My Integrative Approach
I have chosen to become an Integrative therapist because I believe that clients benefit from different therapeutic approaches for different types of problem. I believe that being able to offer therapy in these ‘different modes’ means that I am better able to meet client’s needs and adjust my approach as the work progresses, or as different issues are encountered. Below I have described the main models of therapy that I use. My descriptions reflect my particular practice – other practitioners may give different definitions. They are also not exclusive – good psychotherapy is pragmatic and makes use of a whole range of different concepts.
Psychodynamic Psychotherapy is often seen as the ‘gold standard’ of therapy and in my opinion, rightly so. It is superbly suitable where problems are in the form of patterns in peoples’ lives, especially in their relationships, which sometimes can seem to repeat over and over, despite the harm and unhappiness caused. Usually these patterns relate to experiences in childhood, which can take some time to uncover and understand. When using this approach, understanding clients’ current relationship difficulties and what part the client plays in this, as well as the relationship between myself and the client enables us make links with formative relationships in the client’s past. With insight and understanding comes choice, instead of automatic reaction.
Existential Therapy is for when clients are facing immutable truths about life. Coming to terms with losses, things that ‘will never be’, bereavements, difficult truths can be lonely and it can be easy to become ‘stuck’. Often it is an understandable reaction to an event or life situation- and does not need to be pathologised by ‘diagnosis’. I believe my role in this situation is to offer good listening, a forum to talk about it and to make myself available to accompany the client in facing whatever it is that is hard to face – even where what needs to be talked about is hard for anyone to face. Bereavement and illness, trauma, mortality and loss often benefit from this approach.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is very effective for addressing defined problems like say, health anxiety or social anxiety and for offering practical strategies to lift mood in depression. It is a very down-to-earth and practical approach, and homework tasks give clients very tangible opportunity to be proactive in solving their difficulties. It promotes cognitive understanding of the issues and seeks to define how different behaviour can bring about desired changes.
It tends to focus on the outward manifestation of the problem however – and I believe that if it used as the only approach, the drawback can be that symptoms are addressed, but not their underlying causes. This can mean that in time, the underlying causes simply show up as different symptoms – one problem is replaced by another. However, if combined with psychodynamic approach to aid cognitive insight, working behaviorally in the latter stages of therapy can really help facilitate lasting change, once problems are properly understood. This combination makes therapy more effective in the long-term.
Humanistic and Integrative Approaches offer a wealth of other techniques and opportunity for insight. Although I see myself as coming to the therapy with ‘expert knowledge’, I tend to think of therapy as ideally an educative process – and I think it useful to ‘share’ theory, if it helps clients gain insight.
Couples Work I have specific training, experience and interest in working with couples in relationship. All of the approaches are useful for this work.