Hans-Jürgen P. Walter (* March 25, 1944 in Weidenhausen, Germany) is a German psychologist and psychotherapist known as the main founder of Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy. Walter worked with Wolfgang Metzger, one of the most eminent representatives of second generation Gestalt theory in Germany. Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy found considerable recognition as a scientific psychotherapy method in German-speaking countries.
Life and study
Between 1965 and 1971 Hans-Jürgen Walter studied psychology and German studies in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany. In 1977 he earned his doctorate in Darmstadt with a thesis on Die Gestalttheorie als wissenschaftliche Grundlage psychotherapeutischer Praxis und ihre Beziehung zu psychotherapeutischen Ansaetzen der Gegenwart ("The Gestalt theory as a scientific base for psychotherapy practice and its relation to contemporary approaches in psychotherapy"). This thesis – held in high regard by Wolfgang Metzger - shows that Gestalt theory is an appropriate framework to integrate the methods and merits of many other psychotherapeutic schools, especially the analytic and the humanistic ones. This work has appeared in 1994 in its third and enlarged edition under the title Gestalt Theorie und Psychotherapy. Zur integrativen Anwendung zeitgenoessischer Therapieformen ("Gestalt Theory and Psychotherapy: an integrative approach to contemporary forms of psychotherapy"). It is considered the basic text for Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy.
Walter held a teaching position for Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy at the University of Vienna and at several psychotherapy institutes in Germany and Austria. He is honorary chairman of the International Society for Gestalt Theory and its Applications and one of the editors of the international multidisciplinary journal Gestalt Theory.
Many years of intensive pursuit of theoretical and practical evaluation of several psychotherapeutical approaches preceded Walter's formation and development of Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy. Before him, other well-known representatives of Gestalt psychology of the Berlin school, especially in the U.S.A. (for example Erwin Levy, Abraham S. Luchins, Erika Oppenheimer-Fromm, Molly Harrower, Junius F. Brown and other students of Kurt Lewin) had stated their opinions and elaborated theoretically and practically on applying Gestalt theory to psychotherapeutic problems. Walter, however, earned recognition for being the first to generally, originally and stringently use the theoretical and practical possibilities of Gestalt theory to formulate a consistent and encompassing Gestalt theoretical approach to psychotherapy. In addition to this, he also demonstrated that it was possible to use Gestalt theoretical principles in order to develop and extend the Gestalt therapy of Fritz Perls, which Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy is related, but not identical, to.
One of the most striking characteristics of Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy is the key role of the epistemological grounding position of Gestalt theory (critical realism) and its applicability to the fundamental, theoretical and practical problems in psychotherapy. In Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy this is closely bound up with the basic methodological approach (holistic, phenomenological, experimental) of Gestalt theory, its system theoretical approach, its specific psychophysical and psychological approach. Walter brings all of these approaches together, as well as the long and rich tradition of Gestalt theoretical experimental research.
- Hans-Jürgen P. Walter: Gestalttheorie und Psychotherapie (Gestalt theory and psychotherapy). Westdeutscher Verlag: Opladen 1994 (3. Auflage).
- Hans-Jürgen P. Walter: Angewandte Gestalttheorie in Psychotherapie und Psychohygiene (Applied Gestalt theory in psychotherapy and psychohygiene). Westdeutscher Verlag: Opladen 1996.
- Entry about life and work of Hans-Jürgen P. Walter in: G. Stumm, A. Pritz (Hrsg.), Personenlexikon der Psychotherapie, Springer: Vienna 2003