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Integrative psychotherapy may involve the fusion of different schools of psychotherapy. The word 'integrative' in Integrative psychotherapy may also refer to integrating the personality and making it cohesive, and to the bringing together of the "affective, cognitive, behavioral, and physiological systems within a person".[1]

In Integrative and eclectic counselling and psychotherapy, (Palmer and Woolfe, 1999), the authors make clear the distinction between integrative and eclectic approaches: "Integration suggests that the elements are part of one combined approach to theory and practice, as opposed to eclecticism which draws ad hoc from several approaches in the approach to a particular case."[2]

Psychotherapy's eclectic practitioners are not bound by the theories, dogma, conventions or methodology of any one particular school. Instead, they may use what they believe or feel or experience tells them will work best, either in general or suiting the often immediate needs of individual clients;[2][3] and working within their own preferences and capabilities as practitioners.


Initially, Sigmund Freud developed a talking cure called psychoanalysis; then he wrote about his therapy and popularized psychoanalysis. After Freud, many different disciplines splintered off. Some of the more common therapies include: psychoanalytic psychotherapy, counseling, co-counseling, analysis, transactional analysis, cognitive behavioral therapy, gestalt therapy, body psychotherapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, family systems therapy, person-centered psychotherapy, and existential therapy. Hundreds of different theories of psychotherapy are practiced.[4]

A new therapy is born in several stages. After being trained in an existing school of psychotherapy, the therapist begins to practice. Then, after follow up training in other schools, the therapist may combine the different theories as a basis of a new practice. Then, some practitioners write about their new approach and label this approach with a new name. This overall pattern has been observed in numerous new therapies and is certain to form many future therapies.

A pragmatic or a theoretical approach can be taken when fusing schools of psychotherapy. Pragmatic practitioners blend a few strands of theory from a few schools as well as various techniques; such practitioners are sometimes called eclectic psychotherapists and are primarily concerned with what works. Alternatively, other therapists consider themselves to be more theoretically grounded as they blend their theories; they are called integrated psychotherapists and are not only concerned with what works, but why it works.

For example an eclectic therapist might experience a change in their client after administering a particular technique and be satisfied with a positive result. In contrast, an integrative therapist is curious about the "why and how" of the change as well. A theoretical emphasis is important; for example, the client may only have been trying to please the therapist and was adapting to the therapist rather than becoming more fully empowered in themselves.

Different routes to integrative psychotherapy

The most recent edition of the Handbook of Psychotherapy Integration (Norcross & Goldfried, 2005) recognized four general routes to integration: Common Factors, Technical Eclecticism, Theoretical Integration, and Assimilative Integration (Norcross, 2005).

Common factors

The first route to integration is called common factors and "seeks to determine the core ingredients that different therapies share in common" (Norcross, 2005, p. 9) The advantage of a common factors approach is the emphasis on therapeutic actions that have been demonstrated to be effective. The disadvantage is that common factors may overlook specific techniques that have been developed within particular theories. Common factors have been described by Jerome Frank (Frank & Frank, 1991), Bruce Wampold (2001), and Miller, Duncan and Hubble (2005). Common factors theory asserts it is precisely the factors common to the most psychotherapies that make any psychotherapy successful.

Technical eclecticism

The second route to integration is technical eclecticism which is designed "to improve our ability to select the best treatment for the person and the problem…guided primarily by data on what has worked best for others in the past" (Norcross, 2005, p. 8). The advantage of technical eclecticism is that it encourages the use of diverse strategies without being hindered by theoretical differences. A disadvantage is that there may not be a clear conceptual framework describing how techniques drawn from divergent theories might fit together. The most well known model of technical eclectic psychotherapy is Arnold Lazarus’ (2005) Multimodal Therapy. Larry E. Beutler’s model of Systematic Treatment Selection (Beutler, Consoli, & Lane, 2005) represents another model of technical eclecticism.

Theoretical integration

The third route to integration commonly recognized in the literature is theoretical integration in which "two or more therapies are integrated in the hope that the result will be better than the constituent therapies alone" (Norcross, 2005, p. 8). Some models of theoretical integration focus on combining and synthesizing a small number of theories at a deep level, whereas others describe the relationship between several systems of psychotherapy. One prominent example of theoretical synthesis is Paul Wachtel's (Wachtel, Kruk, & McKinney, 2005) model of Cyclical Psychodynamics that integrates psychodynamic, behavioral, and family systems theories. Another example of synthesis is Anthony Ryle’s (2005) model of Cognitive Analytic Therapy, integrating ideas from psychoanalytic object-relations theory and cognitive psychotherapy. The most notable model describing the relationship between several different theories is Prochaska and DiClemente’s (2005) Transtheoretical Model.

Assimilative integration

"This mode of integration favors 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" (Messer, 1992, p. 151). Different integration is the fourth route and acknowledges that most psychotherapists select a theoretical orientation that serves as their foundation but, with experience, incorporate ideas and strategies from other sources into their practice. Increasingly, integrationists are acknowledging that most counselors will prefer the security of one foundational theory as they begin the process of integrative exploration. Formal models of assimilative integration have been described based on a psychodynamic foundation (Frank, 1999; Stricker & Gold, 2005) and based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (Castonguay, Newman, Borkovec, Holtforth, & Maramba, 2005).

Emerging models that combine routes

In addition to well-established approaches that fit into one of four routes, there are newer models that combine aspects of the traditional routes. For example, Hill’s (2004) three-stage model of helping skills encourages counselors to emphasize skills from different theories during different stages of helping. Hill’s model might be considered a combination of theoretical integration and technical eclecticism. Hill's model is called the Three Stage Model. The first stage is the exploration stage. This is based on client-centered therapy. The second stage is entitled insight. Interventions used in this stage are based on psychoanalytic therapy. The last stage, the action stage, is based on behavioral therapy. Good and Beitman (2006) described an integrative approach highlighting both core components of effective therapy and specific techniques designed to target clients’ particular areas of concern. This approach can be described as an integration of common factors and technical eclecticism. Multitheoretical Psychotherapy (Brooks-Harris, 2008) is a new integrative model that combines elements of technical eclecticism and theoretical integration. Therapists are encouraged to make intentional choices about combining theories and intervention strategies.

The generic term, integrative psychotherapy, can be used to describe any multi-modal approach which combines therapies. An effective form of treatment is psychodynamic psychotherapy combined with hypnotherapy. In 2007, for example, Kraft & Kraft (2007)[1] gave a detailed account of a 54 year old female patient with refractory IBS in a setting of a phobic anxiety state. The patient made a full recovery and this was maintained at the follow-up a year later.


  1. Staff. "The Association: Definition of 'Integrative' in Integrative Psychotherapy". International Integrative Psychotherapy Association. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Palmer, Stephen (Prof.); Woolfe, Ray (1999). Integrative and eclectic counselling and psychotherapy. SAGE Publications. pp. 57,256. ISBN 0761957995. See Amazon page and Google book search.
  3. Norcross, J. C.; Goldfried, M. R. (Eds.) (2005). Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford. pp. 3–23. ISBN 0 863040 34 9. A primer on psychotherapy integration.
  4. Robson, Terry (2003). An Introduction to Complementary Medicine. Allen & Unwin Academic. pp. 155. ISBN 1741140544.

See also


  • Beutler, L. E., Consoli, A. J. & Lane, G. (2005). Systematic treatment selection and prescriptive psychotherapy: An integrative eclectic approach. In J. C. Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of Psychotherapy Integration (2nd ed., pp. 121–143). New York: Oxford.
  • Brooks-Harris, J. E. (2008). Integrative Multitheoretical Psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.
  • Castonguay, L. G., Newman, M. G., Borkovec, T. D., Holtforth, M. G. & Maramba, G. G. (2005). Cognitive-behavioral assimilative integration. In J. C. Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed., pp. 241–260). New York: Oxford.
  • Frank, J. D. & Frank, J. B. (1991). Persuasion and healing: A comparative study of psychotherapy (3rd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University.
  • Frank, K. A. (1999). Psychoanalytic participation: Action, interaction, and integration. Mahwah, NJ: Analytic Press.
  • Good, G. E. & Beitman, B. D. (2006). Counseling and psychotherapy essentials: Integrating theories, skills, and practices. New York: W. W. Norton.
  • Hill, C. E. (2004). Helping skills: Facilitating exploration, insight, and action (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Kraft T & Kraft D (2007)[2]. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Symptomatic Treatment Approaches versus Integrative Psychotherapy. Contemporary Hypnosis (2007), 24, (4): 161-177.
  • Lazarus, A. A. (2005). Multimodal therapy. In J. C. Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed., pp. 105–120). New York: Oxford.
  • Messer, S. B. (1992). A critical examination of belief structures in integrative and eclectic psychotherapy. In J. C. Norcross, & M. R. Goldfried, (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (pp. 130–165). New York: Basic Books.
  • Miller, S. D., Duncan, B. L., & Hubble, M. A. (2005). Outcome-informed clinical work. In J. C. Norcross, & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed., pp. 84–102). New York: Oxford.
  • Norcross, J. C. (2005). A primer on psychotherapy integration. In J. C. Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed., pp. 3–23). New York: Oxford.
  • Norcross, J. C., & Goldfried, M. R. (Eds.). (2005). Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford.
  • Prochaska, J. O., & DiClemente, C. C. (2005). The transtheoretical approach. In J. C. Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed., pp. 147–171). New York: Oxford.
  • Ryle, A. (2005). Cognitive analytic therapy. In J. C. Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed., pp. 196–217). New York: Oxford.
  • Stricker, G. & Gold, J. (2005). Assimilative psychodynamic psychotherapy. In J. C. Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed., pp. 221–240). New York: Oxford.
  • Wachtel, P. L., Kruk, J. C., & McKinney, M. K. (2005). Cyclical psychodynamics and integrative relational psychotherapy. In J. C. Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed., pp. 172–195). New York: Oxford.
  • Wampold, B. E. (2001). The great psychotherapy debate: Models, methods, and findings. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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