Abstract

Following on a tripartite series of articles entitled “(Gestalt) Pathways of Dissemination” (Fisher 2017a, 2017b, 2017c), this article explores the parallel lasting influences of Fritz Perls and Werner Erhard, the founder of est (Erhard Seminar Training). At the junction between the cultural milieux of the 1960s and 1970s, Perls and Erhard each drew on and contributed to the human potential movement and the vogue for personal growth that gained international strength after 1964. But, unlike Perls, Erhard was also a savvy businessman who made est into a successful for-profit enterprise that set the stage for countless further seminars and workshop series after 1971. His standard training seminar integrated Gestalt therapy with a host of other awareness techniques and quickly gained the attention of a massive American audience. With the help of media coverage and television appearances, Erhard became the classic celebrity “trainer” of the 1970s. By blending therapy and coaching into a compact, transformational weekend workshop, est created a new template that remains controversial, and which begs a closer look in the context of Gestalt theory and practice.

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