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. 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 the client. 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 treating the particular problem.
When It's Used
Any type of psychotherapist can successfully practice eclectic therapy. 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. Scientific evidence, as well as knowledge and training on the part of the therapist, should always be the basis behind the decision to use any type of therapeutic technique. An eclectic approach can be used in both individual and group therapy settings.
What to Expect
Eclectic therapy 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 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. The goal, in this case, might be to uncover any emotions that may underlie the physical sensations you have, such as tension in your shoulders or neck. Once emotions are identified, the therapist can switch back to CBT techniques that can help you change the negative thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that are causing your problems.
How It Works
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 different clients. Lazarus proposed that the most complete form of therapy evaluates seven different modes: behavior, affect, sensation, imagery, cognition, interpersonal relationships, and consideration of drugs and client biology. Using a flexible approach, rather than a more traditionally structured, narrower, and straightforward one, the eclectic therapist tailors the therapeutic process to the needs of the client and determines which modes and methods will be most helpful for that person. The therapist is not restricted to a one-size-fits-all perspective and is not looking for universal behavior patterns but, instead, gathers very specific information from the client, then matches the form of treatment to the individual and his or her disorder.
What to Look for in an Eclectic Therapist
Look for a licensed psychotherapist or mental health professional who is trained or certified in different types of therapeutic strategies and is able to explain the eclectic or integrative approach in a way that makes sense to you. 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.
- 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.