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Why Integrative Psychotherapy?

Updated: Jul 7, 2019

Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one's being, but by integration of the contraries - C.G. Jung

Since childhood I have always been interested in duality and complementarity and how they could be blended to make a whole. I believe, this was in part, shaped by the multiplicity of experiences I was exposed to from a young age. Growing up as a street savvy youngster in London but always returning to the safe bosom of my beloved life in Scotland. An only child in a single parent family, but yet very much part of a wider multiethnic community. An ambivert, happy to be the centre of attention and also comfortable observing others from the sidelines. As a young adult, it was obvious I would not be able to choose between my two loves: psychology and sociology and decided to study both. As an academic I pull together and ‘synthesise’ evidence from different disciplines to generate knowledge, that is ‘more than the sum of its parts’. Thus it should have come as no surprise to me that as a practitioner I would be drawn to the opportunity to synergize theories and philosophies to become an integrative counsellor and psychotherapist.

Like many integrative psychotherapists I come across, I did not believe that one school of thought would be sufficient to sustain me as a practitioner, particularly given the array of mental health difficulties we now know people struggle with. Nor did I want to ‘set out my stall too early’, but instead familiarize myself with the range of psychotherapeutic modalities out there. Rather than being overwhelmed by choice, I relished the chance to learn about the different ways I could work with people to support their mental health and psychological well-being. From the ever popular person-centred approach of Carl Rogers to the “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” (but is it really?) Sigmund Freud; and the many branches of counselling and psychotherapy in between!

However, I soon learned that “integrative psychotherapy” is itself a contested topic. It is not simply a matter of cherry-picking different modalities depending on my mood or without thought for the client in front of me. I also came to learn that it would mean taking my own personal integration to a deeper level. The prospect of reconciling approaches that were fundamentally different and in some cases diametrically opposed, in both their epistemological positions and therapeutic styles, now seemed quite daunting. Sensitive to the likelihood that my framework for integration would reflect my psychobiography, I also felt that for it to ‘work’ for me this was an imperative.

I decided that rather than pluralism or eclecticism, my practice would be best suited by adopting a theoretical model of integration. (See our ‘integration explained’ blog for further details). I was initially drawn to Clarkson’s 'Five Relationship Model', however, it was my sociological and social constructionist leanings that drew me to The Relational Integrative Model’ (RIM) outlined by Faris & van Ooijen, (2012). Firstly, because of the presuppositions and assumptions underpinning this approach (see box one) and secondly because of their emphasis on placing the ‘collaborative’ therapeutic relationship at their heart of their model. Both of which resonates with my existing way of working and how I perceive the world. It ‘chimed’ with me not only on an intellectual level but also on a feeling level; as it enables a greater understanding of how our intra-psychic (internal world) and inter-subjective (external world) processes shape and continue to shaped by each other.

It is also refreshing to see that the ‘relational turn’ is very much here to stay! That it is not only a key feature of of modern counselling and psychotherapy, but is an approach which has become significant in other arenas, such as social care, education, social work, nursing, and other ‘caring’ professions.

In this blog I have attempted to offer a small glimpse into why I chose to be an integrative therapist and which framework of integration spoke to me the most and why.

Questions I asked myself on this journey included:

  • Are you drawn to adopting a pluralistic, eclectic or theoretically integrated approach?

  • Would you rather consider strategies for integration, draw on existing, or develop a new therapeutic model?

  • How might your personal and professional experience influence your choice of approach?

  • How do you currently practice, and does it fit an existing model or framework?

You may have or are currently asking yourself similar (or different?) questions.

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below or join the conversation in our facebook group: here.

Dr Kelly Dickson

Founder and director Kelly is a London-based integrative psychotherapist and coach.

To find out more visit:

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