Friedrich (Fritz) Perls hailed from Berlin and against his family’s wishes, served in World War 1 with the German Army. He became a medical doctor after the war and began treating soldiers with brain injuries. This experience caused him to focus his attention on psychoanalysis. Shortly after his marriage to Lore Posner, later called Laura Perls, Fritz Perls and his family fled to the Netherlands to escape the Nazi’s. They later moved to South Africa, and Perls founded a training institute to serve the psychoanalytical community. He re-enlisted in the military and became a psychiatrist with the South African army. Several years later, the Perls family moved to New York where Perls worked briefly with Wilhelm Reich and Karen Horney.
After serving in various clinical capacities throughout North America, Perls eventually took permanent residence in Manhattan and began working with the intellectual Paul Goodman. The two collaborated on a book, Gestalt Therapy, based mostly on Perl’s own research and clinical notes. Additionally, the theories in the book were in part due to the influence of Otto Rank and Kurt Lewin. Shortly after the publication in 1951, the Perls founded their initial Gestalt Institute and began conducting training from their apartment in Manhattan. Perls began sharing his theories with all of North America and began traveling extensively to conduct seminars and training workshops. He eventually moved to Los Angeles to work with Jim Simkin. He became affiliated with the Esalen Institute, where he studied Zen and continued the practice of his Gestalt Therapy and Zen theories in Canada.
Contribution to Psychology
Developed by Fritz Perls, Gestalt Therapy is a unique approach to psychotherapy that is a form of Gestalt psychology. It is considered a humanistic psychotherapy and emphasizes the present moment. Gestalt Therapy uses cognitive insightfulness to the current experience, stresses mindfulness and encourages a client to explore their creative potential to achieve satisfaction in areas of their lives that may have otherwise been blocked. The basis of Gestalt Therapy is the client’s own awareness of behavior, emotion, feelings, perception, and sensation. The focus of Gestalt Therapy is on relationships--relationships with the world, with other people, and with oneself.