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Laura Perls

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Laura Perls was the wife of Frederick S.Perls (Fritz Perls) (1893 - 1970). She was a noted German-born psychologist and psychotherapist and helped establish the gestalt school of psychotherapy. Laura Perls was born Lore Posner, in 1905 (Litt, n.d.). She became interested in psychology when she was 16 (Fadiman & Frager, 2002). Like many before and after her, her interest began after reading Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams" (Fadiman & Frager, 2002).

In 1930 she married Frederick Perls (Litt, n.d). They had met while working at the Frankfurt Psychological Institute (Litt, n.d.). The Perls had to flee Germany during the rise of Nazi power (Litt, n.d.). They then spent ten years in South Africa (Litt, n.d.). It was there that the Perls wrote their first book together, Ego, Hunger and Aggression, in 1942 (Litt, n.d.). This work held the beginnings for their new theory of psychotherapy, Gestalt Therapy (Litt, n.d.).

In 1951 the Perls, Paul Goodman and Ralph Hefferline published "Gestalt Therapy" (Litt, n.d.). By 1952 with the help of Paul Goodman, they established the Gestalt Therapy Institute in New York (Fadiman & Frager, 2002,Litt, n.d.). This new style of therapy consisted of facing the client to notice his or her postures and gestures (Fadiman & Frager, 2002). After a few years Frederick and Laura separated (Fadiman & Frager, 2002). While Frederick traveled, Laura stayed in New York to continue working with the institute (Litt, n.d.). She was loved and respected by her colleagues (The Gestalt Therapy Page). Sadly Laura Perls died in 1990, at the age of 85 (Litt, n.d.). Her memory lives on in the Gestalt Therapy Institute.

Laura Perls was both the training therapist and a student of Paul Goodman. He had been in therapy with Alexander Lowen from whom he learned a more "hands on" approach to therapy whereby the therapist touches the patient to encourage deeper breathing, for example. Goodman taught this approach to Laura. Consequently, many Gestalt therapists trained by Laura Perls and her students use a more hands on approach than Fritz Perls did. (See Here Now Next: Paul Goodman and the Origins of Gestalt Therapy by Taylor Stoehr.) In this way, Gestalt therapy has been influenced by Wilhelm Reich twice, firstly by Reich's Character analysis which was developed within a psychoanalytic framework and which Laura and Fritz Perls learned in Germany, and secondly by Reich's later Orgonomic psychotherapy which treats the mind through manipulation of the body's bio-energy or orgone (and which Reich developed primarily in Scandinavia and the United States). Lowen, one of Reich's American patients, took over many of Reich's ideas to develop his own therapy which he called bioenergetic analysis or simply bioenergetics.

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