What is Integrative Psychotherapy?

Integrative Psychotherapy takes into account the many different facets of human functioning, and as such is designed to provide psychotherapy using a range of different approaches, methodologies and philosophies depending on the client’s particular needs. It considers each human being to be uniquely different and that each presented problem may require a different approach or methodology. It pays particular attention not only to the integration of the affective, cognitive, behavioural, and physiological sides of a person’s functioning but also to the relational, physical, existential, spiritual, social and emotional needs of an individual. Integrative Psychotherapy views the human being as a holistic entity with not only each area of their body and mind requiring attention but also an understanding of their functioning as a whole. Essentially, Integrative Psychotherapy is designed to tailor therapy to a client’s particular needs rather than tailoring a client to a particular therapy. 

History of Integrative Psychotherapy

The development of Integrative Psychotherapy came about due to the perceived shortcomings of other approaches, largely from the schools of Psychoanalysis, Humanism and Behaviourism. Psychoanalysis was too set in the pathological view of the patient, excessive use of clinical terms and length of treatment. Humanism, in being set in ideals of human potential, self-actualization and compassion  was often believed to neglect the darker aspects of the human psyche and human behaviour. Behaviourism was considered to treat symptoms rather than underlying causes. The movement for integrating these approaches through the understanding and recognition that these approaches held different models of the distressed mind and were therefore not at odds but instead different perspectives through which the mind could be viewed with many common underlying determinants. Movements towards Integrative Psychotherapy have existed as early as 1936, with Rozenweig focus on factors that facilitate change, determining that theoretical orientation was not a conclusive element. Dollard and Miller in the 1950s attempted to bridge the gap between Psychoanalysis and Behaviourism, while modern thinkers such as Fonagy and Schore have offered empirical analysis and neuroscientific evidence in favour of an Integrative position.

Key Terms in Integrative Psychotherapy

  • Integration
  • Four dimensions of human functioning
  • Mentalization
  • Affective nueroscience
  • Technical eclecticism
  • The meta-level
  • Complementarity
  • Reflexivity

Where Integrative Psychotherapy is useful

Integrative Psychotherapists have a broad range and depth of experience in various different modalities. Integrative Psychotherapy takes the philosophical position that there cannot be one whole truth and as such is an approach that allows for exploration from many different angles and perspectives and is able to hold multiple ambiguities.

Integrative Psychotherapy can treat and assist with most common psychological issues, and has a number of advantages, including:

  • Understanding and exploring mind, body and spirit from multiple different positions and perspectives
  • Focus on integration the psyche, personality, ego and body
  • Adaptation and flexibility of the therapy
  • Exploration of the four dimensions of human functioning
  • Development of reflexive function and capacity

Where Integrative Psychotherapy may not be useful

Critics of Integrative Psychotherapy suggest that Integrative Psychotherapy risks not developing any particular approach to a depth or level that may be required. This may mean in instances where particular problems may require work that other approaches provide for explicitly, therapists trained solely in such approaches may prove better equipped to provide for the needs of the client. There is also a suggestion that in trying to be all things to all people, it may not provide sufficient diagnostic capacity, which would be more explicit in pure psychodynamic approaches. Also, due to the huge volume of psychotherapeutic approaches, it is difficult to determine what level of integration a particular therapist has achieved and with which approaches. A number of these approaches are also in conflict and opposition with one another as to how they assess and treat a client or patient, which means they cannot truly be integrated and therefore an Integrative Psychotherapist must develop a particular bias.