Integrative therapy uses multiple approaches to help clients. In most cases, this means a combination of psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, and humanistic therapies. Integrative therapists are typically flexible and base their approach on what the client needs. Integrative therapy is effective in helping people to manage a range of concerns, including anxiety, depression, and personality disorders.
What Is Integrative Therapy?
Integrative therapy incorporates multiple schools of therapy into one approach.1 Other therapies are typically based on a single model, and therapists who work within the same model have similar goals and approaches. Integrative therapy, on the other hand, allows therapists to work in a more flexible manner, tailoring their goals and approach to each client.
Integrative therapy combines these three popular, widely used therapy approaches:2
- Psychodynamic therapy: Assumes that our unconscious mind can negatively affect us if we don’t understand it.3 The goal is to reveal unconscious thoughts and feelings. The relationship between the therapist and the client is also important for helping clients understand how they function in relationships outside of therapy.
- Humanistic therapy: Seeks to help people find meaning in life and reach their greatest potential. There are several types of humanistic therapies, like client-centered, gestalt, and existential.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Presumes that negative thoughts and beliefs affect our emotions and behaviors. This therapy focuses on changing negative thoughts and constructing more healthy ones.
4 Key Concepts of Integrative Therapy
Integrated therapy is based on these four concepts:1
- There is no single theory that explains all human behavior: Integrative therapists may refer to more than one theory when they think about their clients and how their symptoms began.
- Different approaches may work for different clients: People are unique by nature. What works for one person may not work for another.
- The therapist should tailor their approach to the client: For therapy to be effective, therapists need to take into account their client’s specific problems and history and use this information to guide their approach.
- The relationship between a client and therapist is an important component of successful therapy: The therapeutic relationship can be a powerful vehicle of change. Components of a positive therapeutic relationship include empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard.4
Why Does Integrated Therapy Work?
Integrated therapy works based on evidence-based research.1 It pays particular attention to establishing a positive client/therapist relationship, and research shows that is important for successful treatment.4 Additionally, because the therapy is tailored, it can help a variety of people with different disorders. Overall, it allows therapists to take a more flexible approach vs. one-size-fits-all.
What Can Integrative Therapy Help With?
Integrative therapy can help treat the following conditions:1
- Generalized and social anxiety
- Postpartum depression
- Personality disorders
- Dissociative identity disorder (DID)
Cost of Integrative Counseling
The average cost of integrative therapy is $100-$200 per session. Cost may be lower or higher depending on where you live, the type of provider, and their level of experience. Doctorate-level psychologists typically charge between $150-$200 per session. Masters-level therapists, including social workers, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists, typically charge between $100-$150 per session.
Psychiatrists usually focus on only prescribing medication, but some psychiatrists also offer therapy. Because of their advanced medical training, they typically charge $250 or more per session. Most health insurance companies will cover some or all of the costs of integrative therapy. If you are using health insurance, your financial responsibility will depend on your specific insurance plan.
How to Find an Integrative Therapist
There are several ways to go about finding a therapist. You can speak with your healthcare provider and request a referral, or you can contact the customer service phone number on your insurance card or website to gather a list of in-network providers. If you have a family member or friend who may know a good therapist, you can ask them for a recommendation.
An online directory allows you to search for local therapists who offer in-person or telehealth sessions. You can narrow down your search by various criteria, like cost per session and years of experience. This can help you find a therapist who matches your needs. You can even schedule a consultation online.
What to Look For in an Integrative Therapist
For therapy to be effective, it requires you to feel comfortable opening up and sharing your thoughts and feelings. Before starting the process of looking for an integrative therapist, make a list of what you would like to find. For example, you may prefer a therapist of a certain background or one who specializes in working with specific issues.
Come up with a list of questions to ask on the phone or during your first appointment. You will know that a therapist is right for you when you feel safe opening up and find yourself being both challenged and supported.
What to Expect at Your First Appointment
The first appointment is typically referred to as an assessment because it’s an opportunity for the therapist to gather information about your past and present. For example, they may ask what led you to reach out or ask about your work, relationships, drug and alcohol use, and past treatments. Because they need to gather information, they may not have time to actually provide therapy during the first session.
To prepare for your first appointment, your therapist will likely ask you to complete some paperwork. They will ask some demographic questions and take down your insurance information. At the end of the first appointment, the therapist will most likely give you an opportunity to ask questions. You and the therapist will also have a chance to talk about your goals, how often you will meet, and how long it will take to achieve your goals.
Is Integrative Therapy Effective?
Many approaches to therapy are integrative in nature, meaning they combine more than one type of therapy. Studies on these types of therapy have found that they are effective at helping clients improve from a range of mental health concerns.
Here are some evidence and examples of integrative therapy:
- A study on integrative therapy and CBT for generalized anxiety disorder found that while both types of therapy were effective, people who received integrative therapy improved more than those who received CBT.5
- An earlier study on generalized anxiety disorder found that integrative therapy helped improve anxiety symptoms for up to one year after treatment.6
- A pilot study compared an integrative form of cognitive therapy with traditional cognitive therapy for people with depression. The researchers found that people who received integrative cognitive therapy showed greater improvements and also rated their relationships with their therapists more highly.7
- Another study examined a type of integrative therapy called schema-focused emotive behavioral therapy (SET), which combines schema, emotion-focused, and cognitive behavioral therapies.8 The therapy was provided in a group setting with people diagnosed with different personality disorders. The researchers found that people who received SET showed greater improvements than those who received social skills training.
Criticisms of Integrative Therapy
Critics of integrative therapy posit that it lacks a clear and distinct theory and approach.9 They assume that integrative therapy means pulling from different theories without any clear rationale. However, integrative therapy involves knowledge of multiple theories and consideration of what techniques would be most helpful for a specific client.2 Integrative therapists are purposeful and base their clinical decisions on what the research says is most effective.
Final Thoughts on Integrated Therapy
Instead of taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach, integrative therapists use more than one type of therapy to help their clients. Integrative therapists also focus on developing a positive therapeutic relationship where you feel comfortable opening up. If you feel that integrative therapy may be right for you, consider starting the process of finding a therapist today.