Los Angeles is in the midst of a homelessness crisis. Many homeless individuals struggle with mental health issues and/or substance abuse, which increase their vulnerability. Almost all of them are experiencing some form of trauma, which manifests in a wide range of symptoms from mild depression and anxiety to severe psychosis. All too often these symptoms are exacerbated by alcohol and drug use and lead to behaviors that in many cases end up in further deterioration of a person’s situation, or worse, in arrest and incarceration.
Using case examples of working with homeless individuals on the street, this salon attempts to open a discussion of how approaching this population with an understanding of relational gestalt elements, such as phenomenology, dialogic method, and the paradoxical theory of change may be an alternative way to the commonly used approach by outreach workers and the mental health system.
Alexander Gittinger got his Masters degree in clinical social work in 2015. He is a certified alcohol and drug addiction counselor, and currently works as outreach specialist at The People Concern, a non-profit organization with the mission to empower homeless people to rebuild their lives. Alex is in his third year of training at the Pacific Gestalt Institute.