Integrative Psychotherapy embraces an attitude towards the practice of psychotherapy that affirms the inherent value of each individual. It is a unifying psychotherapy that responds appropriately and effectively to the person at the affective, behavioral, cognitive, and physiological levels of functioning, and addresses as well the spiritual dimension of life.
The term “integrative” of Integrative Psychotherapy has a number of meanings. It refers to the process of integrating the personality: taking disowned, unaware, or unresolved aspects of the self and making them part of a cohesive personality, reducing the use of defense mechanisms that inhibit spontaneity and limit flexibility in problem solving, health maintenance, and relating to people, and re-engaging the world with full contact. It is the process of making whole. Through integration, it becomes possible for people to face each moment openly and freshly without the protection of a pre-formed opinion, position, attitude, or expectation.
Integrative Psychotherapy also refers to the bringing together of the affective, cognitive, behavioral, and physiological systems within a person, with an awareness of the social and transpersonal aspects of the systems surrounding the person. These concepts are utilized within a perspective of human development in which each phase of life presents heightened developmental tasks, need sensitivities, crises, and opportunities for new learning.
Integrative Psychotherapy takes into account many views of human functioning. The psychodynamic, client-centered, behaviorist, cognitive, family therapy, Gestalt therapy, body-psychotherapies, object relations theories, psychoanalytic self psychology, and transactional analysis approaches are all considered within a dynamic systems perspective. Each provides a partial explanation of behavior and each is enhanced when selectively integrated with other aspects of the therapist’s approach. The psychotherapy interventions used in Integrative Psychotherapy are based on developmental research and theories describing the self-protective defenses used when there are interruptions in normal development.
The aim of an integrative psychotherapy is to facilitate wholeness such that the quality of the person’s being and functioning in the intrapsychic, interpersonal and sociopolitical space is maximized with due regard for each individual’s own personal limits and external constraints.
Within this framework it is recognized that integration is a process to which therapists also need to commit themselves. Thus, there is a focus on the personal integration of therapists. However, although a focus on personal growth in the therapist is essential, there needs also to be a commitment to the pursuit of knowledge in the area of psychotherapy and its related fields. There is a particular ethical obligation on integrative psychotherapists to dialogue with colleagues of diverse orientations and to remain informed of developments in the field.