John-Paul Flintoff




Using Theatre To Do Therapy: Fritz Perls and Gloria

Years ago, while training as an executive coach, I was also training in impro. Naturally, I was excited to learn about the work of Fritz Perls, the therapist who employed theatrical techniques he had learned as a young man.

In Gestalt sessions, Perls didn’t look into patients’ past or future but encouraged them to be entirely present, so that they might notice what he called the “civil war of inner conflicts”.

Rather wonderfully, you can watch him at work on YouTube.

“I disregard most of the content of what the patient says,” he explains in this video (below), “and concentrate most on the non-verbal level.”

I recommend that you watch all the way through, because his introductory remarks are helpful. When you get to 4mins 20sec, you’ll see the first moment where he draws attention to a seeming conflict between 1) what a patient says and 2) what she does:



Do you ever do what Gloria did? I certainly do.

In my next post, I’ll share another thing Perls did which I subsequently used, often to tremendous laughter, in corporate workshops that were not “therapy” but straightforward impro.

It turned out to be incredibly valuable to me in psychiatric hospital. But that’s another story!

Posted: September 15, 2020

Keywords: fritz perls, coaching