What Is Integrative Therapy?

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What Is Integrative Therapy?

Integrative therapy is an approach to treatment that involves selecting the techniques from different therapeutic orientations best suited to a client’s particular problem. By tailoring the therapy to the individual, integrative therapists hope to produce the most significant effects.

Unlike some single school approaches, integrative therapy is not restricted to a particular methodology or school of thought. Instead, therapists can draw on different techniques as they are needed. The goal of this is to improve the efficacy and efficiency of treatment and adapt it to the specific needs of the individual.

While integrative and eclectic therapy are sometimes used interchangeably, there are some key differences between these two approaches. Eclectic therapy is more about simply drawing on different traditions, and integrative therapy focuses on combining these elements into a more cohesive experience.

Types of Integrative Therapy

There are hundreds of different specific types of therapy available. The one that is most effective in any given situation often depends on the type of problem that is being treated. Some of the different specific types of therapy in an integrative therapist may draw upon depending on the situation and the problem include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an approach that focuses on changing the way that people think. CBT suggests that the automatic negative thoughts that people experience contribute to psychological problems.
  • Psychodynamic therapy: Psychoanalytic therapy incorporates psychoanalytic techniques to help people understand some of the unconscious forces and motivations that affect their behavior and current functioning.
  • Humanistic therapy: This approach to therapy focuses on helping people achieve their full potential and better understand things that will help make them happier.
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness is one technique that is increasingly used in recent years involves learning to focus on the present moment rather than worrying about the past or fretting about the future.

The goal of integrative therapy is to align therapeutic techniques that are empirically proven to be effective in the treatment of a specific problem.

This approach suggests that there is no single method that is superior for each and every situation.

It also suggests that even theories that don’t necessarily agree with one another can still work together to benefit people with mental health conditions.

Techniques

Integrative therapy draws upon a wide range of approaches including psychodynamic, cognitive, and behavioral techniques. These techniques can be applied in a variety of formats including individual, family, and group therapy settings. 

An integrative therapist will adapt and integrate different techniques depending on the individual's needs and goals. For a person who is working on overcoming a behavioral problem, a therapist might utilize:

Research suggests that certain shared aspects of psychotherapy, including an individual’s expectations and therapeutic alliance, play the most significant role in treatment outcomes.

According to some research, specific therapeutic techniques contribute to around 7% of the variance in psychotherapy outcomes.

Some factors that are important for having positive outcomes and therapy include:

  • The alliance between the therapist and the client
  • The expectations that people have about being able to change in a positive way
  • The ability of the therapist to help inspire hope in the individual
  • The qualities of a therapist including their ability to give attention, empathy, and positive regard to their clients

What Integrative Therapy Can Help With

Integrative therapy can be helpful in the treatment of a number of different mental health conditions and psychological issues. These include:

Benefits of Integrative Therapy

There are many different advantages to integrative therapy. Some of these include:

  • Individualized: Because integrative therapy is highly individualized, it can be adapted depending on the individual's situation. It can be used when working with children and teens, and adults. It can also be utilized in both individual sessions and group therapy.
  • Flexible: Where single forms of therapy are often more rigid, integrative therapy can adapt over time and based on any events, changes, or experiences that might occur throughout treatment.
  • Adaptable: Another advantage of integrative therapy is that it can be modified depending on the disorder or psychological problem that person is facing. For example, if a person is dealing with depression, a therapist may draw on a number of treatment options that are effective in treating the condition.
  • Holistic: Integrative therapy can also help people learn to integrate and understand different aspects of themselves, including the mind, body, relationships, spirituality, thoughts, and emotions. Rather than focusing on a problem from a single perspective or in isolation, this type of therapy can encourage a broader, more holistic point of view.

It is essential to recognize that while integrative therapy is flexible, that doesn't mean that it is entirely without structure. Instead, therapists utilize their training and expertise to select the most beneficial techniques for a specific purpose and then integrate these approaches into a cohesive therapeutic experience.

Effectiveness

There are many different types of psychotherapy that are integrative including cognitive analytic therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and schema therapy.

Research has found that such techniques can be effective in the treatment of a number of psychiatric conditions including depression, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and personality disorders. This suggests that integrative therapies can have benefits for a wide range of conditions.

While some therapists tend to stick to a specific style of therapy, research has found that most psychotherapists use at least some elements of an integrative approach in treatment.

According to one study, around 85% of therapists draw on multiple therapeutic traditions in their treatment. The median number of theoretical orientations used in treatment was around four.

Things to Consider

It is important to note that integrative therapy is a very active process that involves a great deal of input from the individual.

While in this type of treatment, your therapist may ask for information about your experiences, preferences, needs, and other factors that may affect which treatment techniques are suitable for your needs.

Because integrative therapy tends to be more eclectic, the course of treatment may not follow a predictable schedule or pattern. Multiple techniques may be used within a single session, and the goals and approach to the treatment may be changed as your therapist observes your progress and your needs throughout the treatment process.

How to Get Started

Getting started with integrative therapy involves finding a qualified mental health professional. Many therapists take an integrative approach to treatment.

You might start your search by talking to your primary care physician who can make recommendations and referrals. You might also consider looking through local directories or online therapist directories.

Once you find a potential therapist, check their qualifications and educational background to get an idea of how they approach treatment. If they offer some type of consultation, ask questions about whether they practice integrative therapy.

Online therapy is another option you might consider. One 2018 study found that web-based integrative mindfulness interventions were an effective solution for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression and for enhancing the quality of life.

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