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Sarah Fader
Sarah Fader

Is Eclectic Therapy a Frankenstein Monster?

Can this sort of therapy help people or not?

Katarzyna Bialasiewicz
Source: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

When I was searching for a therapist, I would often ask the professionals what modality of therapy they practiced. Was it cognitive behavioral therapy? Did they do gestalt or perhaps psychodynamic? I was of the opinion that a therapist should have a specific school of thought that they adhered to when practicing. I remember one time I looked up a therapist using my insurance's directory. I called her up and asked, "What form of therapy do you practice?"

Her response was "eclectic therapy." I asked what this meant, and she said that she combined different modalities of therapy into her practice. Naturally, this made me skeptical of her efficacy as a psychologist. I'm used to seeing mental health professionals who practice a set theory. Hearing the word "eclectic" sounded to me like this individual wasn't certain of how to treat patients effectively.

I don't feel comfortable seeing a psychologist who doesn't seem secure in practicing a particular modality of therapy. If she is taking different bits and pieces from other sorts of theories, even if they're shown to be evidenced-based, how do I know that these experimental methods are going to help me maintain stability?

I choose to see a therapist to help me grow as a human being and get the help that I need. I see therapy as a way to help me structure my emotional health. Eclectic therapy appears to be a modality where the therapist for all intents and purposes assembles a "Frankenstein's monster" treatment plan; a patchwork of various psychological theories and practices that are seemingly unrelated in spite of any kind of researched-based background.

According to Psychology Today, eclectic therapy is "an open, integrative form of psychotherapy that adapts to the unique needs of each specific client, depending on the problem, the treatment goals, and the person’s expectations and motivation." On the surface, this sounds idyllic and like personalized medicine, but for your brain. However, a good therapist adapts to the needs of their client. Stating that the eclectic therapist adapts to their client's needs is gratuitous, because a good therapist does that no matter what.

There is a form of therapy called integrated therapy that combines different theoretical concepts of psychology in order to form a structured therapeutic plan. According to the American Psychological Association, CBT researchers are quoted about integrative therapy saying, "We advocate for consistency in the theoretical approach through the course of a service for a particular patient." What this means is that the client receives a concrete plan for emotional wellness that they follow with their mental health professional.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information from an article published in Frontiers in Psychology, international psychological researchers determined that integrative therapy trumps eclectic therapy because it focuses on both theoretical and empirical backgrounds. According the research conducted: "The psychotherapy integration movement highlights that psychotherapy integration is not only the process of taking some techniques from various models and applying them as needed (i.e., technical eclecticism), but it involves also the focus on the link between theory, evidence, and technique (Norcross and Goldfried, 2005). In other words, integrative psychotherapy is different from technical eclecticism. An eclectic therapist chooses a technique because it may work or may be efficient, without concern for its theoretical basis or research evidence."

If you are considering seeing an eclectic therapist, make sure that you ask this potential practitioner questions about what to expect during your sessions. You want to make sure you are getting the therapeutic treatment you need to get well.​

About the Author
Sarah Fader

Sarah Fader is a mental illness advocate and mother of two living with panic disorder in New York City.

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