Many of us therapists, myself included, describe ourselves as ‘Integrative’ psychotherapists. How we compare to other types of psychotherapy (psychodynamic, Gestalt, person-centred, existential…) is hard to describe succinctly, or even in a rambling way. Traditionally, ‘Integratives’ have emphasised their difference between ‘eclectics’. Integration suggests one approach to theory and practice formed from a combination of ideas, while eclecticism draws from several approaches to a particular case without a unified theory…
‘Integrative’ can refer to any multi-modal approach to therapy, which means that one Integrative psychotherapist may well have a different approach to another – we all integrate our theories differently (and indeed revise our ideas as our practice and experience unfolds). I am very interested in attachment and object relations theory (our development during our very early years with our caregivers), along with more recent thinking derived from neuroscience, while I have colleagues more interested in working with the body in sessions or with the ‘here and now’ (ie what goes on in the room with their clients).
‘Integration’ can refer to both the ideas used and the process – ie how we view our work with clients as a form of integration for them. In other words, we hope to help our clients bring their different parts of self into a coherent whole – these parts may even be split off from awareness, or within reach but out of our control nonetheless. Often we turn to therapy when we don’t feel ‘at one’ with the world or ourselves.
Any therapist should be able to describe what influences and guides their work, theoretically and otherwise, so it’s always worth asking if you are interested.
An Introduction to Integrative Psychotherapy by Evans, K & Gilbert, MC (Palgrave Macmillian 2004) is a good further resource.