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Integrative therapy is a theoretical school of thought in the field of psychology that helps to shape the approaches some psychologists, therapists, and other mental health professionals use in practice. It is also referred to as integrative psychotherapy or psychotherapy integration.
Integrative therapy takes the approach of accepting multiple other psychological approaches, or talk therapy techniques and practices, and uses them in different ways. This approach is considered to be more flexible and inclusive than other approaches that tend to be limited to the rigid boundaries of their theoretical models.
This article will explain the concept of integrative therapy, the conditions it treats, the process, the different types, and more.
Definition of Integrative Therapy
Integrative therapy is a psychological approach that accepts and uses multiple different psychological approaches in talk therapy depending on patient or client's needs.
Psychology has over 400 approaches or variations to approaches, each belonging to a group of approaches. While some mental health professionals work with only one group of approaches, other professionals are more flexible and take an integrative therapeutic approach.
What It Is and What It Isn't
Integrative therapy is sometimes confused with eclectic psychotherapy, or eclectic therapy. However, the two approaches are different. Eclectic psychotherapy combines different approaches to create a more customized treatment plan for each individual patient or client.
Instead of combining techniques, integrative therapy takes one of four different approaches. These approaches include theoretical integration, technical eclecticism, assimilative integration, and common factor approach. Mental health professionals who practice integrative therapy may work in one or more of these ways.
Approaches to Integrative Therapy
- Theoretical integration: Using one approach that considers and brings together different models
- Technical eclecticism: Carefully choosing techniques from different schools of thought to address a complex case
- Assimilative integration: Using one approach as a primary method and pulling in other pieces from different approaches
- Common factor approach: Using the parts of multiple approaches that are the same between them
Conditions Treated With Integrative Therapy
Integrative therapy is a type of psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Like other forms of talk therapy, it can treat many different mental health conditions. It can also treat physical health issues, such as pain associated with cancer. Even when there is no specific diagnosis or health condition, integrative therapy techniques can help to improve relationships, experiences, and quality of life.
Integrative therapy can treat:
- Cancer symptoms
- Eating disorders
- High blood pressure
- Learning challenges
- Low self-esteem
- Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD
- Relationship challenges
- Sexual challenges
- Sleep challenges
Mental Health Helpline
If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health or life challenges, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
The Integrative Therapy Process
The specific process of integrative therapy depends on the mental health provider and how they work, the setting of the care, the situation, and the person receiving the support and their individual needs.
For example, integrative therapy may be offered in a hospital setting, at a medical office, at a rehabilitation or other specialized facility, or virtually with video conferencing technology. Additionally, it may be provided to an individual client or patient one-on-one, to an intimate couple, child with parents, or family as part of marriage and family therapy, or to a group of people in group therapy.
As with other talk therapy approaches, integrative therapy is based on conversation. The process may begin with a patient or client meeting with a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, and discussing recent events or challenges. From there, a variety of different techniques may be introduced to serve the needs of the person receiving the therapy.
The techniques used may come from different psychological approaches. For example, a provider may use techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and introduce mindfulness as well.
Who Does Integrative Therapy?
Mental health professionals practice integrative therapy. This may include psychologists and therapists. Other professionals, such as licensed professional counselors or licensed clinical social workers, may also practice integrative therapy. Integrative therapy providers may work in hospital systems, private healthcare practices, or specialized facilities. They may also provide services in other environments, such as schools or private organizations.
Types of Integrative Therapy
Because of the nature of integrative therapy and how it blends with other approaches to therapy, there are many different types. Each of these different types has different features that are able to serve people in different ways depending on their situations and needs. Some examples include cognitive behavioral therapy, family systems therapy, gestalt therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.
Types of Integrative Therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Combines cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy and focuses on the connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and how they can impact a person and their life.
- Family systems therapy: Combines general systems theory, cybernetics, family development theory, object relations theory, and social learning theory to address family interactions and relationships.
- Gestalt therapy: Focuses on self-awareness and what is happening in the present moment, their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and gaining perspective as to how that relates to their reality.
- Psychodynamic therapy: Focuses on identifying the roots of behaviors, including unconscious thoughts, personality, attitude, and emotions.
Integrative therapy is a psychological approach that considers and uses multiple other psychological approaches. This happens by bringing multiple models together as one, carefully choosing and bringing specific techniques together from different approaches, using one primary approach and pulling in small pieces of other approaches, or using the components that are shared between different approaches.
Many health conditions, both physical and mental, can be treated with integrative therapy, including anxiety, depression, grief, pain, sleep, stress, and trauma.
The process is similar to other methods of talk therapy in that it is centered around a conversation, and then the provider uses specific methods depending on their expertise and the needs of the patient or client. Integrative therapy is provided by mental health professionals such as psychologists and therapists. CBT, family systems therapy, gestalt therapy, and psychodynamic therapy are examples of integrative therapy.
A Word From Verywell
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health challenge or going through a challenging life situation, support is available. Integrative therapy may be able to provide you with the specific methods and techniques you need to overcome and cope with your challenges. Talk to a healthcare provider, such as a primary care practitioner, psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist to determine the next steps.