Integrative Therapy

What Is Integrative Therapy?

Integrative therapy is a progressive form of psychotherapy that combines different therapeutic tools and approaches to fit the needs of the individual client. With an understanding of normal human development, an integrative therapist modifies standard treatments to fill in development gaps that affect each client in different ways. By combining elements drawn from different schools of psychological theory and research, integrative therapy becomes a more flexible and inclusive approach to treatment than more traditional, singular forms of psychotherapy.

When It's Used

Integrative psychotherapy techniques can be incorporated into almost any type of therapeutic work with children, adolescents, and adults, in individual practice or group settings. An integrative 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 each disorder.

What to Expect

Integrative therapy is more inclusive of the client than traditional forms of therapy, where the client plays a less active role in treatment. Integrative psychotherapists consider the individual characteristics, preferences, needs, physical abilities, spiritual beliefs, and motivation level of their clients and use their professional judgment to decide the best approach to therapy for each client. 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.

How It Works

There are more than 400 different types of psychotherapy, differentiated by their approach, the clients they serve, and how long and how often the therapist typically meets with clients. Research shows that even though each of these approaches vary somewhat, they can all result in similar outcomes. And because a single approach to psychotherapy does not always provide the best benefit to the client, therapists—who are trained in one particular therapeutic model, such as cognitive-behavioral, family, or gestalt therapy—often use tools borrowed from other therapies to come up with a unique and effective form of treatment that is suitable and effective for individual clients. Some psychotherapists simply refer to themselves as integrative therapists, rather than identify with one therapeutic model. Although similar in style, integrative therapy differs from eclectic therapy in that it uses techniques backed by scientific research and proven to treat specific disorders, whereas eclectic therapy focuses more on the effectiveness of a technique and is less concerned with whether or not scientific evidence has proven its effectiveness for specific problems.

What to Look for in an Integrative Therapist

There are training programs for integrative therapists, but since integrative therapy is more of a movement within the general practice of psychotherapy than a form of psychotherapy in and of itself, any licensed, professional psychotherapist can take an integrative approach. A therapist’s specific method of integrating approaches will depend on their individual educational background, skills, and experience.

Sources

Zarbo C, Tasca GA, Cattafi F, Compare A. Integrative psychotherapy works. Frontiers in Psychology. 2015;6:2021

Institute for Integrative Psychotherapy

Norcross, J. Integrative therapy. American Psychological Association