One not about the “unconscious.” The word “gestalt” means

One
of the most common problems of most parents is disciplining their children. The
younger the child the earlier should be disciplined. Majority of the population
in the Philippines consist of the young ones or what they call the “Millenials
or Generation Y.” In the recent article of Sally Kane (2017), she listed down
the characteristics of today’s generation namely: tech-savvy, go-getters,
adventurous, narcissistic, lacks commitment, discipline, and drive,
non-religious, ambitious, family-centric, craves attention, team-oriented, and
job hoppers. Different disciplinary styles have been suggested by counselors,
child psychologists, and therapists to control the defiance, tantrums, and
anxiety of children. However, these techniques will not be effective if not
with proper execution. Behavioural techniques should be consistently
implemented in school, outside setting, and at home. Certain behavioural
technique is not applicable to all children. Each child adapts to different
disciplinary techniques. Correcting the behaviour of a child requires patience
and openness to try different styles that will carry out the best behaviour of
the child.

Gestalt
therapy is a psychological intervention developed by Fritz Perls in 1940. It
has been adapted from various interventions such as humanistic and existential.
The key difference is that it does not follow the psychoanalysis. It is not
about the “unconscious.” The word “gestalt” means that the whole is greater
than the sum of its parts. One of the important principles of Gestalt therapy
is awareness. The goal is to be mindful of one’s own existence. It is focused
on the “here and now”. Awareness of the present is more important than neither
the past nor the future. Furthermore, one of the famous techniques under
Gestalt therapy is Empty chair. This technique can be likened to a psychodrama
because it requires two chairs wherein the client will sit opposite to the
empty chair and imagine someone or parts of himself. Once the client has
imagined that person sitting on the empty chair he will talk to that person and
may do it the other way around. The therapist must be able to facilitate the
client to release his/her emotions and thoughts to be able to unfold the
therapeutic process. Empty chair is commonly used to treat addiction,
behavioural problems, stress, or even anxiety. It may also be done to resolve
unfinished business. On the other hand, the use of empty chair as a
disciplinary tool may be somehow different. The “Good chair and Bad chair” or
commonly known as “Happy and Sad chair” is a disciplinary technique used in
schools, child centers, and even at home. Good and bad chair is used to let the
child be aware of what he has done whether it may be good or bad. It is
patterned to the empty chair and is similar to “Time Out” where the child is
also asked to sit on the time out chair for few minutes. The child will be
released so long as he/she has realized his improper behaviour. The length of
stay in the time out chair depends on the age of the child.

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The
application of Good and Bad chair is very simple yet challenging. Once the
child did a good job or follow rules he/she gets a chance to sit on the Good
Chair and the other way goes to the Bad Chair if did not behave. It is a must
to explain it well to the child and make sure he/she understands it. There are
several studies made about the empty chair. One of which was made by Leslie
Greenberg. Greenberg and his colleagues conducted several studies such as
research in conflict resolution (2004), emotional injuries (2008), and
borderline disorder (2012) using the empty chair and in comparison to various
psychological interventions. It has been found that empty chair is more
effective in such a way that it uplifts self-understanding and reduces
self-criticism. On one note, Greenberg admitted that the use of empty chair in
borderline personality disorder is difficult and should be avoided. There are
also studies where the parents are the ones who undergo the therapy. According
to Cranshaw, Mordock & Aronson (2005), parents go through the empty chair
and resolve their issues first before they are able to successfully discipline
their children. The problems found in them are attached to how they should be
treating their children. In Brent International School in Laguna, preschool
teachers apply the good and bad chair in class for those who have transition
issues or problem. One student named Keanan Pinuay, who was 3 years old then,
used to have extreme behavioural problem. He used to hit his classmates and
disobey the teacher’s rules. He was given a warning on the first few encounter
but eventually advised to transfer school when his actions became persistent. The
student received the disciplinary intervention from teachers when in school and
advised the parents to continue at home for consistency. After one semester,
that is 5 months, Keanan’s undesirable behaviour has been corrected. He
eventually behaved properly in class, outside, and at home.

Studies
suggest that empty chair is an effective intervention to treat diverse problem.
Empty chair as a disciplinary tool for millennial children is effective as
well. However, the effectiveness depends on the consistency of the application
of the intervention. Also, the parents of the child should discipline him/her without
being mean by being patient, warm, and calm. Nevertheless, each child may adapt
to different disciplinary techniques. If one disciplinary technique is
applicable to a certain child it does not necessarily mean that it is
applicable and effective to all children. A great number of studies about
Gestalt therapy and empty chair were made and Strumpfel (2006) reviewed some of
these. He then concluded that empty chair is an effective approach to many
clients for it brought positive and a more stable outcome especially in
depression, anxiety, phobias, and children with problems in school. In
connection to this, Gwendolyn, the mother of Keanan, the child stated above,
has been pleased to see a positive outcome on his son’s problematic behaviour. Through
this intervention, Keanan did not need to transfer to a different school.

Among
all the interventions formulated and developed by psychologists, Gestalt
therapy is the one that allows the client to experience the “now” and see the
reality of what is in the present. With the use of empty chair, the client
becomes mindful of the whole situation. He/she is given the opportunity to
release the emotions and thoughts to a person or parts of himself/herself that
is not present by having a dialogue. This practice gave birth to different
disciplinary tools for children. One of which is the good and bad chair. It is
important for a child to understand what he/she has done whether it is right or
wrong. Letting the child take time to become aware and realize his/her actions
will help him/her to do better. Good and bad chair has been practiced in many
institutions and even at home. This has been proven to be effective in
disciplining the problematic behaviour of children especially now that most of
the behavioural characteristics of the millennial have grown out to be
negative.