Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Eclectic Therapy

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

Eclectic therapy is a form of psychotherapy that adapts to the unique needs of each patient, depending on the problem, the treatment goals, and the person’s expectations and motivation. An eclectic therapist draws from a variety of disciplines and may use a range of proven methods to determine the best combination of therapeutic tools to help a patient. In effect, an eclectic therapist customizes the therapeutic process for each individual by using whatever form of treatment, or combination of treatments, has been shown to be most effective for a particular problem.

One of the early proponents of eclectic therapy, cognitive therapist Arnold Lazarus, used the term “multi-modal” to describe his method because he would use different “modes,” or approaches, to help patients. Lazarus proposed that the most complete form of therapy evaluates seven different modes: behavior, affect, sensation, imagery, cognition, interpersonal relationships, and a patient's biological processes.

When It's Used

Eclectic therapy can be useful when a therapist believes that a patient may benefit from a multi-modal approach or when a particular treatment type is not providing results and a therapist and patient want to try another avenue.

An eclectic approach can be used in both individual and group therapy settings.

article continues after advertisement
What to Expect

Eclectic therapy can take many paths, depending on the approaches invoked by a the clinician. For this reason, it may seem unstructured at first. Working with the therapist, you may try different techniques before treatment becomes more consistent.

For instance, a cognitive behavioral therapist (CBT) might call on the principles of sensory therapy and ask questions about your physical well-being, then go on to suggest a form of relaxation therapy to help you focus on any physical discomfort you report. In this case, the goal might be to uncover any emotions that underlie the physical sensations you experience, such as tension in your shoulders or neck. Once underlying emotions are identified, the therapist can switch back to CBT techniques to help you change the negative thoughts, feelings, or behaviors at the root of your problem.

How It Works

Using a flexible approach, rather than a more traditionally structured and straightforward one, the eclectic therapist tailors the therapeutic process to the needs of the patient and determines which treatment types will be most helpful for that person. The therapist is not restricted to a one-size-fits-all modality and is not looking for universal behavior patterns. Instead, the therapist gathers very specific information from the patient, then matches the form of treatment to the individual and his or her disorder.

What to Look for in an Eclectic Therapist

Any type of licensed psychotherapist or counselor can successfully practice eclectic therapy, assuming they are trained in all modalities that they use. The therapist should be familiar with the evidence-based techniques used in different types of therapy that have been proven to help with specific problems.

A majority of therapists surveyed who practice eclectic therapy preferred the term integrative to the term eclectic, so practitioners may refer to themselves as eclectic therapists, integrative therapists, or integrationists.

There is no official accreditation required to practice eclectic therapy. Look for someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing personal matters.

Norcross John C. Prescriptive Eclectic Therapy. American Psychological Association. 2007  
Lazarus AA. Multimodal Therapy: A Primer. Zur Institute
Norcross JC. What’s an integrationist? A study of self-identified integrative and (occasionally) eclectic psychologists. Journal of Clinical Psychology. December 2005; 61(12):1587–94.
Last updated: 11/04/2022