Question: Good afternoon, Father Andrew. I would like to know if the Orthodox Church approves of Gestalt therapy because I plan to specialise in this method. I’ve read many articles, and now I’m of two minds about it. Thank you for your answer. Anna.
Answer: It depends on how you will treat people. If you resolve to help them; if you ask God to help the people who come to you and if you introduce them to the church and invite them to let God into their lives, then it will be great. If you venture to rely on yourself, on your own power, then you may harm a person’s soul and infect him with your own “quirks”.
What is important is your perception of your occupation as a kind of ministry for God’s sake and for your neighbours’ sake; as an opportunity to make people more peaceful, to help them to discover new resources that will enhance their lives, and generally to show them the way to the Church and give them hope for the eternal life.
As a (now retired) therapist myself, let me add to Fr. Andrew's wise words. As you pursue this training, always remember that the true "cure of the soul" is only possible in the Church by leading the life that the Church prescribes. That being said, the science of Psychology can provide us with tools for coping with the world around us – for adapting and adjusting to the stresses of worldly life. This is not a cure, or even a "prevention", but it simply is a means of allieviating the symptoms of the core illness of the soul's sickness in order that we can focus on the work of pursuing the true cure, not unlike taking an aspirin to relieve a headache so that you can focus on finding and eliminating the cause of the headaches. To be a counselor is a good profession as long as you keep this in mind. Also, do not neglect the health of your own soul pursuing the path of salvation laid out before us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, do not neglect to use the spiritual tools available to you – especially remember to pray for each and every one of your patients, whether or not they are believers, because our Lord desires that no one is lost but that all men are saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.