11th Scientific Convention of the GTA, March 11-14, 1999, University of Graz/Austria

Gestalt Theory and Psychopathology

Abstract of the lecture of

Gerhard STEMBERGER
Vienna (Austria)


Early Gestalt theoretical contributions in the field of psychopathology have attracted increased interest over the last years. Four years ago the SCHULTE/WERTHEIMER thesis on paranoia (1924)[1] was called back to mind by Michael RUH at the 9th Scientific Convention of the GTA in Osnabrück. [2] RUH pointed out the topicality and potential of this thesis for understanding not only paranoic but also other severe psychic disturbances. From there a vivid discussion about the foundations and implications of this thesis took its course within the psychotherapy section of the GTA which still continues. Independently from that but at the same time - also four years ago - Kevin CROCHETIÈRE, Nealy VICKER, James PARKER, D. Brett KING und Michael WERTHEIMER [3] from the University of Colorado made a contribution to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in New York which presented and discussed early applications of Gestalt theory in the field of clinical psychology and psychopathology (also including the SCHULTE thesis). This indicates renewed interest for a field of application of Gestalt theory which was in fact of great interest and importance for the founders of Gestalt theory and in which they stimulated and influenced scientific and research work of several of their students and other sympathizing psychiatrists and psychotherapists. But as a matter of fact, though Gestalt theory based or influenced work in this field was continued and developed over these last eight decades in many countries, its promising approach and findings have not yet found the broad resonance, integration and advancement which it deserved.

The lecture is organized in three parts:

1. In an introductory overview some rudimentary information is given about the early beginnings of Gestalt theory application in the field of psychopathology and about its further development.

2. Three of the early writings on psychopathology - inspired and influenced by Max WERTHEIMER - are presented briefly: The article by SCHULTE 1924 on paranoia and the two articles by Erwin LEVY on a case of mania (1936) and on the formal disturbance of thought (1943). [4] Some comments on these writings are given aiming at pointing out some characteristics of the Gestalt theoretical approach to psychopathological disturbances.

3. Finally an outline of basic characteristic ideas of a Gestalt theoretical psychopathology is presented, pointing out and discussing how these refer to the five interconnected meta-theoretical concepts of Gestalt theory listed by METZGER (the epistemological, psychological, psychophysical, methodological und system-theoretical concept).

See also: Questions and Answers about Gestalt Theory and Psychosis


References/Footnotes:

[1] SCHULTE, H. (1924). Versuch einer Theorie der paranoischen Eigenbeziehung und Wahnbildung. Psychologische Forschung, 5, S. 1-23. LEVY, Erwin (1986): A Gestalt theory of paranoia. Introduction, comment and translation of Heinrich Schulte . Gestalt Theory, 8, 230-255.
[2] RUH, M. (1996). Phänomenale Ordnung bei psychischen Störungen. Zur Aktualität der Thesen Heinrich SCHULTEs. Gestalt Theory, 18(1), S. 68-80.
[3] CROCHETIÈRE, Kevin; Nealy VICKER, James PARKER, D. Brett KING & Michael WERTHEIMER (1995): Early Applications of Gestalt Theory to Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology. August 7 draft of a presentation at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, New York, NY, August 11, 1995. Revised version published in Gestalt Theory, 23 (2/01), pp.144-154: "Gestalt Theory and Psychopathology".
[4] LEVY, Erwin (1936): A Case of Mania with Its Social Implications. Social Research, 3, S. 488-493.
LEVY, Erwin (1943): Some Aspects of the Schizophrenic Formal Disturbance of Thought. In: Psychiatry, 6, S. 55-69.
[The Gestalt Archive contains both LEVY articles for online reading in full text!]


And now the new book on this topic in German:

Gerhard Stemberger (Hrsg.):

Psychische Störungen im Ich-Welt-Verhältnis

Gestalttheorie und psychotherapeutische Krankheitslehre

Click here for further information (in German)


Wien 2002: Verlag Wolfgang Krammer
184 Seiten, Preis € 21,80 zuzügl. Versandkosten

Dieser Sammelband enthält einige frühe gestaltpsychologische Arbeiten zur Psychopathologie (Schulte/Wertheimer zur Paranoia 1924, Erwin Levy zur Manie 1936 und zur Schizophrenie 1943), z.T. erstmals in deutscher Übersetzung, und neue Diskussions- und Übersichtsbeiträge deutscher, österreichischer und amerikanischer PsychotherapeutInnen und Psychiater zur Aktualität dieser Ansätze für eine psychotherapeutische Krankheitslehre.

Nähere Informationen zu diesem Buch

Anfrage bzw. Bestellung per Email an Buchhandlung Krammer





This is a provisional abstract of the lecture. The final and complete version has been published in German in GTA's journal GESTALT THEORY :
Gerhard Stemberger: Gestalttheoretische Beiträge zur Psychopathologie. Gestalt Theory, 22 (1/2000), pp 27-46.
Copyright © 1999 , Gerhard Stemberger. All Rights Reserved.
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Most recent revision: 28.04.2002