Integrative therapy is a forward-looking form of psychotherapy that uses aspects from different therapeutic tools and approaches, tailored to fit the needs of the individual client. Psychotherapy integration can be defined as an attempt to look beyond the confines of single-school approaches to see what can be learned from other perspectives (Stricker, 1994).
Characterized by an openness to various ways of integrating diverse theories and techniques, Integrative Therapy combines elements drawn from different schools of psychological theory and research, integrative therapy becomes a more flexible and inclusive approach to treatment, and can be more effective than traditional, singular forms of psychotherapy.
An integrative therapeutic approach can be used to treat any number of psychological problems and disorders, including depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. The therapist matches evidence-based treatments to each client and unique presentation.
Integrative therapy can be more inclusive of the client than traditional forms of therapy, where often the client plays a less active role in treatment.
Integrative psychotherapists consider the individual’s characteristics, preferences, needs, physical abilities, spiritual beliefs, resources, and motivation level and tailor their therapeutic approach accordingly. Different approaches may be used consecutively throughout different stages of the therapeutic process or they may be used as a single combined form of therapy throughout. The overarching philosophy of an integrative therapy approach is that the person is central, rather than the model or the diagnosis (if there is one).
The body of knowledge on therapeutic practice has grown dramatically, giving rise to many different models within three broad approaches categorised as: humanistic, psychodynamic, and cognitive (or cognitive-behavioural) based. Until recently, the similarities between the different therapeutic approaches were not emphasised as much as their differences.
Integrative Therapy looks at the connection between other therapeutic approaches, by:
- Challenging the orthodoxy of any single approach
- Inviting reflection on the dangers of dogmatism: privileging certain therapeutic concepts and ideas and ‘setting any approach in concrete’
- Proposing an open attitude of aliveness and democratisation that feels like a suitable response to the complexity of human suffering or distress, circumstances, context, as well as the ever-evolving nature of knowledge.
The field of integrative psychotherapy has also been greatly influenced in recent years by significant developments within the three major therapeutic modalities, such as:
- A shift in psychoanalytic and psychodynamic thinking away from the narratives of ‘isolated mind’ and ‘intra-psychic’ accounts of understanding of behaviour and ‘pathology’, towards a more ‘inter-psychic’ and ‘intersubjective’ understanding of experience in what has been described as the ‘relational turn’.
- CBT approaches encompassing humanistic and psychodynamic ideas (e.g. role of unconscious, such as in meta-cognitions or ‘schemas’).
- Humanistic approaches embracing psychodynamic and CBT concepts and ideas.
- A wide acceptance of the influence of social, cultural, economic, and other systems on human experience for all ‘big three’ approaches.
George Stricker, P., 2001. An Introduction to Psychotherapy Integration. (online) Psychiatric Times. Available at: <https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/introduction-psychotherapy-integration> (Accessed 11 October 2021).
Psychology Today. 2021. Integrative Therapy. (online) Available at: <https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/therapy-types/integrative-therapy> (Accessed 11 October 2021).
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