Gestalt OSD – making a difference with your presence
by enhancing your awareness, knowledge, skills
and developing your self-mastery.

Who We Are



Natural Change

Cycle of Experience

Scanning and
Making Meaning

Six Triangles

Developmental Perspective
and Making Choices

Types of Change

Leading and Managing
Orchestrated Change

Unit of Work

Home 2018-07-13T12:56:43+00:00

Greetings! And Welcome!

You have found your way to the GestaltOSD web site. This is not your typical organization web site. This website is dedicated to the journey of self discovery.

Individuals interested in self-mastery, use of self as an intervener across multiple levels of system, and making a difference with your presence will find theory, concept, method, tool and techniques to support their journey. The OSD body of knowledge is based on natural human processes that are already present within each individual and are present at every level of system. When these processes are brought into awareness within any level of system – individual, two person and group level – awareness, knowledge and skills are enhanced. Healthy interactions occur creating shifts and changes.

Good News: You can practice and experiment with using the GestaltOSD conceptual models while watching television, sitting in any group or simply attending to your own experience at any moment in time.

Expectations: You cannot read the material on this web site as you might read a typical article or book. The material is not presented in a manner that it can be easily swallowed whole nor is it suitable to speed reading. Some of the material will seem to be written in a foreign language and this is intentional. The language used is actually quite easy to learn since it is based on natural human processes. Where possible participating in a learning group or community where the GestaltOSD language is used overtly is highly recommended.

Self-mastery requires work, practice, practice, and practice. One must learn to fully accept anxiety and excitement, learn from failure, and appreciate the appropriate role of emotion.  Self-mastery cannot be achieved by reading a book, looking at a video or hearing about the experiences of another person.

In the second phase of this web site construction we will post experiments that can be used by individuals or in small groups to experiment and practice using the conceptual models.

Right now, using the frames of reference, you can become aware of your habitual processes and changing your pattern of behavior will change your experience and potentially change your life.

The language presented in the theory and conceptual models when used as an internal operating system by the individual increases one’s ability to scan the internal and external environment more effectively and efficiently. The ability to scan one’s internal and external environment better than another individual with the same resources provides a significant competitive advantage in making one’s desired outcomes a reality.

We hope you will come back again and again to experiment, play and learn how to decrease your interruptions to contact and make a difference with your presence.

Our intent with this web site is to make the body of knowledge that has become known in the field of applied behavior science as GestaltOSD readily accessible and available to the general public. Our goal is to within the next three years post on the web site all of our archived materials related to the body of knowledge and our forty plus year journey as a GestaltOSD Center.

Gestalt psychology and methodology have provided powerful concepts—eight of which follow—that can be used in organizational training and development. While these concepts are not new, they have only recently been integrated with systems theory. Much of this work of inte­gration and application has been done at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland (Ohio) by John Carter, Ed Nevis, Elaine Kepner, and Carolyn Lukensmeyer.


"Figure" and "ground" always exist in relationship to each other. The Gestalt figure is the focus of attention, or image, while the Gestalt ground is the background against which the image appears or is defined.

paradoxical theory of change

Awareness of an alienated fragment leads to its acceptance as a legitimate outgrowth of a functional need that is then consciously and deliberately instated and given power to operate as an explicit force.

polarities and themes

Information about or from a client is often presented as either/or propositions, i.e., as polarities. These polarities are usually best understood in the context of a theme that emerges from them. A theme is an expressive, orienting statement that represents conflict in bipolar terms of push/pull forces—the simultaneous desire for and resistance to change.

organism/environment (o/e)

An organism or system (that is, a coherent and autonomous entity) is separated from its environment by a boundary. Nevertheless, this boundary is permeable: the environment can affect the organism, and vice versa.


Boundaries are (visible or invisible) lines of demarcation. They establish the limits of interaction among subparts of a system, or between a system and its environ­ment.


Contact takes place when two systems or subsystems interact with each other in such a manner that change occurs. Such contact is conceived of as an exchange of energy across a boundary.


This is best understood as energy or a positive force that (intentionally or unintentionally) interrupts contact or change.

cycle of experience

This model was developed at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. An organism approaches experience from a state of rest or stability. It senses the existence of multiple processes occurring within and outside its body (the Cycle can occur at both the micro and macro levels), but at some point, one of these sensations (stimuli) will claim the organism's attention, perhaps because of a current need or because of the comparative strength of this stimulus. The organism becomes aware of this sensation insofar as it challenges the organism's boundaries. This awareness causes excitement, and results in the mobiliza­tion of energy toward action. Action moves the organism toward contact at the boundary where the stimulus exists. Such contact results in a de-structuring experience—boundaries are dismantled, and a change is enabled. When contact is successful, it is followed by a withdrawal phase, wherein the experience of contact and the learning gained from it are assimilated or consolidated. Closure then occurs. Closure results in a re-structuring experience—new boundaries are established, and the organism returns to a state of stability. The concept of the Cycle of Experience emphasizes the need to come full circle in order to "finish" one's psychological work. For a variety of reasons, however, the Cycle may be stopped, intentionally or not, at any point.

What Is Gestalt OSD?

Gestalt Organization & Systems Development (Gestalt OSD) is a body of knowledge composed of theory, concepts, and methods created by the founders of the Gestalt OSD training programs. The Gestalt OSD body of knowledge integrated Gestalt Psychology, Systems Theory and Organizational Development Theory and applied the integrative perspective across multiple levels of systems. The first Gestalt OSD training program was offered in 1978, building upon OSD workshops that had been offered since 1974. Gestalt OSD training programs have been conducted on six continents and have been attended by CEOs, consultants, educators, judges, attorneys, accountants, managers, supervisors, coaches, public servants, among other professionals. Gestalt OSD training programs are referred to by some masters in the field as the “finishing school” for individuals serious about self-mastery as interveners in organizational contexts. The integrative perspective is a gift that keeps on giving.

A 2004 Special Issue of OD Practitioner: Journal of the Organization Development Network (vol. 36, no.4), titled “Organization Development and Gestalt: An Ongoing Partnership,” was dedicated to the OSD Center body of knowledge and GestaltOSD work within organizations. It was guest edited by John D. Carter and Mary Ann Rainey Tolbert. Further, Brenda Jones, an OSD faculty member, and Michael Brazzel, an OSD gradate, served as editors of The NTL Handbook of Organization Development and Change: Principles, Practices, and Perspectives. Many OSD graduates contributed chapters to this book.  In the most recent edition GestaltOSD was mentioned as one of the top five frames of reference for Organization Development Practitioners.

John D. Carter, president of the GestaltOSD Center, is a founder of the OSD body of knowledge, training programs and creator of many of the OSD conceptual frames of reference.  John is a Master Coach and Consultant and has worked with top leaders and top teams around the world.

The OSD Center conducted the first ICF-certified Gestalt coach training program in the world, the OSD Gestalt International Coaching Program. Six different versions of the foundational OSD training program have been offered by the OSD Center, including Ghana OSD and a five-session OSD International program that holds sessions in six different countries.

The Gestalt OSD faculty played a critical role in the creation and innovative application of many of the theories, concepts, and methods used by change agents, coaches and consultants in the field of applied behavioral science in their intervention work in organizations.

Being a powerful intervener rests in the ability to provide whatever presence, leadership, that is missing in the system — individual, group, or organization — you are leading or managing.

~ John Carter

Our compelling picture is the transformation of humankind accomplished by each individual becoming more adept at making contact with oneself and with the environment in ways that support individual, group and universal harmony.

The life story John D. Carter one of the original founders will be made available as well as the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland History from 1954 to 1964. The OSD Center History is presented from the perspective of “Ties to the past, Eyes on the future”.

Our hope is that you will join our thousands of GestaltOSD training and development program graduates, our workshop participants, and our faculty in letting others know about the availability of this body of knowledge and that it is easily accessible and available for personal use.

A theme or focus of the John D Carter story and the GestaltOSD story will be undoing lies. Therapy, consulting and coaching have all been described as the process of undoing lies. In other words the focus can be described as figuring out how to engage with one’s self and with the external environment in a manner that one’s self esteem and self worth are enhanced rather than diminished. Essential to this process is discriminating fact from fiction and reducing the degree to which our perception of reality no longer serves us well in creating desired outcomes.

In the OSD Spotlight

Barbara Shipka 2018 GestaltOSD Lifetime Achievement Award recipient!

John D Carter endorses this book,

Go to The Heartfulness Way for more information and to reserve your copy today.

Special Lecture by Jim Willis: His experiences in the Peace Corp in Macedonia

Congratulations Monika Moss-Gransberry on receiving the GestaltOSD Lifetime Achievement Award!

Check out our latest Newsletter

During our 40th Anniversary year GestaltOSD was recognized as one of the five top approaches to Organization Development. GestaltOSD theory and concepts continue to be mentioned in many published articles related to coaching.

Four words have become the integrative focus of our work: Love, Thought, Gratitude and Harmony.

Learn More

In OD Marketing Interview with Marie Saul, John Carter recommends meditation for OD practitioners.

OD Marketing Interview with John Carter, PhD
Download the PowerPoint Presentation

"Meditation is a centering practice that supports individuals learning how to regulate their mind leading to increased clarity, less illusion, and better choices resulting in inner cohesion and harmony related to their interactions with others."