Mental Health
What is Integrative Therapy?

What is Integrative Therapy?

5 min read


Lorien Waterer

What is Integrative Therapy?

A therapeutic approach for clarifying and treating one’s problem area(s) while helping improve and unify overall Wellbeing to include emotional, mental, physical, behavioral, social and spiritual. It is provided by Integrative Therapists who are able to pull together, select and combine different strategies and techniques they are trained in to create a bespoke therapy plan suited to a client’s particular problem area(s).

When a problem area is formed and maintained by someone, though aspects of how this happens are similar between people many aspects are not similar, hence the diversification in psychotherapy for an Integrative approach that can centre around client’s being individual and the need for providing an inclusive treatment plan. In being different to ‘single school’ approaches, integrative therapy doesn’t put a client’s problem area into one specific closed therapeutic box. Instead it offerers multiple, open therapeutic boxes that aim to treat the various aspects a problem area carries. All together, the hope is to provide the most significant effects for the client.

Benefits of Integrative Therapy

The purpose of combining different therapeutic orientations is to improve the efficacy (the ability to produce a desired result for the client) and the efficiency (the ability to do it well, succeed and without waste of time or other resources of both client and therapist) of the treatment plan.

Being under the care of an integrative therapist allows for a client’s problem area to be treated in a flexible, as well as adaptive way. This means that as a client’s problem area begins to resolve they (both the client and problem) will often evolve and so require different ways to continue resolving until either a resolution or ongoing evolutionary management plan is established. This way of treating the client’s evolution invites them to be recognized and treated as a whole being and not just a part needing a treatment for a problem.

As long as the integrative therapist the client is under has the appropriate qualifications for resolution and or ongoing evolutionary planning, it allows for the client and therapist’s professional relationship to be well maintained. This is important to many clients who feel uncomfortable re-explaining a problem area to multiple therapists. However this relationship is best supported on mutual trust and if either client or therapist sense things aren’t working as expected, this should be discussed so adjustments can be made.

Types of Integrative Therapy

There are nearly 500 types of psychotherapy, each different by their approach, the clients they best treat and the frequency and duration of treatment. For client’s it can be hard enough choosing one type of therapy let alone one therapist. To be well informed as a client in finding the most appropriate therapy and thus therapist for their problem area(s), often a combination of:

  • Reading what the therapist treats (specifically and generally) and how they do so - can give enough information on the types of therapies they can provide without having to get lost in the labelling of ones problem area(s) or the jargon behind the therapy. Please note not all Integrated Therapists carry special certification to perform Integrative Therapy.
  • Experiencing the therapist through a introduction session establishes if both are a good match - can help clarify expectations on both sides and to confirm what the therapist has formal training in and which they often combine for the presented problem area.
  • Listening during the introduction session, both the therapist to the client and the client to the therapist to see if there is a mutual understanding of each other - can help a client work out if they want to move forward and what their options are at this stage.

Some commonly used psychotherapeutic orientations Integrative Therapy uses are:

  • Psychodynamic/analytical - helps one understand how past experiences inform one’s present by exploring their unconscious. For example free association.
  • Behavioral - describes a wide range of techniques used to eliminate unwanted behaviours that are linked to environment (including internal environment like feelings). For example CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy).
  • Humanistic - helps one achieve their full potential by focussing on internal resources, clarifying life goals and fulfillment and learning how to manage one’s limitations. For example may use past experience to help explain one’s thinking and behaviors, but the main focus is current day problem area(s).
  • Mindfulness - involves learning to focus on the present moment in thoughts, feelings and experiencing the now rather than concerning oneself about the judging past and or worrying future.

The holistic manner of Integrative Therapy recognizes there is no one superior method but more a therapeutic alliance between them. Even those therapies that are not aligned in their beliefs and theories can be put together for the greater benefits in treatment plans for clients. Studies conducted show around 85% of therapists will use Integration in their treatment plans, with a median of 4 different therapeutic orientations being used [1]. It can be extrapolated that Integration has shown to increase treatment success (and reduce relapses) in many cases where ‘single school’ approaches haven’t been successful.

Integrative Therapy can be particularly useful in treating:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Low self esteem 
  • Confidence
  • Depression
  • Bereavement
  • Substance use disorders
  • Trauma
  • Phobias
  • Relationship problems
  • Personality Disorders
  • Eating Disorders

What to expect in Integrated Therapy

The approach requires the client to be very active in the process, meaning a lot of input. In order to create a bespoke treatment plan, the Integrative Therapist and client work together to understand the problem area(s) wanting to be treated. The Therapist will also seek information about the client and their experiences, motivation, needs and preferences. This input may be required during the treatment plan as it allows the most appropriate strategies and techniques to be added in along the way.

The schedule of each treatment plan may not be at commonly expected intervals and each session may vary in the type, order, and number of therapies being used. Though it may appear random to the client, the Integrative Therapist has a well planned out treatment progress schedule, with room for adaptation for each individual.

Ready to start therapy?

If you’re interested in Integrated Therapy or exploring therapy in general, take our 5-minute questionnaire to find a provider that is the *right* fit for you.

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About the author

Dr Lorien Waterer is a lead Wellbeing expert. She Integrates Personal Performance Development, NLP & DISC in her EMP - Wellbeing Coaching Practice. You can contact Lorien directly from her MyWellbeing profile or through her website.

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