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The Gestalt two-chair technique: how it relates to theory Mackay, Betty Nichol


Using Q-Methodology, this study sought to find empirical support for the three stage model of the Gestalt two-chair technique and the theory underlying how and why it is effective, put forth by L. S. Greenberg (1979; 1983). A structured Q-Sort was constructed using the factors of Conflict Resolution (CR) and the Gestalt concept of Contact (C) in a 2X2 factorial design. Each factor was divided into two levels CR - Resolved/Unresolved, C - Interruption-of-contact/Contact. The factors of CR and C were expected to interact before and after successful and unsuccessful therapy for decision-making. Individuals who were Unresolved in their decision-making were expected to experience Interruption-of-contact while individuals who were Resolved from an integrated sense of self were expected to experience being in Contact. The 85 item sort was validated by experts in Gestalt theory and therapy as representing the three stage model and the theory underlying it. Eight subjects, ambivalent about remaining in their marriages, performed the Q-Sort before and after 6 sessions of therapy using the two-chair technique. Moderate support was found for the 3 stages of the model, Opposition, Merging and Integration. Some support was found for the interaction of the factors of CR and C. Significant 2-way interaction was found for 1 subject before and after therapy considered successful according to the model. Significant 2-way interactions were found after successful therapy for four subjects but not before. Significant 2-way interactions were not found for subjects after unsuccessful therapy. When therapy was successful the factors of CR and C interacted as predicted. When therapy was not successful the factors of CR and C did not interact as predicted. The factors of CR and C did not interact for individuals who were experiencing a great deal of interruption-of-contact, indicating there is a possible pre-stage to the model where CR and C are independent of each other or where other factors may be involved. This study expanded the research on the Gestalt two-chair technique in several ways. It found some empirical support for the model and the theory underlying it. It found areas were CR and C do not interact as predicted by theory. It extended the range of application of research on two-chair technique from career decision-making to divorce decision-making.

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