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What Is Eclectic Psychotherapy?

By Marlene de Wilde
Updated Feb 10, 2024
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Eclectic psychotherapy is not a school of psychotherapy as such but rather the use of a wide range of tools or techniques that would better serve the problem being addressed. Whereas in the past, therapists were more likely to follow one theory and practice to the exclusion of all the others, nowadays many therapists subscribe to eclectic psychotherapy in order to have the freedom to choose the tools that best fit the needs of the patient rather than fitting the patient to fit the theory. It is a flexible approach that requires a sound knowledge of a variety of types of psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy is the use of certain techniques in order to change dysfunctional behavior, feelings, thoughts or habits. Over the years, a wide range of psycho-therapeutic approaches and theories have developed with an exponential increase occurring in the last 30 years. Theories are becoming more specialized and some therapists believe that one approach is the best approach. Others, however, welcome the increase in diversity because it gives them more material to choose from depending on the needs of their patient.

The eclectic psychotherapist is able to pull different tools or techniques from various approaches and adapt them to their needs. However, one of the criticisms of eclectic psychotherapy is that it is not possible to fully grasp the technicalities of a psychological approach in a few months. It takes many years to become an expert in a school of thought or approach and so it was suspected that eclectic psychotherapy was favored by therapists who were not skilled or expert in any one type of psychotherapy.

In the past, therapists were very much tied to one school of thought which they defended as being the only way to heal or treat dysfunctional behavior. Behaviorists believe that behavior is learned and so can be unlearned through the use of reinforcement. Cognitivists prefer to work on thought patterns which they believe lead to unwanted or undesirable behavior. Psychoanalysts follow the work of Freud who emphasized the power of the unconscious mind. These are just a few examples of the diverse types of psychotherapy.

Eclectic psychotherapy has given way to a more modern approach called integrative psychotherapy. This type of psychotherapy also favors using different approaches but they are used together to deal with a problem rather than just picking out the parts that are convenient or useful at the time. Theories are integrated and the concepts utilized selectively but gradually and only when proven to be effective.

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