Integrative psychotherapy utilises a range of therapy theories, modalities and techniques which are selectively applied as appropriate. The approach taken in psychotherapy also aims to promote integration in the client (for instance, integration of past/present/future ‘selves’ and of different intrapsychic and relational processes).
In my own work, I take a relational-developmental approach and draw primarily on existential-phenomenological, transactional analytic and gestalt theory. If you’d like to find out more about my approach, check out my website www.relational-integrative-psychotherapy.uk (click here: http://relational-integrative-psychotherapy.uk) which offers a precis of my latest book Relational Integrative Psychotherapy.
Existential phenomenology focuses on age-old questions to do with ourselves and others within our world such as ‘who am I?’ and ‘how do I want to live my life?’ and ‘what does it mean to be a human being?’ In reflecting on these questions we can begin to understand our thoughts, emotions, and values and what life means to us. We can also begin to appreciate what it means to find ourselves in an embodied existence born into a certain time and culture, and how that ties in with ideas concerning freedom, choice and responsibility.
A relational-developmental approach highlights the significance of early infant-caregiver relationships and their impact on subsequent relationships. Integrative psychotherapists believe that a person’s early experience and attachments influences later relationships: there is a tendency to repeat history, patterns and ways of relating. As people grow into adults, they find ways of coping and containing their distress in habitual ways – these become our what could be called our ‘scripts’. People then resist change, preferring instead to stick to familiar scripts as they offer security and because scripts have often been reasonably useful/successful up till now. However, sometimes people feel the urge or need to find a new way of being in their lives and new ways of coping with their relationships. Old ways of being may themselves be getting in the way of progress and feeling satisfied with current life. Therapy can play a role here in helping people understand their past and present in order to re-shape the future.
The integrative psychotherapist helps clients along the path of discovering who they are, bringing together all their complicated emotions, needs and life circumstances. The focus of the therapy is on how the clients relate to others in their world, how they cope generally and whether there are better ways to live more meaningful, satisfying lives. The therapy process can be challenging as it means squarely facing up to those things we might ordinarily try to avoid but the process can also bring with it a discovery of strengths and unexpected joy. The process is also special as it involves a special kind of relationship with one person who is prepared to listen with genuine compassion and curiosity and to accept you as you are. Being accepted by others can help you, in turn, to better accept and appreciate yourself.