Dorothy Siminovitch, PhD, Master Certified Coach, founder of Gestalt Coaching Works, LLC, and international coach, consultant, group facilitator, presenter/speaker and author

#038: A Tale of Many Cities: Gestalt-based Executive & Team Coaching and Awareness IQ

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and today’s guest and pioneering organizational coach Dr. Dorothy Siminovitch for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast. Dorothy Siminovitch, PhD, MCC is a Master Certified Coach, the founder of Gestalt Coaching Works, LLC and an international coach, consultant, group facilitator, presenter/speaker, and author. She is founder, co-owner, faculty, and Director of Training for the Gestalt Coaching Programs in Istanbul and in Toronto, both ICF-ACTP coach training programs. She is also co-founder of the Gestalt Center for Coaching, which delivers ICF-accredited coach training workshops and extended programs internationally. In this episode of the podcast Dorothy shares her journey into Gestalt-based coaching which she pioneered 20 years ago. Themes explored in the podcast include: the shift in human collective consciousness required to adapt to a VUCA world; an introduction to Gestalt approaches to intervention; key Gestalt principles and practices and how they inform coaching individuals and teams; levels of system; the influences of Appreciative Inquiry, Adult Learning Theory and Intentional Change on Gestalt-based practice; as well as a range of tips and techniques for applying Gestalt thinking to team coaching. Dorothy also shares a story from her team coaching practice and also introduces listeners to her latest area of innovation: Awareness IQ. Finally she shares information about her coach training programs in Toronto and Istanbul. Dr. Siminovitch is truly one of the pioneers and leading figures in the field of Gestalt-based coaching.  Every team coach will surely want to dive into the depths of Dorothy’s experience and wisdom in this episode!

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Contact Dorothy


Part 1 – Getting to Know the Coach: Dorothy Siminovitch, PhD


  • Splits time between Toronto and Istanbul
  • Master certified coach
  • Founder of Gestalt Coaching Works, LLC
  • International coach, consultant, group facilitator, presenter, speaker, and author
  • Founder, co-owner, faculty, and director of training for Gestalt coaching programs in Istanbul and Toronto, both ICF and ACTP coach training programs
  • Also co-founder of Gestalt Center for Coaching which delivers ICF-accredited coach training workshops and offers extended programs internationally
  • Graduate of Case Western Reserve’s department of Organizational Behavior
  • While faculty at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, Dorothy envisioned and championed the application of Gestalt theory and coaching in 1995
  • Has delivered Gestalt-based training since 1996 in Cleveland, Istanbul program was the second, and Toronto-based program launches in 2016
  • Sees New York as a central place, proud to talk to
  • Gestalt as a “tale of many cities,” grew up in Montreal, went to Cleveland where she could study Gestalt
  • Learning Gestalt theory helped learn how to appreciate whole range of emotions, modalities, experiential learning
  • Partnered with former students in Istanbul; now inspiring partners & colleagues, keeps her young!
  • Just finished workshop in Toronto
  • Gestalt theory has felt like a gift – not therapy, not consulting, but “coaching” – support in goals and celebrate when succeed
  • Conditions of VUCA: vision, understanding, clarity, agility. We could be living in “VUCA shock” right now. How to re-center after challenges of VUCA? Gestalt thinking is one answer to that.
  • Knowledge is not the same as awareness (vertical-based knowledge): in the moment, what are you seeing and not seeing (Nick Petrie)
  • Distinction between knowledge and wisdom: too much knowledge and not enough wisdom to integrate it
  • Coaching as an accelerant to help this shift in consciousness

Part 2 – Approach to Coaching

High level overview of Gestalt theory

  • When we speak a language we connect to the language holder. Gestalt is a German word – people ask what is it? Three ways to define Gestalt:
  • Gestalt is defined as a way of understanding the whole; whole is perceived as greater than the sum of its parts (analogy of the face: eyes, lips, nose, etc add up to a face); “big picture”
  • We see reality according to how the seer constructs it? “Figure ground” – we all pay attention to different things and none of us is wrong. Conflict and disagreement arises about what is “right” – “Beyond wrongdoing and right doing is a field; I will meet you there.” How to hold multiple perspectives? Important for diverse settings especially
  • Gestalt theory took ideas from Gestalt psychology: understanding how our history can drive our perspective; then Gestalt consulting; and Gestalt coaching (people doubted it would work) à moves beyond expertise model to creating a safe space to be challenged by a trusted coach
  • To learn you need to be involved; wherever you are challenged you can create learning experiences; becoming a master of how to be in the moment now (mindfulness element)
  • Gestalt coaches are not there to make people do anything; it’s to support in becoming more aware of patterns, desires, challenges. “Awareness agent.”
  • Paradoxical theory of change: job is not to make you different, it is to make you aware of what you already are. Awareness becomes a galvanizing force.
  • Systems approach: emotional, somatic capacities (in an individual, interpersonal, subgroup, group level)

Gestalt-based Team coaching

  • Interest of transparency: Dorothy came to work with Krister’s team – part of the reason he is doing the podcast now. Remembers powerful conversations (individual, dyadic, group); led to transformative impact, knocked them out of a routine
  • Awareness is not formulaic – has some emotion, prompts action, how to satisfy a compelling figure? Then closure about how it went.
  • When talking about teams, we are leaders, facilitators, interveners. As a leader you have to be available as a guide for the team to do their work. Involves consciousness on the part of the leader. As a facilitator, who am I? What theories of groups inform this? Need to know history of the group, context, end. What is the structure? Start by asking each individual what they want for themselves and for the group – lots of information to start with. (I, we, interpersonal levels)
  • Team coaching is not group therapy.
  • Differentiation: what happens when people feel safe enough to disagree. Form of innovation which always feels like chaos.
  • As a coach, fostering interaction among people in the group, instead of always directing back to yourself as the leader
  • Working multiple levels of systems, integrating learning early on
  • Importance of closing down: what do you want more or less of? What is unfinished?
  • Pay attention to what you have energy for. Closure as looking for the gold of learning. Metaphor of taking things home from a trip to a new city: need to pack them carefully so you have them when you get home.

Exploring a case

  • Leadership retreat with a well-known leadership group
  • Ongoing group, leadership had recently changed due to health problems
  • Intro over email: What challenges have to be met? Then phone call with individuals ahead of time
  • Nothing replaces getting in touch with each other
  • Importance of transparency
  • How available am I to being a trustworthy agent? Send a message that it’s the work of the team. Being strong enough to be a wall, but knowing when to get out of the way.
  • Challenge of this team was how to go forward vibrantly? How to continue to grow and support the new leader
  • Contact happens at the boundaries – talk directly to person
  • All groups naturally have constellations – who talks to one another, who avoids one another? Without addressing this you have “alienated parts” and the group is allowing that
  • Group was able to articulate strengths, two books came out of it
  • Group is changed, individual coaches are changed as well
  • High level learnings: individual work is group work, quality of appreciativeness, want to assist people in taking a risk, but not risk their integrity, managing the safe emergency
  • David White poem: we shape ourselves to fit the world and by the world we are shaped, working with the visible and the invisible to produce the miraculous
  • We want to work with what we see, and then search for what hasn’t been said or considered possible before now? Waiting for the future to emerge. “When people conspire together they breathe together”
  • “Knowledge is a rumour until it is in the muscle” – Balinese saying
  • Awareness intelligence, informed by Gestalt thinking
  • We have functional splits in our awareness process; “la deformation professionelle”
  • Importance of failing and learning. Are we in congruence with our values?
  • “We convince by our presence” – Whitman
  • Emotion is the glue
  • Capacity for caring for yourself is key to awareness intelligence.
  • How do we show our concern for others? Erickson: pseudospeciation
  • Knowing when to use our voice – as coaches, OD practitioners, group leaders
  • The unsaid things we really believe in will come back to us, we ruminate over them
  • Awareness intelligence: we need to recognize faster in the moment, and appreciate learnings
  • Article recently published in Choice magazine — sign up for Dorothy’s direct mailing list and get access to the article!

Part 3 – Words of Wisdom & Contact

  • “If I am not from myself, who will be for me? If am not for others, then what am I? If not now, then when?”
  • Email: dorothy@gestaltcoachingworks.com
  • gestaltcenterforcoaching.com


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