He coined the term 'Gestalt Therapy' for the approach to therapy he developed with his wife Laura Perls from the 1940s, and he became associated with the Esalen Institute in California in 1964. His approach is related but not identical to Gestalt psychology and the Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy of Hans-Jürgen Walter.
At Gestalt Therapy's core is the promotion of awareness, the awareness of the unity of all present feelings and behaviors, and the contact between the self and its environment.
Perls has been widely evoked outside the realm of psychotherapy for a quotation often described as the "Gestalt prayer". This was especially true in the 1960s, when the version of individualism it expresses received great attention.
In 1930 he married Laura Perls (born Lore Posner), they had two children together, Renate and Stephen.
In 1933, soon after the Hitler regime came into power, Fritz Perls, Laura and their eldest child Renate fled to the Netherlands, and one year later they emigrated to South Africa, where Fritz Perls wrote Ego, Hunger, and Aggression in 1941 (published 1942). His wife Laura contributed to the book, but she is usually not mentioned. In 1942 Fritz went into the South African army where he served as an army psychiatrist with rank of captain until 1946.
The Perls moved to New York in 1946, where Fritz Perls first worked briefly with Karen Horney, and then with Wilhelm Reich. Around 1947, Perls asked author Paul Goodman to write up some hand-written notes, which together with contributions from Ralph Hefferline and Goodman, were published as Gestalt Therapy.
Fritz Perls moved to California in 1960, where he continued to offer his workshops as a member of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, until he left the United States to start a Gestalt community at Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island, Canada, in 1969. Fritz Perls died almost a year later on 14th March 1970 in Chicago of heart failure, after surgery at the Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Writings and lectures by Fritz Perls:
Interview with Fritz Perls: