What is Integrative Psychotherapy?
Integrative psychotherapy is one of the most commonly used terms to describe a method of working with clients. Each Integrative practitioner will have their own influences and 3ways of working in practice, however, this does not by any means imply that an integrative approach is simply a ‘mish-mash’ of different tried and tested methods.
To a greater or lesser degree, nearly all counsellors and psychotherapists draw on more than one modality, or type of therapy, in informing their work. How an integrative practitioner differs is in their depth of understanding of key types of therapy which they then bring together to inform and drive their approach to working with their clients. In essence, the principles of an integrative approach are that of the integrated whole being greater than the individual parts.
To illustrate, let us consider this example: If an individual is unfortunate enough to break their leg, it is reasonable to assume that irrespective of which hospital they attend and which doctor treats them, the diagnosis will be the same – a broken leg. And whilst the precise type of cast, painkillers and limitations placed on the client will differ from clinician to clinician, overall the treatment will be the same. We can therefore say that the patient has an objective diagnosis.
Problems with emotions and the mind are far harder to categorically and objectively diagnose. Of course there are certain more severe mental health conditions that meet clear diagnostic criteria such as schizophrenia or severe depression, however, even these conditions are not objectively agreed upon. Integrative psychotherapy starts from the position that there is no objective single correct type of therapy, or approach, that can treat each condition and individual.
Integrative counselling or psychotherapy is therefore an approach combining different ways of thinking about the problems that a client brings and working with the client to find a ‘language’ that helps them to make sense of their experiences and reduce the impact of their suffering.
The integrative approach can be a potent and effective way of working therapeutically with clients.
Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy
Like all forms of modern psychotherapy, an integrative approach to psychotherapy is based on a collaboration between the therapist and their client whereby the goal is to form an alliance working together to understand what lies behind the client’s symptoms.
An integrative psychotherapist can move seamlessly between different therapeutic ‘languages’, or ways of thinking, carefully tracking the client’s experience and tuning into how best to help clients make sense of their experience. As such it is a more fluid approach than single model approaches to therapy and can bring about relief to symptoms in a shorter period of time.
Lastly, as there is generally no single factor that has led to a person’s suffering and the jury remains out on the exact interaction between nature-and-nurture, an integrative approach not only uses different approaches to bring perspective to emotional and mental health problems, but it also offers a way of working to integrate mind and body which is essential in effective therapy.
Mark Vahrmeyer is trained as a UKCP registered Integrative Psychotherapist having completed his studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and at the School of Psychotherapy and Psychology at Regent’s University, London. If you are interested in finding out more, please get in touch.