Pros And Cons Of Eclectic Therapy

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated May 2, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you're considering therapy or are searching for a new therapist, there are many approaches to choose from, including eclectic therapy. Eclectic therapy has various strengths and weaknesses, and its effectiveness may depend on your preferences. Learning about integrative approaches before utilizing them may help you know what to expect when you meet with your therapist. 

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Eclectic therapy isn't for everyone - but could it be for you?

The eclectic approach

Eclectic therapy, often called multi-modal or integrative therapy, involves adapting the therapeutic approach to a client's specific needs and personal life.

This approach may involve using various theories of psychology and types of therapy, specialized to a particular client and their circumstances. It is an integrative approach that aims to create a person-centered therapy plan. 

Instead of focusing on one treatment approach, eclecticism is a type of multi modal therapy that adheres to several theories and ideas. While other modes of therapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive interpersonal therapy (IPT), and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are popular, they might be combined or used alongside an integrative approach when it offers advantages to the client or therapist. 

The eclectic approach vs. the specialty approach

In the past, each psychologist may have stuck to one school of psychotherapy. Everyone following that school often used the same theories, techniques, and style of therapy. Today, there are therapists who practice one type of therapy above others, often referred to as the specialty approach. 

In addition, many therapists practice this approach while being specialists in one type of therapy. Specialty therapists may provide a specific focus, like dialectical behavioral therapy, but use other techniques to provide tailored support to their clients in certain situations. These therapists might still be considered eclectic therapists because they’re practicing multi-modal or integrative counseling techniques. However, they’d likely identify as specialized therapists instead of integrative therapists, especially since the techniques are often used on a short-term basis.

Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy (BEP) is type of short-term eclectic therapy specifically for people living with PTSD. However, brief eclectic therapy has a specific approach and number of sessions, unlike the standard eclectic, multi-modal approach.

Advantages

Below are a few potential advantages of this approach. 

Personalized Therapy Tailored To Your Needs

With eclectic therapy, your therapist may do the trial and error approach and offer suggestions to find the type of therapy or combination of types that you find most compelling. An eclectic therapist may consider how each therapy might target specific symptoms, thought patterns, or behaviors. They can start by choosing the type, style, and techniques and may take notes on their effectiveness over time. They may switch the style to ensure effectiveness if it isn't working. 

Different methods for different concerns

An eclectic therapy approach may allow clients to practice various forms of therapy for different needs or symptoms. For example, suppose you want to address symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) but also experience generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In that case, the therapist might use a desensitization technique like exposure and response prevention (ERP) to treat the OCD and a mindfulness-based CBT to target anxiety symptoms. 

Approaching similar problems from different angles

An eclectic therapist can also use different therapies to target one concern from various angles. If you're experiencing anxiety, they might teach you relaxation techniques, art counseling, exposure therapy, or the 'empty chair' technique to help you express your feelings about the situation. They might also use CBT to help you restructure your thoughts and change behaviors within your relationships.

Increasing engagement

You may find that utilizing one therapy method seems repetitive after some time. This approach can increase engagement by teaching clients a new skill or idea each session and ensuring sessions evolve over time. Additionally, if a client's symptoms or concerns change, the method can also change. 

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Disadvantages

Eclectic therapy might not be the most effective choice for every client. Some clients may be looking for a specialized form of treatment for their symptoms, studied explicitly for one type of mental health condition. For example, many clients seek support through specialized programs like EMDR therapy for trauma or ERP for OCD. If a therapist changes the approach in the middle of an EMDR session, it might distract from the purpose of the therapy, which is a structured approach. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Requiring a highly skilled therapist

Eclectic therapy often requires a well-trained therapist with training and schooling in multiple techniques and various areas of counseling. They may attend several courses, classes, or additional education units. If a therapist is not educated in more than one type of therapy, using various methods in a trial-and-error project could potentially confuse the client. They might not use person-centered techniques but try various forms of therapy to see what works. 

Potentially confusing

When an eclectic therapist moves quickly from one type of therapy to another, you might feel confused about their approach. A skilled therapist may eliminate that confusion by explaining an approach, and leaving room for questions. 

Specialized therapy may be more effective for certain concerns

Depending on your reasons for seeking therapy, a specialty approach may be most effective. For example, suppose you are experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder and have signed up for a DBT class. In that case, you may feel that you are not receiving the support you signed up for if your therapist suddenly switches.

What if I am beginning therapy for the first time?

If you're new to therapy and want to know more about it, spend time researching the therapists you're considering. You can also consider having a consultation to discuss your questions about it. Many therapists offer an intake interview or session to get to know their clients and explain their methods. 

If you search for a therapist using a search engine online, consider checking their website and review page to see how they've helped previous clients. They might also list their specialties and the types of conditions, symptoms, or situations they often work with. 

What if I’m not satisfied with my current therapist’s approach?

If you think an eclectic therapy approach or different type of specialized therapy would suit you better, consider letting your therapist know. Although a therapist might personalize your treatment plan to what they believe works best for your symptoms, everyone is different.  

If your therapist's methods are not working and they cannot offer an eclectic therapy approach, you might also consider finding a new provider specializing in integrative therapy. This approach may allow you to feel comfortable, in control, and respected by your therapist. 

Activities to try alongside therapy

In addition to therapy, you may be able to support yourself and improve your mental health at home with the following techniques. 

Journaling

Journaling is a cost-effective and creative method for expressing your feelings. When you write down thoughts, ideas, and emotions, you may gain a more profound understanding of the topics you discuss in sessions. This can help you build a better therapeutic relationship with your therapist.

Exercise

30 minutes of exercise a day may simultaneously benefit your mental and physical health. Exercise releases neurotransmitters that can provide positive sensations and feelings and keep you healthy and may help with stress management.

Meditation

Meditation can help you connect with your thoughts and emotions and may help you come to conclusions about your treatment. Additionally, studies have found that meditation can increase self-compassion and physical health. 

How to find an eclectic therapist

Finding an eclectic therapist that practices an integrated approach can be challenging. In addition, many clients face barriers to treatment, like distance, cost, lack of support system, or scheduling conflicts. If you struggle to find an integrative therapist in your area, consider online eclectic therapy. 

Online therapy can offer a personalized avenue for support. You can receive journaling prompts, worksheets, and webinar links from your therapist and practice various forms of talk therapy through phone, video, or live chat sessions. In one University of Zurich study, 96% of online therapy clients reviewed their interactions with their therapist as "personal," as opposed to only 91% of clients utilizing in-person therapy. You can also find specialists in many forms of treatment online. 

If you're interested in trying an online eclectic therapy approach, you can sign up with a platform like BetterHelp to get matched with one of 30,000 counselors, with many specializing in various forms of therapy and multiple mental health concerns. 

Takeaway

There can be various advantages and disadvantages to eclectic therapy, depending on your needs and reason for attending sessions. Sessions can be personalized and unique for each client. If you're ready to learn more about this it, consider contacting a counselor for further guidance and resources.

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