Gestalt Institute of San Francisco

Welcome to our online programs with live training groups in five countries.  We invite you join our mailing list and to watch an introductory video describing three key features of our trainings.  

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The Gestalt Institute of San Francisco 

Presents the gestalt approach as both a highly effective psychotherapeutic technology and an extraordinary path for personal growth. We offer high quality structured training in the context of experiential learning and live interaction. The behavioral "nuts and bolts" of the Gestalt approach are presented in an atmosphere of spontaneity, creativity, self-acceptance and group process. These elements form the essential training experience. As a result, participants begin to demonstrate not only skill acquisition, but also authentic expression and artistic development. The programs consist of a practical "hands on" approach to training with short to the point lectures, live demonstrations with critique, and supervised practice in dyads.

Even if you have little or no experience with process work, GISF's online programs are a great place to start. The building blocks of the Gestalt Approach are clearly presented to give the student a solid theoretical grounding while simultaneously the training group cohort as acts like a mirror displaying the students own history and psychic-organization. This fosters profound personal development, as each training cohort becomes like a “house of mirrors” reflecting back what each member brings to the other. Common inter-personal themes are quick to begin repeating themselves as trainees unconsciously perceive the group in the image of their own struggles. Before they know it, they are confronted with familiar feelings, blocks, and social conundrums. If all goes well, they soon find themselves in the midst of a “safe emergency” in which they uncover hidden patterns of behavior and experiment with taking new risks in their professional development.

The online training covers one year and consists of three academic quarters and an optional summer session in the European locations of northern Italy or the southern Greek Islands. This year it is in Hydra Greece. 

The three quarters: Winter, Spring, and Fall, bring to light the foundations of the gestalt approach and answer the important questions of "what a Gestalt Therapist really is and specifically how to work with gestalt clients in both clinical and organizational settings. The focus of the training is always on the practical application first and theoretical acumen second with a firm commitment not to present any theoretical material that is not demonstrable and directly experienceable by trainees. As a GISF student, you can rest assured that you will not be learning out of a book wondering what the real life clinical application really is? GISF only teaches what is known to be directly and immediately useful in the therapeutic context. 

How to enroll

Enrolling in the program is easy. Just get started with a few easy steps. 

Link for GISF Youtube Channel

Sample Theory Topics in the Gestalt courses. 


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.  


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. 


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 a more relational gestalt. 


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 dreamwork in themselves with others. 


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. 


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.







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. 


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. 

Projection G-THEORY 9


“If only people would get their 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. 


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 recognising and remobilising interruptions in self-experience. The five primary Contact Boundary Disturbances will be emphasised along with the manipulations that often accompany them. Participants will be encouraged to explore their own unfinished business and opportunities for remobilisation. Practical exercises and clear interventions will be offered for participants to directly experience unfinished business in themselves and others. 


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. 


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. 

Our Programs feature videos with World Recognized Trainers Like Joseph Zinker PhD.

Here Joseph is leading Gestalt Artmaking & Aesthetics  with faculty and trainees from San Francisco Bay Area.

Inquire about GISF program video content.

Meet Alek a local Bay Area first year trainee 

A first year trainee at GISF and a  graduate student at the Wright Institute, Alek quickly caught onto the Gestalt method and started applying it in his practicum early in the program.  

Inquire about discount Graduate Student fees.

Relational Gestalt Art Therapy

Our one of a kind program that teaches Art Therapy as a relational experience.

Inquire about GISF Art Therapy Certification.

Listen to the Director talk about the origin of our program design. 

In this video from 2010, Morgan explains how he designed the program working with IAAGT and Esalen Institute in the mid 1990s. 

Inquire about GISF in relation to other organizations.

International Students Welcome

You don't need perfect English to participate in our programs. We appreciate having a diverse student population and realize that different cultural backgrounds only serve to strengthen the experiences we offer. 

Inquiry about GISF International Programs.

1st Year Certification 


Couples Certification 


 Introduction to Gestalt 


See the Full Gestalt Institute of San Francisco Course List.

Iliana Stamogiannou, Ph.D., Counselling Psychologist - Psychotherapist

I am very pleased; I liked the entire experience and Morgan’s style. While I left the seminar with many reflections regarding myself as a person and also as a therapist because of his method (because I come from a different approach), at the same time he helped me to go forward with my therapy. He annihilated my guilts and now I can be more free and authentic as a therapist and also in my everyday life.

Elena Lumen, Ph.D. Psychologist

Morgan is professional and authentically interested in people's healing. One of the leading Gestaltists in the world, he started me on the journey of becoming a Psychotherapist. I use the skills I got from him with each and every client. As a client I felt really seen and understood by Morgan. Morgan has the ability to contact deeper processes and bring them to the surface with mastery; at the same time, he is humble, caring, and honest.

Sally Cojean MA Paris School of Gestalt 

Morgan Goodlander is one of the most talented trainers I have ever witnessed.