I was having a conversation with a perspective client some time ago, when it became clear to me, they were unsure what integrative therapy was. This spurred me today to explain
- what integrative therapy is, and
- what it means to work integratively
My professional training; my PsychD allows me to work integratively as I have studied many different models of therapy and can pull from then when needed.
Introduction to Integrative Therapy
Integrative therapy is a dynamic therapeutic approach that adapts various techniques from distinct therapeutic traditions to best address your unique needs. Its adaptive nature ensures a personalised therapy experience, maximizing the potential for positive outcomes1.
For example, Sean came to me for help with anger and we used psychodynamic techniques to help Sean understand his past, CBT was used to help with low self-esteem and address maladaptive thought patterns, and I used the skills elements from DBT to help with emotional regulation.
As you can see from my example, the approach isn’t confined to a single therapeutic doctrine. Instead, it allows the flexibility to employ diverse techniques as required, aiming to enhance treatment effectiveness by meeting the specific needs of each client.
How an integrative therapist can use different models of therapy
Drawing from a plethora of approaches, including psychodynamic, cognitive, and behavioural methods, integrative therapy can be delivered in individual, group, or family settings.
Depending on the client’s challenges, an integrative therapist may employ:
- Behavioural techniques like modeling and reinforcement to modify behaviour.
- Psychodynamic strategies such as transference and free association for deeper insights.
- Cognitive methods to reshape negative thought patterns.
Research emphasizes the significance of the therapeutic alliance and client expectations in influencing outcomes.
Applications of Integrative Therapy
Suitable for a myriad of mental health conditions, integrative therapy can address:
- Grief and bereavement
- Low self-esteem
- Substance abuse
Personalized: Catered to each client, integrative therapy can be beneficial across age groups and in diverse settings, including group therapy.
Versatile: Unlike rigid therapeutic models, this approach can evolve based on the client’s journey and experiences.
Adaptable: It can be tailored to treat various disorders, ensuring a holistic perspective.
Holistic: Integrative therapy facilitates a comprehensive understanding of oneself, encompassing various facets like emotions, spirituality, and relationships.
While flexible, integrative therapy remains structured, with therapists leveraging their expertise to create a harmonious therapeutic experience.
Getting started with an integrative therapist
If you would like to discuss how integrative therapy would benefit you, please get in touch, or if you have used or are considering using any of my online courses, all of these draw from different models of therapy to help you the best they can.
To conclude I shall include a brief case study of work I did with one of my clients, to show how working with different models of therapy can help.
Case Study: Integrative Therapy for Anxiety
Client: Emily, a 28-year-old graphic designer.
Presenting Issue: Emily reports experiencing excessive worry over the past year, often feeling restless, fatigued, and having difficulty concentrating. She avoids social events and experiences palpitations and dizziness when faced with stressful situations.
Assessment & Formulation:
- Biological Factors: Emily reports difficulty sleeping and acknowledges a family history of anxiety disorders. She consumes a lot of caffeine and often skips meals due to work stress.
- Psychological Factors: Emily has a fear of being judged negatively by others. She’s a perfectionist and is highly critical of herself. Past experiences include being bullied during her school years, which may have contributed to her current fears.
- Social Factors: Emily feels isolated after a recent move to a new city for her job. She’s distanced from her support system and struggles to form new relationships due to her anxiety.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Techniques:
- Psychodynamic Techniques:
- Explore Emily’s past, especially her school years, to understand the roots of her fear of negative judgment and her perfectionism.
- Understand any unresolved conflicts that may be contributing to her anxiety.
- Humanistic Therapy Techniques:
- Person-Centered Therapy: Provide a safe and empathetic environment for Emily to explore and express her feelings.
- Self-Actualization: Encourage Emily to recognize her strengths and work towards achieving her potential.
- Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques:
- Teach Emily deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to manage her physical symptoms.
- Introduce mindfulness meditation to help her stay present and reduce her excessive worry about the future.
- Lifestyle Recommendations:
- Advise Emily to reduce caffeine intake and maintain regular meals.
- Encourage regular physical activity, like walking or yoga, to manage anxiety symptoms.
- Explore joining community groups or attending workshops in her city to help build a new support system.
- Reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety.
- Improve sleep patterns.
- Develop coping strategies to manage acute episodes of anxiety.
- Challenge and change negative beliefs about self and others.
- Improve self-esteem and reduce self-criticism.
- Begin engaging in mild to moderate social situations without excessive fear.
- Resolve past conflicts contributing to anxiety.
- Form new, positive relationships and engage in social activities comfortably.
- Achieve a balanced lifestyle that supports mental well-being.
Conclusion: Through an integrative approach, I was able to address both the root causes and current manifestations of Emily’s anxiety. By drawing from multiple therapeutic techniques, the treatment was tailored specifically to Emily’s needs, providing a comprehensive approach to help her get over anxiety.
- Dryden, W., & Norcross, J.C. (2018). Integrative and eclectic counselling and psychotherapy. Sage. ↩︎