A Guide To Psychotherapy Integration

Defined as an approach to treatment that looks beyond single-school approaches, integrative psychotherapy is characterised by an openness to various ways of integrating diverse theories and techniques used in psychotherapy. 

Many of the ideas involved in psychotherapy integration derive from the Handbook of integrative Psychotherapy (1992), an extensive work based on the idea that the complexity of human behaviour means that no one theory can ever suffice to explain all situations, disorders, and clients. Instead, authors John Norcross and Marvin Goldreid propose a blend of different schools that attend to the relationship between theory and technique.

In the most recent revision of the Handbook, Norcross and Goldreid identify four general routes to integration: common factors, technical eclecticism, theoretical integration, and assimilative integration.

Common factors

The first route to integration, known as common factors, is an approach that looks for the core ingredients shared by different therapies. While there’s no set list of what a common factor should be, it generally includes a therapeutic alliance, exposure of the patient to prior difficulties followed by a new corrective emotional experience, and expectations by the therapist and the patient for positive change. 

The downside to this approach is that common factors may overlook specific techniques that have been developed within particular theories.

Technical eclecticism

The aim of technical eclecticism is to use data on the best methods for treating previous clients and apply them to new clients. This encourages the use of diverse strategies without being hindered by theoretical differences. Perhaps the most well-known model of technical eclectic psychotherapy is what’s known as “multimodal therapy”.

Theoretical integration

Theoretical integration is, as defined by Norcross and Goldreid, "two or more therapies which are integrated in the hope that the result will be better than the constituent therapies alone". Put simply, it requires bringing together theoretical concepts from disparate approaches, some of which may differ in their fundamental worldview.

While some theoretical integration models focus on combining and synthesising a small number of theories at a more profound level, others simply describe the relationship between several systems of psychotherapy.

Assimilative integration

Assimilative integration recognises that most psychotherapists choose a theoretical orientation that serves as their foundation but, with experience, incorporate ideas and strategies from other sources into their methods. In his study on assimilative integration, Stanley B. Messer states: "This mode of integration favours a firm grounding in any one system of psychotherapy, but with a willingness to incorporate or assimilate, in a considered fashion, perspectives or practices from other schools".

Assimilative integration is particularly useful because it allows the therapist to put together a “tailor-made” treatment for clients. However, it’s important to bear in mind that the treatment plan must undergo continuous revision as the therapist’s understanding of the patient becomes more and more full.

Based in Harley Street in London, Philippe Jacquet & Associates specialises in integrative psychotherapy for client treatment. With services in both English and French, we help clients deal with everything from behavioural problems to post-traumatic stress (PTSD) by combining several schools of thought to ensure the best treatment possible.


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