All of our programs are designed to prepare trainees in what we consider the areas of core competency for contemporary relational gestalt therapy practice. Although none of our programs requires a multiyear commitment, competency in these areas usually evolve over the course of several years of study and practice. For those who are interested, the faculty offers an examination series whose successful completion leads to certification as a gestalt therapist. The amount of training needed to prepare for certification varies for each trainee.

Process for Certification in Gestalt Therapy

We value your desire to engage with us in what we hope will be a meaningful experience in your development as a Gestalt therapist.

Certification Requirements

Certification by PGI is conferred by the faculty after the trainee has passed a series of examinations testing the candidate’s theoretical and clinical knowledge and practice. Certification requires a minimum of 220 hours (roughly 4 years) of training. Of the 220 hours of training, up to 1 year (60 hours) can be credited from another gestalt training institute, pending faculty approval. Additionally, 50 hours of individual Gestalt Therapy and 75 hours of Gestalt supervision are required. Minimum hours do not guarantee readiness for examination.

A trainee’s candidacy for certification will be approved by the faculty based on the trainee’s demonstrated clinical competency via practice work and articulation of theory during the training.

Before beginning the certification process, trainees are expected to have a mastery of basic theory. Examinations are designed to test competency in articulating and skill in applying the following concepts:

  • Field Theory
  • Phenomenology
  • Dialogue
  • Paradoxical Theory of Change
  • Organism/Environment Field, Contact and Awareness
  • Organismic Self Regulation (OSR)
  • Character Styles
  • Shame Process

In addition, trainees should be familiar with the following:

  • Group Process
  • Gestalt Psychology
  • Existential Thinking
  • Body Process
  • Creative Adjustment
  • Working with Experiments
  • Gestalt Perspective on Anxiety
  • Other Psychotherapeutic Approaches, for example, Contemporary Psychoanalytic Approaches.

Certification Fee

The required fee is $400 (U.S. Dollars). In cases of significant need, scholarships are available.

Examination Series

The examination series is structured as follows:

1) A four-hour, closed book take-home written examination designed to assess the depth and breadth of the trainee’s understanding of theory as well as ability to work with and relate the concepts to each other and to clinical practice.

2) A clinical examination in which the candidate will be required to demonstrate his/her clinical acumen. The candidate will have a choice between 3 different formats as highlighted below:

  • A live demonstration with other trainee(s) while being observed by faculty.
  • A written case study that demonstrates his/her clinical knowledge and the ability to apply it. If this option is chosen, a member of the faculty will provide you with a framework for your case write up.
  • An audio recording and written analysis of a session with a current client. If this option is chosen, a member of the faculty will provide you with the framework for your written analysis.

3) The oral examination consists of a meeting with 2 faculty members for 60 to 90 minutes. The oral exam questions will assess the candidate’s ability to articulate basic theory, to relate gestalt theory concepts to each other & to clinical practice and to engage in a theoretical dialogue with others. The questions may include follow-up questions from the written and clinical examinations. In addition, time may be spent reflecting on and processing the trainee’s certification experience.

Please note that the number of exams that can be given is limited. Because the faculty has limited time, we must limit the number of exams that we can give in any particular year. Exams will, therefore, be given on a first come, first served basis in conjunction with the faculty’s assessment of the trainee’s readiness.

If you fail any part of the exam, you will be allowed to retake it for no additional fee. In cases where the performance is not at a passing level, the faculty is committed to helping the trainee as much as possible to get ready to retake the exam.

Recommended Reading

The following reading list is recommended for preparation for the certification exam.

Gestalt Therapy

Beisser, A. (1970). Paradoxical theory of change. In J. Fagan & I. Shepherd (Eds.). Gestalt therapy now (pp. 77-80). New York: Harper.

Perls, F., Hefferline, R. & Goodman, P. (1994/1951). Gestalt therapy: excitement and growth in the human personality. New York: The Gestalt Journal Press. (originally published 1951).

Polsters, E. & Polster, M. (1974). Gestalt therapy integrated. Highland, NY: The Gestalt Jounral Press.

Polster, E and Polster, M. (1999). From the Radical Center: The Heart of Gestalt Therapy. Cambridge, MA: The Gestalt Institute of Cleveland Press.

Yontef, G. M. (1993). Awareness, dialogue & process. Highland, NY: The Gestalt Journal Press.


Ihde, D. (1977). Experimental Phenomenology: An Introduction. Albany: State University of NY.

McConville, M. (2001). Let the straw man speak: Husserl’s Phenomenology in Context. Gestalt Review, 5(3), 195-204

Spinelli, E. (1989). The interpreted world: An introduction to phenomenological psychology. London: Sage Publications.

Yontef, G. M. (1993). Awareness, dialogue & process. Highland, NY: The Gestalt Journal Press.

Field Theory

Latner, J. (1983). This is the speed of light: Field and systems theories in Gestalt therapy. The Gestalt Journal, 6(2), 71-90.

Parlett, M. (1991). Reflections on field theory. The British Gestalt Journal, 1, 69-81.

Yontef, G. M. (1993). Awareness, dialogue & process. Highland, NY: The Gestalt Journal Press.

Shame Process
Lee, R. & Wheeler, G. (1996). The voice of shame: Silence & connection in psychotherapy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Yontef, G. M. (1993). Awareness, dialogue & process. Highland, NY: The Gestalt Journal Press.


Hycner, R. & Jacobs, L. (1996). The healing relationship in Gestalt therapy: a dialogic-self psychological approach. Highland, NY: Gestalt Journal Press.

Jacobs, L. & Hycner, R. (Eds.). (2009). Relational approaches in gestalt therapy. New York: GestaltPress/Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Yontef, G. M. (1993). Awareness, dialogue & process. Highland, NY: The Gestalt Journal Press.


Fairfield, M. (2004). Gestalt groups revisited: A phenomenological approach. Gestalt review, 8(3), 336-357.

Frank, R. (2001). Body of awareness: A somatic and developmental approach to psychotherapy. Cambridge, MA: Gestalt Press/The Analytic Press.

Frank, R. & La Barre, F. (2010). The first year and the rest of your life: movement, development and psychotherapeutic change. New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.

Kepner, J. I. (1983). Body Process: A Gestalt approach to working with the body in psychotherapy. Cambridge, MA: Gestalt Press/The Analytic Press.

Wheeler, G. (2000). Beyond Individualism. Hillsdale, NJ GIC Press Book/The Analytic Press

Wheeler, G. and Ullman (Eds.). (2009). CoCreating the field: intention and practice in the age of complexity (evolution of gestalt). Gestalt Press/Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.

For more information on certification, please contact us.

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Armin Baier
L.C.S.W., J.D.

Ren Barnebey

Christine Campbell
M.F.T., A.T.R.

Lynne Jacobs

Michelle Seely

Gary Yontef
Ph.D., A.B.P.P.

Pacific Gestalt Institute

1800 Fairburn Ave
Suite 103
Los Angeles, CA 90025
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