Integrative counselling is an approach which is experiencing an increase in popularity.
While it can be traced back to the early 1930’s, it gained popularity in the 1990’s and as a result, many more qualifications in the field of counselling offer training in this approach.
Why has Integrative Counselling become so Popular?
There are a few reasons for the renewed interest in integrative counselling.
- Changes in how counselling is approached – One reason is because of its ability to fit with current research, and the limitations governments put in place to subsidise counselling. The increase in research has led to there being empirically supported therapies for many of the issues which bring clients to counselling. In response, governments often subsidise counselling when these approaches are used. By using integrative counselling, a therapist can modify their counselling to use multiple therapies, while offering the client the benefit of subsidised fees.
- The counselling client base has changed – Today’s counsellors are facing a much more diverse client base then their predecessors. Clients can vary in race, age, culture, family structure, sexual orientation, gender orientation, socio-economic standing, and physical health status – and this is without taking into consideration how varied the mental health status of our clients can be. Take a moment to consider the number of mental health challenges an individual could have, and that individuals might have more than one challenge (such as depression and anxiety). Currently (and I doubt it would ever happen) there is no one therapy which can account for all these factors. Using integrative counselling allows the therapist to modify their approach for these factors.
- Individuals have many facets – Regardless of our diverse factors there are several facets which make up all of us. Our thoughts, emotions and behaviour are the three facets which are targeted most often in counselling. Unfortunately, while most approaches target one over the other, often to offer in-depth counselling, counsellors need to target all three. Integrative counselling allows the therapist to bring in techniques and strategies from different approaches, in order to do that.
- Aligns with the current understanding of how therapy works – There is a general understanding in the counselling community that some factors, such as the therapeutic alliance, remain important regardless of which therapy is used. The integrative approach acknowledges these factors, and often uses them as the foundation for integrating therapies.
Flaws in Integrative Counselling
Unfortunately, the integrative approach is not without its own pitfalls.
- There is no one theory – The integrative approach does not offer a theory for understanding why individuals do what they do, or why they became that way. Instead the integrative approach requires counsellors and psychologists to understand the theories of any and every approach they are thinking of using, then knowing which ones apply to the client. This may be further complicated when there are competing theories about a challenge, which require further critical thinking to discern the best approach. While there are frameworks which can guide the used of integrative approaches, such as the “Relational-Integrative model” mentioned in the book “Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy: A relational approach” by Faris and Ooijin, how each counsellor uses these frameworks will be different, between themselves and for each client.
- Training is less in-depth – Training in integrative counselling often provides students with a basic understanding of a broad range of therapies, rather than more in-depth knowledge of a narrower selection. As a result, students can sometimes feel they do not have the tools or knowledge to apply the integrative approach to specific challenges in counselling. It is not till they graduate that students have time to delve more deeply and build up this knowledge.
- The integrative approach puts a greater onus on the counsellor or psychologist – The integrative approach requires the counsellor to make their own guide/structure for counselling, unlike other approaches which have these already in place. This often means more work for the therapist as they cannot just turn to a guide, but might need to adapt many guides in order to help the client. It is also important to remember that integrative therapy is not eclectic therapy. Integrative requires the therapist to fuse approaches together and understand how they work together for the client. Eclectic therapy often looks at what techniques best help the client with their current need, without having a full understanding of how the techniques work together for the client. There is less of a focus of the big picture in eclectic therapy.
The integrative counsellor can adapt their approach to suit the current client, to provide counselling which is more effective than using one approach. There is a cost however, as it takes more time for integrative counsellors to build their knowledge in many approaches, and fuse them together differently for each client.
Author: Hannah Jensen-Fielding, BA (Psychology) Hons, M Couns., PhD Candidate.
Hannah Jensen-Fielding is a Brisbane therapist working from a strengths-based integrative approach, as she believes more momentum is gained by looking forward at the future and who we can become. She utilises mindfulness in therapy where appropriate, to help her clients reduce stress and achieve greater perspective.
To make an appointment with Brisbane therapist Hannah Jensen-Fielding, try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) on (07) 3088 5422.
- Duncan, B. L., & Duncan, B. L. (2010). The heart & soul of change : Delivering what works in therapy (2nd ed.. ed.): Washington, District of Columbia : American Psychological Association.
- Faris, A., & van Ooijen, E. (2012). Integrative Counselling & Psychotherapy: A Relational Approach. In. Retrieved from http://sk.sagepub.com/books/integrative-counselling-and-psychotherapy doi:10.4135/9781446288382
- Zarbo, C., Tasca, G. A., Cattafi, F., & Compare, A. (2016). Integrative Psychotherapy Works. Front Psychol, 6, 2021-2021. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.02021