Learn about the history of IAAGT as an organization, the origins of Gestalt therapy, and read memorials and tributes to some of our deceased members.
THE HISTORY OF IAAGT
IAAGT was founded in 1989 originally as AAGT (International was added in 2020).
IAAGT was incorporated in January of 1993 as a non-profit educational incorporation. Our first annual general meeting (AGM) was held in May 1994 where we decided to create an Annual International Gestalt Therapy Conference. To date, we’ve held 16 international conferences.
Learn more about IAAGT’s organizational history of officer succession, boards of directors, and biennial meetings:
THE HISTORY OF GESTALT THERAPY
THREE SOURCES OF GESTALT THERAPY
The theory of Gestalt therapy has three major sources. First is psychoanalysis, which contributed some of its major principles concerned with the inner life. Humanistic, holistic, phenomenological and existential writings, which center on personal experience and everyday life, constitute a second source. Gestalt psychology, the third source, gave to Gestalt therapy much more than its name. Though Gestalt therapy is not directly an application or extension of it, Gestalt psychology’s thoroughgoing concentration on interaction and process, many of its important experimental observations and conclusions, and its insistence that a psychology about humans include human experience have inspired and informed Gestalt therapy.
Gestalt therapy emerged from the clinical work of two German psychotherapists, Frederick Salomon Perls, M.D., and Lore Perls, Ph.D. F.S. Perls, known to many of his students as Fritz, was trained as a psychiatrist. He worked with Kurt Goldstein, a principal figure of the holistic school of psychology, in his inquiries into the effects of brain injuries on veterans of the first World War. Later, in the 1920s, he trained in psychoanalysis with Karen Homey and Wilhelm Reich. Laura Perls–she adopted the anglicized spelling after she came to the United States–studied with the existential philosopher Martin Heidegger and was awarded a doctorate in psychology for her graduate studies. The most important of her teachers was the Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer. F. S. and Laura Perls fled Western Europe in 1933 ahead of the onslaught of Nazism to Johannesburg, South Africa, where they practiced until the termination of hostilities in 1945.
THE IMPACT OF EGO, HUNGER, & AGGRESSION
Ego, Hunger and Aggression was written during this period. The book, published under F. S. Perls’s name in London in 1947, is subtitled A Revision of Psychoanalysis. It included chapters reevaluating the analytic viewpoint on aggression. They suggested that Freud and his followers had underestimated the importance of the development of teeth, eating, and digestion, and that this developmental watershed was as important as the others noted by Freud. These suggestions constitute an early contribution to the development of ego psychology. The book also contained chapters from holistic and existential perspectives and chapters describing therapy exercises. These exercises were designed to promote physical awareness rather than insight, and were called concentration therapy.
THE FIRST GENERATION OF GESTALT THERAPISTS
With the end of the war, the Perls’ emigrated to the United States. They settled in New York City, in a community of artists and intellectuals versed in philosophy, psychology, medicine, and education. Several years of collaboration with members of this group resulted in the training of the first generation of Gestalt therapists, a comprehensive formulation of the theory, methodology, and practice for this new approach, and a book describing it. Published by the Julian Press in 1951, the volume was entitled Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality. Authorship was credited to F. S. Perls, along with Ralph Hefferline, a professor of psychology at Columbia University, and the writer Paul Goodman, perhaps best known for his subsequent bestseller, Growing Up Absurd (1963).
Half the book consisted of reports of the results of exercises in awareness which Hefferline administered to his students. The other half was their statement of their new approach. Goodman wrote this section, basing his work off a manuscript by F. S. Perls and reflecting the common ground achieved by the collaborators. Goodman’s keen and prolific mind–he wrote more than 30 books and hundreds of shorter pieces (novels, plays, poems, articles, short stories, and books of shorter essays in the fields of literature, psychology, philosophy, and social and educational criticism)–is reflected in the volume. His special respect for the many contributions to psychology of Otto Rank, perhaps especially the importance of art and the artist in understanding daily life, for Reich, and for communitarian philosophers like Kropotkin also find a place in Gestalt Therapy, and he is responsible for a large measure of its completeness and power. Gestalt Therapy remains the basic book of the theory and practice of Gestalt therapy, a cornerstone of the Gestalt approach.
18 April 1927 – 21 September 2021
It is with great sadness that I inform members that Violet Oaklander, aged 94, passed away peacefully on September 21st. She was a pioneer who integrated Gestalt Therapy Theory and practice with play -therapy, bringing an accessible sensory rich and experience -near approach to child and adolescent psychotherapy. Her books, Windows to Our Children and Hidden Treasure became best sellers; they have been translated into many languages affording Violet international renown for her relational projective arts -based approach to Gestalt Therapy with young people.
When I first met Violet in 1999 at AAGT’s Manhattan conference I was enthralled by her creativity, wisdom and the vitality and warmth of her presence. I immediately signed up to her annual summer intensive in Santa Barbara the following year. Her training had a life- changing effect on me and on so many others. Over the years that followed she became my mentor and a dear friend.
Violet was truly an inspiration to many of us who sought to follow in her footsteps. She took a keen interest in the outreach work of the Oaklander Foundation of which she was a founding member, remaining an active participant in the Just For Now series of online training seminars until very recently. Throughout the Pandemic the Oaklander Model also found a regular home within CAIG, IAAGT’s Child & Adolescent Interest Group, providing regular dialogue and support to child therapists across continents. Violet’s legacy continues to flourish; her ideas from practice, training and writing over so many years have greatly influenced generations of children, families and therapists. She will be greatly missed.
Rest in peace, Violet.
Jon Blend (MA, Dip Psych, Dip Child, CQSW)
20 September 1935 – 11 May 2021
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It is a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” — Pema Chödrön
Cyndy Sheldon, MSW, was passionate about living Gestalt as a way of life and about egalitarian relationships from a Gestalt perspective. She trained many Gestalt therapists in the US and abroad and wrote two books: Gestalt As A Way Of Life and Don’t Tell Me What To Do…Ask Me!
Cyndy trained in Gestalt Therapy with Fritz Perls and Jim Simkin. At the suggestion of Dr. Perls, she co-founded the original Gestalt Institute of San Francisco in 1967, where she taught until 1990. While trained in several other therapeutic approaches, Gestalt remained her primary approach because of its comprehensive philosophy and its focus on growth rather than illness.
In the 1990s Cyndy moved to Arizona, where her work as a Social Worker put her in intimate contact with Navajo people and culture over the next decade. Later, in her books and teachings, Cyndy shared the profound congruences she noticed between Navajo culture and Gestalt as a way of life. She radiated a deep sense of wonder whenever she spoke of this chapter of life.
Cyndy moved to Bellingham, WA, in 2006, where she wrote her books, taught classes and led an ongoing Gestalt therapy training group that continued meeting right up until she passed away on May 11, 2021, at age 85. What’s more, Cyndy started a second training program, a Women’s Gestalt Group, a few months before her death.
At age 26, in her first workshop with Fritz in 1961, Cyndy heard an inner voice say, “You will be doing this work for the rest of your life,” and this was how her life unfolded; Cyndy would bring this work to many over the next 60 years.
Cyndy’s Legacy: In addition to her two books and countless students, Cyndy was featured in four thoughtful video interviews (conducted in the months before her death), in which she shares an intimate oral history of West Coast Gestalt. In addition to stories dating back to the early 1960s, she also shares the evolution of her own work, giving particular attention to the Egalitarian aspects of Gestalt. An article she penned a few years earlier on the original Gestalt Institute of San Francisco is on her website, as are her four video interviews and links to her two books. All of these resources can be found on her website.
Tribute to Cyndy by Patrick Dougherty
As I sit down to my computer to type this, I’m aware of the aloe plant in the large pot to my left, filled with healing juices, patient, still, and ready to be of service, while slowly growing to be of greater use. I’ve had it in my therapy office since 2014, just a few months after I met Cyndy Sheldon.
Cyndy struck me then as she did every day until her passing last week: Gentle, rooted in Egalitarianism, her radio tuned to helping others understand her walk of Gestalt as a Way of Life, (the title of her book), which appeared to me to make her practice as a Gestalt therapist seem effortless.
I was fortunate to start attending her training group shortly after meeting her, never being more than 7 or so people in a therapy office, or her homes around Bellingham, WA. I fondly remember being instructed to go into her garden and experience each plant as a child who has not yet discovered the words to describe what I encountered, rooting myself back to pure experience; Sitting across from another, sharing what I’m experiencing through my senses and when a thought would arise, exclaim, “I’m having a thought” and struggling to leave it at that as my mind wanted to describe itself; and sharing the training space with several non-therapists, as Cyndy imbued the greater world with Gestalt principles and thought that cultivating Gestalt in community was a virtuous and worthy endeavor. Not the least of these was her voice so melodious in my head now: “I don’t believe in labels.”
I now sit in a place of wealth, that I received a morsel of the greatness she offered, and knowing that the lives she touched will be forever joyful that they were lucky enough to bask and learn in her presence. If you didn’t know Cyndy well, I encourage you to peruse her website, especially her books and videos, and other sharing about the development of the Gestalt world, from someone who watched Fritz Perls doing empty chair work with Sigmund Freud, and was at those early meetings with Fritz as the first West Coast Gestalt institutes were established.
With Love, Peace, and Awareness of my fingers on my keys, glancing at a handcrafted skull from Mexican artisans that today represents a great and masterful human that is Cyndy.
– Patrick Dougherty, Eugene, Oregon, USA
Tribute to Cyndy by Bruce Hostetter
As a friend, a student, and occasional handyman of Cyndy’s, I would like to add a few thoughts to Patrick’s. I was introduced to Cyndy as a handyman after she moved into her home on Samish Way. Because we’re both curious and talkative, it didn’t take long for her to discover that I was studying to be a life coaching, and I discovered she was a Gestalt therapist. Based on her instincts and reasons I still don’t understand, she invited me to take part in her Gestalt training group. That was about five years ago and I’ve been a student ever since.
I have been with her during every step of her journey since falling ill. I was able to visit her in the hospital up until the end. What really strikes me the most about my experience of Cyndy, is the congruency between the way she expressed her self in life and her teachings. Her teachings were deeply embodied in Cyndy the person. Even in the hospital, even when she was weak, when she shared a frustration, she fully asserted herself in a way that was respectful to others, consistent with her teachings. I also remember her dealing with some of her frustrations in the hospital, and then turning to me with great interest and re-focus, asking about one of my recent life experiences. I remember Cyndy as a full spectrum human being. Over time, whatever her range of emotional expression, I would be able to see and appreciate all aspects of who she was as a person. And she as well could receive all aspects of mine. I found that with Cyndy it was as easy to laugh as it was to be vulnerable. Cyndy, lived her principles.
Of all the principles of gestalt I believe that “Contactedness” stood out as one of the most important to Cyndy. What I consider to be the greatest gift received as her friend and student, is how these principles have slowly, through practice, become embed into own life. I was Cyndy’s “handy-man” and she was my “handy-woman” who fixed as many things in my life as I did in hers. Another manifestation of her deep, deep belief in the importance of egalitarian relationships.
I believe her spirit lives on in all she has touched emotionally.
– Bruce Hostetter
Tribute to Cyndy by Adam Ward
Cyndy Sheldon left four video interviews and two books in her wake; as a student and friend since 2010, I feel led to celebrate Cyndy and her life’s work by inviting you to dip into the wisdom within the accessible material she left behind.
The four (free) video interviews offer a first-hand account of the founding decade of Gestalt Therapy on the West Coast, personal accounts from her time with Fritz Perls (between 1961 and 1969), and an introduction to one of her major contributions to Gestalt: unpacking the Egalitarian aspects (and opportunities) within Gestalt Therapy.
As for her books, perhaps the themes in one of her titles resonates with you:
Gestalt as a Way of Life: Awareness Practices as Taught by Gestalt Therapy Founders and Their Followers;
Don’t Tell Me What to Do… Ask Me!: Creating Egalitarian Relationships from a Gestalt Perspective.
My life is richer for knowing Cyndy, and the many people and ways of being I came into contact with through her. I am grateful Cyndy left behind ways for me to share a sense of her (and her work) with you.
– Adam Ward, Washington State (US)
16 October 1932 – 10 May 2018
Alvin was a pioneer in community mental health, an esteemed educator who served Pennsylvania as Director of Equal Educational Opportunity in Higher Education, and a long-time therapist in private practice.
Many people who speak of him talk about his gregariousness, his capacity to “work the room,” and yet he listened in a way that conveyed that everything about you was of supreme importance to him. He loved his wife and children, and it showed. His delight with life was palpable. If you asked him how he was, he would say “Fantastic!!!” and was known to add that you should be careful because “it’s infectious.” And he loved the Gestalt community and was loved by many members of that community in return.
– Elizabeth S. Revell
10 June 1948 – 3 May 2017
Bob joined AAGT in May 2014 and died suddenly in May 2017. In those three short years he contributed hugely to AAGT. With his co-chair Daniel Bak, he fostered a revival in Interest Groups. He designed the printed programme of the Taormina joint conference, which had been considered impossible.
He expanded the role of Communications Officer, doing much to raise the profile of AAGT, steering more active promotion of AAGT, and bringing us into the 21st century with a Facebook page.
As a colleague Bob was lovely: warm, always prepared and informed, a generous and self-less enabler. I consider myself blessed to have had Bob as a fellow Board member.
He gave to AAGT unstintingly. We are grateful for who he was: for all of us. Thank you Bob.
– Toni Gilligan
Having known Bud for 4 decades beginning at Gestalt Journal conferences with a common interest in Gestalt group therapy, our relationship flourished when AAGT was founded. Bud and AAGT thrived as he took on responsibilities for numerous organizational activities and active leadership in many roles.
In 1998-99 he took responsibility for logistics for the NYC conference, at times personally paying for necessities while not requesting remuneration – just one of his many generous and unspoken gifts to our Association. Bud served as AAGT Treasurer 1999-2002, President-elect 2001, AAGT President 2002-04, and Past President 2005. He was conference co-coordinator for St. Petes Beach 2004 and 2006 biennial conferences, Organizational Affiliates Officer 2005-10, and Scholarship co-chair 2010-14. He continued 2014-16 to share his wisdom and leadership on the Board as At-Large Member. As if that wasn’t enough, he organized and coordinated three Annual General Meetings on odd years.
As many in the Gestalt community know, Bud’s heart and soul were invested in creating, managing and sustaining AAGT’s Scholarship Fund. His heartfelt services were recognized in 2014 when he was awarded AAGT’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Following Bud’s death, he was honored by naming the “Bud Feder AAGT Scholarship Fund” for his contributions of unceasing dedication and donations of time, talent, money, and his prudent leadership.
In addition to Bud’s dedication to AAGT he was recognized throughout the world for his knowledge and talents as Gestalt group therapist and these publications: Beyond the Hot Seat: Gestalt Approaches to Group (with Ruth Ronall); Peeling the Onion: A Gestalt Therapy Manual for Clients; Gestalt Group Therapy: A Practical Guide; A Living Legacy of Fritz and Laura Perls (with Ruth Ronal); and Beyond the Hot Seat Revisited (with Jon Frew).
– Ansel Woldt
Tribute to Bud by Jack Awlward
I first met Bud Feder in 1980 at a “massage workshop for couples” that I was offering at the Plainfield Consultation Center in New Jersey, the home of one of the “growth centers” of those times as well as my private practice. At the end of the weekend, Bud’s date came over to me and said: “I think you and Bud would work well together as group therapists.” That was all she said, and yet using enough insight to last the two of us for the next thirty-eight years. Our work together expanded into a variety of formats, as did the deep and wonderful friendship we shared.
Bud had two professional loves: The New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy and The Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy. As a member of the former, he remained active in many roles and responsibilities. As for AAGT, his passion was the Scholarship Fund. For many years we ran a pre-conference group experience, the fees for which were donated to that fund. His overall work on that committee reaped a total of over $100,000 over those years.
Both personally and professionally he loved what gestalt therapy had to offer. He gave to others both lovingly and generously, yet demonstrated the tenacity of a pit bull when feeling the need to protect the gestalt approach he so dearly loved. In many ways he fit Paul Goodman’s model of anarchism, most evidently seen in Bud’s consistent reliance on self-regulative autonomy with his clients, rather than on external authoritarian principles.
At the time of his death in 2018, his top fee for therapy was around sixty-five dollars per session. If you lost your job or insurance, he would make other arrangements or just let things continue as they were. The combination of his generous heart and clinical skill formed a unique gestalt in and of itself – one that touched many and provided me with all I could ever ask for as a therapist or as a human being.
20 May 1926 – 20 May 2011
Edwin Nevis was an editor, publisher, institute leader, mentor, professor, and entrepreneur. But above all he was a teacher who aimed to foster learning by breaking down material into digestible chunks.
His contributions to the Gestalt world are too many to list. He was a founding member and 11 year president of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and, along with his wife Sonia, created the Gestalt International Study Center. He co-founded Gestalt Review, two organizational consultant training programs and created and ran many conferences. He wrote and edited a number of books on organizational consulting and social change.
Throughout his life he was a fan of the working man, a fierce advocate for fairness and social justice, and always supported the underdog.
– Joe Melnick
4 September 1944 – 1 June 2017
Born Gillian Joubert in Northern Transvaal, South Africa, Gill studied medicine in Cape Town, after a year in the UK she returned to South Africa and a couple of years later emigrated to New Zealand. While living in Hastings UK, she studied Gestalt therapy, back in New Zealand she trained as a psychiatrist. She qualified as a Gestalt therapist in 1986 and in 1987 became a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, combining the holistic discipline of Gestalt psychotherapy with Psychiatry.
Gill was a founder of the Gestalt Institute of NZ in 1990. She coached a small group of us as New Zealand trainers and was especially proud of her tutorials on the interface between psychiatry and psychotherapy. Gill headed the training programme from 1990 until her retirement in 2000. She was part of the original Editorial Board for the British Gestalt Journal, a role she held until her retirement.
I was privileged to know her as a generous teacher, colleague and friend.
– Brenda Levien
8 September 1922 – 20 June 2016
Gert was a gem — smart, kind, loyal, warm, and funny – the “wise old woman” for many of us. Fleeing Vienna at 17 when the Nazi’s arrived, she and her family went to Dublin where she enrolled in Trinity College.
Eventually, she came to the USA and passed the Statue of Liberty. Holding hands, tears rolled down her face as she passed the Statue of Liberty once more on a boat ride during the NYC AAGT conference.
After finishing her PhD at University of Chicago, she came to Los Angeles with Hedda Bolgar (her mentor) and Alexander French to Cedars Hospital. A Gestalt therapist since the late 1960’s, she was a revered trainer for GTILA and then for GATLA. Moreover, Gert was a treasured friend and support to many. Truly loved and missed.
– Bob Resnick
11 September 1922 – 7 March 2016
What has always been notable to me about my relationship with Jan Rainwater was that she never seemed to have her “nose in the air” and “was a real down to earth” person. These qualities, along with a poster on her wall with the statement, “The world is full of possibilities that are limitless,” was a beacon and an encouragement for me to be more assertive and take more positive risks personally, and in my career as a therapist. I love her name, “Rainwater.” It has a musical and dancelike quality for me.
Jan was fierce and fearless, she was honest and creative, and she was a friend and a mentor to be treasured. Jan left an indelible mark on my life as well as on countless others’. She truly stands out, righteously as a champion of “goodness” and “continuous growth.” I am fortunate to have been “touched” by her in my life. Though her physical presence is no longer with us, her presence will always be.
– Nickie Godfrey
6 June 1926 – 24 February 2017
Jan Ruckert was a school psychologist in Southern California when she was invited to a training group with Jim Simkin and Fritz Perls because “they needed more women.” She became a trainer with the Gestalt Therapy Institute of Los Angeles in the early 1970s, was President, and served on the Board for the rest of her life. Jan joined the faculty of Pacific Gestalt Institute through 2017. She trained with GATLA Summer Residential as well.
In addition to being a creative therapist and trainer, Jan was a published poet and painted watercolor at Venice Art Studios. Her paintings grace the office of therapists around the globe.
A home burglary initiated Jan’s love of Rottweilers. Taking Lorelei (her first) to her office led Jan to write The Four-Footed Therapist and Are You My Dog?
Jan was the first Co-Chair of AAGT’s Scholarship Committee. She had a charming way of getting people to do things they had no idea they could do. Jan is well missed.
– Liv Estrup
23 December 1940 – 4 August 2016
Joel Latner can be best described as a renegade Renaissance individual possessed of a variety of strong passions and appetites. His practice of Gestalt therapy integrated his talents as a professional musician, gourmet cook, and political anarchist. Joel authored, The Gestalt Therapy Book, a classic resource for those in search of a clear and comprehensive understanding of the psychological and philosophical richness contained in the Perls, Hefferline and Goodman tome, Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality.
As a teacher, Joel emphasized the therapeutic importance of sensing the life and brightness of the figures that form in our work with those seeking our help.
While the life of Joel Latner is no longer with us, his brightness will continue to shine within the Gestalt community.
– Jack Aylward
25 September 1941 – 11 March 2017
Karen was a beloved friend, colleague, teacher and mentor to scores of Gestalt therapists throughout her long career at the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy.
Karen began studying Gestalt therapy with Lore Perls at the Institute in the 1960s. She soon found a therapeutic, social and political home engaging in spirited dialogues with Paul Goodman and other early teachers as part of her learning.
As a Fellow of the Institute, Karen never ceased to teach, supervise, and write about her passion for Gestalt therapy. She continuously supported the growth and changes of the Institute, and then AAGT, as they evolved, always providing a guiding hand with calm, wisdom and clarity.
– Lee Zevy
3 February 1947 – 15 July 2015
Ken Evans FRSA, President of the European Association for Gestalt Therapy from 2002-2008, founded the EAGT Human Rights and Social Responsibility Committee. Honoured and delighted to learn he was to receive The Maslow Award for Outstanding Services to Psychotherapy, his planned acceptance lecture included “the need for a radical re-think of our relationship with nature and non-human species, not simply for survival but for the reintegration of the human spirit.”
Ken was a much loved, charismatic, inspirational teacher, writer and lecturer, latterly continuing his vibrant psychotherapy career alongside sheep farming in rural Normandy. His chosen epitaph was:
Live life fully,
Become all that you can be.
Those who knew him would agree
His life was testament to this.
– Joanna Hewitt Evans
11 November 1937 – 20 August 2019
Les Wyman, master of metaphor, was known for his clarity, directness, and compassion, as well as his dry sense of humor. He was a loving and dedicated family man, loyal friend, adored by his grandchildren, and revered and deeply appreciated by his patients and mentees. He was a licensed pilot who loved carpentry, sailing, traveling and home repair projects. Lester lived at the contact boundary with authenticity and integrity. He died as he lived—on his own terms with agency and awareness after building his own casket.
Les was a native of Cleveland, Ohio, USA. After graduating from Brandeis University he returned to Cleveland where he worked as a social worker with community agencies, juvenile court, and the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. He achieved his PhD in social work from Case Western University, while continuing to be heavily involved in community organizations.
As a faculty member at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland from 1981, Lester developed and taught in multiple training programs, co-facilitated an on-going group for 17 years with his daughter, Amy, and was mentor, consultant, and therapist to many. Following his dream to enhance Gestalt training in Israel, he collaborated with a Turkish and several Israeli Gestalt therapists in developing ISRAGIC – residential trainings on the Sea of Galilee. He also left a lasting legacy still resonating through the corridors at the Gestalt Institute in Brisbane, Australia. He provided supervision and consultation locally and internationally until his last days.
– Marlene Blumenthal
07 June 1924 – 19 December 2001
Miriam Polster was a brightly spirited woman, whose very presence warmed the atmosphere among the people she was teaching. But there was more. In the quiet manner of her confident flow of language she got across her personalized understanding of principles that Gestalt therapists live by. There was a minimum of jargon or textbook style; much like a person at a party, just engaged in ordinary conversation. She attracted many people from all over the world to the Gestalt Training Center-San Diego, where, together with her husband, Erving Polster she spelled out a Polster flavor that gave equal billing to human qualities as well as techniques.
She wrote Eve’s Daughters: the Forbidden Heroism of Women, which celebrates the female champions of everyday life as well as the more familiar context of daunting dangers. She co-authored Gestalt Therapy Integrated, and From the Radical Center.
– Ervin Polster
Tribute to Miriam by Ervin Polster
I was married 52 years to my beloved Miriam, a woman of grace, freshness, and artistic savvy. She was especially devoted to music, her first love, which was always in the background of anything she did. Miriam was a singer and storyteller. She effortlessly got into the hearts of her listeners combining the natural skills of storyteller with her ability to frame her words as though each one was made to order for the sequence of her thoughts. Our house was always filled with music, often her own singing which filled the atmosphere. It was a captivating experience to listen to her. But the breadth of her perspectives went beyond music. When the children were old enough to be in school for most of the day she went to graduate school to become a psychologist. She was a natural learner and fell right into the teachings of psychology.
When we were first married, and she had no background in psychology, I was writing my dissertation and was told it needed further work. I was disheartened. But Miriam was just drawn to action. She sat down with me and we went through the dissertation, a paragraph at a time. She asked me to tell her what I meant and how this or that was related to that or this. Could I say what I meant in simple English? She inquired about my meanings, my continuity, my conclusions and the very air the dissertation breathed. Having a keen ear for the right word and with all the nobility of her function she remained down to earth, just folks.
She also had a lovingly acid humor. I remember one time long ago she wanted to create a rock garden and I was the one to lug the rocks. When friends asked her what that was like, with a twinkle in her eye, she said, “He worked like a dog, barking all the way.” Humor just rolled out of her.
Miriam was a gardener, a singer, a connoisseur of the arts. She had a large range of worldly context guiding her mind through the complexities of living. How lucky I was to be married to Miriam for 52 years.
28 August 1953 – 22 January 2018
Director, Moscow Institute of Gestalt Therapy and Psychodrama —a man of many facets, talents and involvements. He was a wonderful husband, father, son, friend, Gestalt therapist and trainer and a fierce fighter. Knowing and working with Nifont for over two decades, I have seen him refine and enlarge both his private and professional life – smart, ironic, creative, funny, stubborn and warm. Marrying Nadia Lubyanitskaya —a few years ago while battling a devastating cancer— they brought a new baby into the world, Lev (Lion) —now two years old and beautiful. Nifont’s creative gestalt therapy presentations began with the audience knowing little of what he was talking about – or where he was going. By the end, we knew and enjoyed what he was teaching —and everything connected. Nifont didn’t follow the grooves —he made them.
– Bob Resnick
11 January 1949 – 2 January 2018
Norman made therapy into the Art of Love. The congruence between his teachings and what he used to do in life is part of what he left with us: his ability to be friend, teacher, partner, father, therapist and colleague. He always aimed for what he used to say, “Be a better person.” The “little Norman bird on the shoulder” was always there during hard times.
His legacy is vast and broad, complete and complex. His writings reflect his style–simple and profound; as he used to say, “The mission is repetition.”
On his last day of training, Norman said, “Gestalt is about learning to close, to let go…” While going away, he gave us a teaching, an experience and an experiment… a Gestaltist till the end!
His strength and wisdom will continue guiding our hearts.
He is the light in moments of darkness.
He taught how to love with love.
He is our guide, our teacher, our friend.
He is the light of growth, of love, of wisdom!
– Pablo Allen
4 September 1949 – 19 January 2018
Peggy Cleary was the treasured chair of the GIT’s Board of Directors for many years. Sparkly and competent, Peggy’s open listening; clarity in communicating, her inclusiveness and her humour were appreciated by the faculty and the Board Members.
Peggy graduated from the G.I.T. training program in 2002, and integrated her Gestalt into her consultancy practice in the corporate world. She was one of a small number of graduates who took Gestalt into the corporate context in Toronto. Her work entertained and heightened awareness with lightness, humour and depth. Peggy lived a full life, generous, loving, awake and hard-working.
About five years ago, she began to experience symptoms of Multiple Systems Atrophy, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease. In close connection with her devoted partner of many years, Keith MacDonald, she attended to the quickly arriving changes in her condition and lived this difficult time with great courage and humour, with great strength and love. Together they came into close connection with family, friends and co-workers until the end of her life.
10 July 1927 – 10 September 2017
Sonia led a full life as an exceptional Gestalt therapist and teacher for over fifty years from Co-leading groups with Fritz Perls at Esalen, to creating the Center for Intimate Systems at the Cleveland Institute. In her later years, she co-founded with her husband, Edwin Nevis, the Gestalt International Studies Center in Cape Cod. Always interested in relationship and community, Sonia developed the Cape Cod Model and continued the Training Program for couples and family therapists worldwide.
Sonia was much loved and touched so many. I was privileged to know Sonia in her later years, experiencing her as a generous, insightful, wise and supportive friend. She was a key figure in the “Eaters and Writers” gatherings to support Gestalt writers. Sonia connected deeply to her family, friends, and mentees dedicating her life to helping others make a difference.
For Sonia remembrances-See GISC link to her memorial service and Gestalt Review, 2018 Vol.22, no. 1.
– Iris Fodor
1933 – 2019
Sylvia Fleming Crocker, whose creative thinking offered us a bold conceptualization of Gestalt therapy grounded in philosophical thought with prosaic nuances of its clinical applications. She was an avid reader, articulate debater, respected author, faithful Christian and a decent golfer who enjoyed classical and contemporary music, world-wide traveling, a good joke and drink now and then, stitching needlepoint while telling heart-warming stories from her life as a Gestalt therapist.
In the early 1980’s, Sylvia changed her career focus from professing philosophy to becoming a licensed counselor followed by training in Gestalt therapy with Miriam and Erving Polster who became life-long, esteemed friends. In the years that followed she trained with the GATLA faculty in their European summer programs. She supplemented her Gestalt training with psychodrama, which culminated in her developing an innovative, reflective, enactment-oriented Gestalt-psychodrama approach to dream therapy. Dreams, creativity and experiments were Sylvia’s passion. She established private practices in Laramie, Cheyenne and Rawlins, Wyoming and was well known throughout the state for 30 years, often sought as a presenter and workshop trainer for the Wyoming Counseling Association conferences.
Sylvia was one of the founders of AAGT where she chaired the Gestalt Theory Development Interest Group and served on the Board of Directors for 8 years. Her active involvement in the Gestalt Writers’ Collective culminated in authoring her classic book, A Well-Lived Life: Essays in Gestalt Therapy (1999). She was a prolific writer whose articles regularly appeared in all Gestalt journals. Sylvia’s life was enriched by and with philosophy. Existential philosophy permeated her thinking, her writings and her clinical work. She was committed to emphasizing the phenomenology of Gestalt therapy and was working on a book on the topic at her death. She was enamored with understanding, describing and clinically applying the nature of the phenomenological method with particular interest in Husserl’s method.
1 October 1926 – 22 May 2020
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