_____________________________________________________________________ VOLUME 1, ISSUE 5 PSYCHNEWS INTERNATIONAL August/September 1996 _____________________________________________________________________ SECTION B: NEWS REPORT THE CRISIS OF GESTALT THERAPY -------------------------------------------------------- The Psychnews International acts as a neutral publication, providing information and discussion space for all kinds of topics. While not subscribing to particular political, ideological, epistemological, methodological, and theoretical approaches, we feel particular committed to report on views that usually do not reach the mass media and the mainstream publications on mental-health-related issues. This news report on the "crisis of Gestalt therapy" is special in several regards. First, in the context of our mission depicted above, we would like to stress the fact that the PsychNews International and its predecessor, the InterPsych Newsletter (ISSN# 1355-2562) has been able to maintain discussion on an important topic on a continuous basis, utilizing Internet channels. First, we published Dr. Schaler's article entitled Bad Therapy in the November 1995 issue of the InterPsych Newsletter, 2(9) (available at http://www.cmhc.com/ipn/). Mr. Gunsberg followed up on and complemented problems associated with Gestalt therapy in a PsychNews article with the title "We Accuse". The article is available at http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~expert/FTP_1_3/ PNI3_1.c; background material related to this contribution, including a copy of "Bad Therapy" can be found at http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~expert/DOCS/schaler_file. Second, this article is special because it presents information in the public domain, without special editing. E.g. this news report exposes a continuation of the ongoing discussion that has developed its own dynamics and speaks for itself. This material -- public correspondence from Mr. Wysong -- was made available to the PsychNews International by a colleague on September 19, 1996. Apparently, Dr. Schaler's article "Bad Therapy" was lifted from the back issues of the Interpsych Newsletter, formerly stored at http://www.coil.com/~grohol/ipnx.htm. Are there major problems regarding the ethical standards by which Gestalt therapists abide? Do Gestalt therapists feel the need to employ implicit censorship for concealing certain activities? Dr. Schaler and Mr. Gunsberg firmly believe in this, expressed in the two articles named above. The PsychNews has also offered "neutral discussion grounds" on the Net and, alternatively, extended invitations to respond to the grave critiques at firstname.lastname@example.org. No substantive replies and/or discussion followed. We continue to offer publication of relevant statements, either by emailing responses to the PsychNews mailbox or by actively discussing this at Psych-CI (for subscription, email email@example.com, subject line empty, message body: subscribe psych-ci firstname lastname). Everyone interested in this issue is cordially invited to contribute and engage in constructive discussion, especially Gestalt therapists, their training institutions and professional guilds. Editor-in-Chief, PsychNews International ===================================================================== THE GESTALT JOURNAL P.O. BOX 990 Highland, NY 12528-0990 Telephone: 914-691-7192 Fax: 914-691-6530 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org TO: More than 200 members of the Gestalt community FROM: Joe Wysong DATE: March 24, 1996 The enclosed article, Bad Therapy, by Dr. Jeffrey Schaler, was sent to me by the associate editor of a major magazine with a circulation in the millions. The editor also included a recording of the event described in the article. The article has been "self-published" on the World Wide Web and an alert Web surfer spotted it and sent a printout to the editor. I don't know how the editor obtained the tape recording. (For those of you who care, the article is located on the WWW at "http.www.coil.com/~grohol [SIC, PsychNews]." If you are just cutting your "web teeth," make sure you include the title before "grohol" or you won't connect. The page is a privately maintained and sponsored mental health page. The working title for the magazine article, if published, is: "Gestalt Therapy: Is It as Dangerous Now as it was Then?" The editor made two requests: first, that I don't reveal the magazine's name as they don't want to receive hundreds of phone calls before deciding whether or not to publish the article (they have not, at this point in time, contacted Schaler because the decision to publish has not been made). Second, that I, as editor of the oldest (and preeminent) journal of Gestalt therapy, compose a response to Schaler's article. You might want to take a few moments to read it before finishing this as several of the points I make will be much clearer if you have read the article. After reading the article I listened to the recording. Schaler's description of the events is unerringly accurate. As I did not attend the AAGT conference, I sent a copy of the article to Michael Vincent Miller who did attend. Michael agrees that Schaler's portrayal is correct. I have also obtained a copy of the conference program. Schaler's quotes from the program are 100% accurate. As the potential for disaster to Gestalt therapy (especially to training institutes) is huge, Michael suggested that, rather than a solo response from me, we instead offer a letter signed by as many of the leaders in the Gestalt community as possible that decries the events that took place and places Gestalt therapy in proper perspective, a letter that also makes clear that AAGT is not a professional organization (it is open to anyone) and, with only 125 current dues paying members, does not represent the Gestalt community. At our offices, we consider any individual who, in the last eighteen months, has subscribed to the Journal, purchased a book or recording (we don't count sales of Windows to Our Children because most of its sales are outside the Gestalt community), listed themselves in The Gestalt Directory, or attended one of our conferences "a member of the Gestalt community." As of March 1, that count was 4561 in North America alone. Clearly, whatever or whomever AAGT represents, it isn't the Gestalt community at large. I hope I can persuade the editor not to publish the article at all so it can be left to the relative obscurity of the Web. If I fail, we should have a response ready! Schaler is probably unknowledgeable regarding libel laws so omitted the names of the "contemporary master gestalt therapists (sic)." The editor, knowledgeable regarding such matters, will include their names and professional affiliations if the article is published. They are, in the order they appear in the program, Irma Lee Shepard of the Pine River Center, Richard Kitzler of the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy, and Robert Resnick of the Gestalt Therapy Institute of Los Angeles. In our response, we will make clear that AAGT has no community authority to "ordain" master therapists and that we totally disapprove of the concept of their behavior. Granting such authority to the handful of AAGT members who served on the conference planning committee is gross misjudgement (sic) and, I believe, an act of professional responsibility. It concerns me that AAGT is planning another conference for April of 1997 and that the same group is in control of the program. A repeat performance, most likely in another form, is sure to come. Most of you are aware of the extreme hostility the dozen or so people controlling AAGT have for me and, indirectly, for The Gestalt Journal. What you don't know is how it got started. For several years we had, quite graciously I believe, invited what evolved into AAGT to meet the day before our conference (at our expense) and, to showcase their efforts, offer an AAGT presentation as part of our conference. They presented panels, organized cocktail receptions (again, at our expense), etc. All went fine until the planning stages for our Toronto conference. They withheld their plans from us until just over a month before the conference and then informed us that they planned a presentation similar to the one that took place in New Orleans. Immediately recognizing the potential for a publicity disaster in a locale we were visiting especially to rebuilt (sic) the local Gestalt community, I absolutely refused to allow the presentation to take place _because I knew exactly what would take place and how it would appear!_ The result was that a few individuals went to the Toronto AAGT meeting, slandered my reputation (at least they left my dog out of it), and organized a competing conference without even asking for our input before making the decision. I took strong exception to their behavior and have been AAGT's kicking post ever since. Gore Vidal says that the four sweetest words in the English language are "I told you so." In this case, I find them bittersweet. If this article is published, Gestalt therapy will be facing the biggest crisis in history. As managed health care takes over the mental health services, insurance companies are looking for more justification for rejecting the "talking cure" for the faster, more economical, pharmaceutical approach. If this article is published without a strong condemnation from the true "Gestalt community," insurers will have the ammunition to wipe Gestalt therapy off the map. Michael Miller and I will draft a response and send it to each of you for your consideration. We will not deny the accuracy of Schaler's description of events nor will we argue with most of the conclusions he draws. What took place was a display of therapy at its worst in a setting that would hopefully have shown Gestalt therapy at its best and we must acknowledge that. It must be made clear that AAGT does not represent Gestalt therapy and has no authority to anoint "contemporary master gestalt therapists." If we fail to offer a strong, unified rebuttal to Schaler's article, we, by our passivity, are as guilty as those who organized the conference striking Gestalt therapy a mortal blow. Two final thoughts. As the magazine's circulation is in the millions and caters to the intellectual left, where we need the most support, my hope is to convince the editors not to publish. While Michael and I expect each of you to contribute to the fine-tuning of the response, we want you to keep in mind that getting a consensus from 250 people could become a time- consuming task. When the draft letter reaches you, please don't put it aside. Give it your immediate attention so we can include as much of your input as possible. Consider this a public, not private, communication and share it with anyone you believe should see it. I ask that you not pass on this letter without including a copy of Schaler's article so my comments can be read in context. My best, (signed) Joe ===================================================================== [PsychNews: A follow-up letter from Mr. Wysong was again sent out, commenting on non-distribution of the article in question.] THE GESTALT JOURNAL P.O. BOX 990 Highland, NY 12528-0990 Telephone: 914-691-7192 Fax: 914-691-6530 E-mail: email@example.com June 20, 1996 Dear Friend of Gestalt Therapy: As you will remember, I wrote you about three months ago in reference to the possible publication of "Bad Therapy," Jeffrey Schaler's critique of the demonstration workshops at the New Orleans conference last October. I am pleased to report that the article will not be published. I want to thank all of you (over 200) who either called or wrote offering your support and/or assistance. I especially want to thank the few whose additional efforts aided in convincing the editor not to publish. (signed) Joe Wysong =====================================================================
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