobilization. Practical exercises and clear interventions will be offered for participants to directly experience unfinished business in themselves and others.

Monday, May 4th: The Power Authenticity G-THEORY 11
Awareness, alignment, and expression of our unaltered subjective experience supports well-being, strengthens relationships, and builds vitality like no other behavior. Without connection to what we truly feel and think, our inner compass has no north, and we soon fall into neurotic disorientation. This segment focuses on expanding our awareness of the mechanisms by which we repress our authenticity and how we can reverse the process in ourselves and others. Practical exercises and clear interventions will be offered for participants to directly experience authenticity in themselves and others.

Monday, May 18th: The Gestalt of Completion G-THEORY 12
A review of all the material covered in the previous eleven classes will be covered along with how we as a group will integrate and use what we have learned. Topics covered will be our grand narratives for the training quarter, how we each relate to saying goodbye, and some process-time for any appreciation or regret (unfinished business) that may be lurking under the surface. While our class time is limited we will encourage as much authentic expression as possible. Practical exercises and clear interventions will be offered for participants to directly experience completion in themselves and others.  

Weekend workshops: 
Non residential, Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5pm each day. Mill Valley location.

Workshop 1: The Empty Chair March 13th – March 14th. Leaders: Morgan Goodlander. The Empty Chair is the technique that made Gestalt Therapy famous. It is so powerful that even a brief introduction can be enough for psychology professionals to find significant value for their practice. Unfortunately, most just take the low hanging fruit and never really learn how to properly use the process or really understand what is happening in the deeper levels. This weekend is a deep dive into the nuts and bolts of the Empty Chair and how it is used to integrate disowned parts, finish unfinished business, identify splitting, work with polarities, and mirror blind spots in awareness. Significant time will be spent on when the process is most valuable and when a more relational stance would be better or provide additional support. This workshop forms the background for the Relational Gestalt workshop on May 30th. The two workshops together will provide a strong understanding of both intra-personal and inter-personal gestalt process as one might use them in relation to trauma or other extreme states. Participants can expect to learn valuable tools to work with their clients intrapersonally. This workshop is 80% experiential and 20% theoretical.

Workshop 2: Gestalt & Trauma April 25th  – April 26th Leader: Morgan Goodlander
At the heart of most psychological and spiritual trauma is often a core experience of disconnect from the flow of life, and a sense of the self as deficient and separate. In fact, one of the greatest human paradoxes manifests in the way our deep longing for love, acceptance, and belonging coexist with our individual and collective wounding of self judgment and self alienation, all too often perpetuated by powerful cultural conditions of worth. It is often our deep desire to belong and be accepted that leads us to suppress and contract against contact with parts of our self that we perceive as “bad” “unwelcome” and “shameful”. And yet, it is the process of exiling and rejecting the self that unintentionally contributes to unnecessary human suffering and disconnect from our true nature. Perhaps the greatest antidote to such self alienation is the experience of self-compassion and awareness of common humanity. To authentically embody self compassion is to awaken a direct knowing that our inner experiences, however feared or “dark” or “shameful” are shared universally, and that in fact all of our experiences point to a fundamental longing for love, belonging and the freedom that are shared by all.  This workshop will invite participants to explore individual, familial and intergenerational trauma in the Gestalt spirit of loving kindness and compassion by engaging with Gestalt informed inquiry and Here and Now, emboawareness based practices and process experiential individual and group based healing work.

Workshop 3: Relational Gestalt May 30th  – May 31st Leader: Morgan Goodlander
“Here and Now, I and Thou”  is Gestalt Therapy’s primary mantra. This workshop goes beyond the intrapsychic process of the Empty Chair to reach out into relational space and make another gestalt maxim ” Contact is Curative” come to life in the ongoing presence of the group. Group participants will learn to shuttle between the inside and the outside, between contact and isolation, between seeing and being seen, hearing and being heard. A here and now phenomenological stance will be presented to help practitioners somatically identify projective and transferential issues while at the same time leveraging the unfinished business of the client into the present relational situation.  The experience of “we” vs “I” will be explored and the development of a new awareness of an inter-subjective field will be encouraged. Participants will move beyond individualism and work to discover a co-created “moment of healing ” where health becomes a relational state rather than an individual act of maturity. Participants can expect to learn valuable tools to work with their clients relationally. This workshop is 80% experiential and 20% theoretical.

Program leader:

Morgan Goodlander, MA, GPW:  
Director Emeritus of the GISF (1997-2016) is an internationally known gestalt trainer and leadership consultant that has worked in 17 countries and for a number of years was the co-director of an inhouse training program for Esalen Institute.  He was six years on the Board of Directors for the Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy (AAGT) and is an honorary member of numerous Gestalt organizations around the world. His current interest is on integrating deep individual process with context mechanics in organizational development and leadership teams. He is known for his humorous style and deep respect for each individual’s process.