Pros And Cons Of The Eclectic Approach To Therapy

By Nicole Beasley

Updated January 02, 2019


Thirty-six percent of U.S. therapists were using an eclectic approach to therapy - more than any other single approach - as of 2002, according to Introduction to Psychology v.1.0.2, a textbook written by Charles Stanger. While cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy have been gaining in popularity in recent years, even those who specialize in these other approaches commonly use an eclectic approach whenever it provides advantages.

If you're thinking of beginning therapy or are unsatisfied with your current therapy, you might want to consider finding a therapist who uses this approach. So, what is an eclectic approach, anyway, and what are its positive and negative aspects? Is the eclectic approach right for me and my mental health issues? Answering these questions can help you choose the therapist who is right for you.

What Is An Eclectic Approach?

Eclectic is a word not often used in common, everyday language. Google's Dictionary defines this word as 'deriving ideas, style or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources.' The word by itself can be used in many different subject areas. For example, if you have eclectic tastes in music, you might enjoy classical piano music, rock ballads, 90's grunge, and modern country music. The eclectic approach to therapy also draws from many different sources. Google also gives the origin of the word, which goes back to the Greek word for 'choose.'


clectic Approach To Psychotherapy

Psychology Today gives this eclectic approach definition:

'Eclectic therapy is an open, integrative form of psychotherapy that adapts to the unique needs of each specific client, depending on the problem, the treatment goals, and the person's expectations and motivation.'

The Greek origin as 'choose' puts a new light on eclectic therapy. Not only does the therapist use different therapies, but they go through some process to choose each one.

Eclectic Approach Vs. Specialty Approach In Therapy

Long ago, each psychologist stuck to one school of psychotherapy. Everyone following that school of thought used basically the same theories, the same techniques, and the same style of therapy. Currently, there are still some therapists who practice only one type of therapy. Some therapists only practice cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, desensitization psychology, and humanistic therapy, to name a few. An eclectic therapist may use two or more of these techniques.

Is It Possible To Have A Specialty And Still Use An Eclectic Approach?

The truth is that, even though they wouldn't identify themselves as being eclectic therapists, most therapists do use different approaches to meet different needs. In short, they practice the eclectic approach even if they identify themselves as being a specialist in one type of therapy. Currently, therapists who specialize typically have an area of focus but also use other techniques in certain situations.

What Is EBP And EBT, And What Do They Have To Do With Eclecticism?

The current trend in psychotherapy is toward Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) using Evidence-Based Techniques (EBT). Evidence-based just means that the therapy used for any mental health issue or disorder has been proven in scientific studies to work for that issue or disorder. The idea of EBT and EBP makes perfect sense. After all, if it works, it works. Why not use it?

There's another reason to use a particular type of therapy for a particular problem: to meet the demands of the insurer. In Psychology: An Introduction 2017, Russell A. Dewey, Ph.D., explains that the insurance companies won't pay unless there's evidence that the therapy will be beneficial for you, your issue, and in your situation. Since psychotherapists have to prove they used the right technique for you, they rely on therapies they can justify to the insurance companies.


Pros Of Eclectic Approach Psychology

Aside from the financial issue mentioned above, why should you choose eclectic therapy? Consider the following reasons why an eclectic therapist might be right for you.

Personalized Therapy Tailored To Your Needs

With eclectic therapy, the goal is to use the specific type of therapy that's right for you in any given instance. A therapist who takes an eclectic approach is one who tailors each part of the therapeutic experience to your specific needs. They choose the specific type, style, and techniques that work best for you.

Different Methods For Different Issues

Since an eclectic approach to psychotherapy is one that uses several different types of therapy as needed, it works well for people who have more than one issue. Many people start therapy with several different issues they want to deal with, and the therapist may use different types of therapy for each of those issues. For example, if you want to conquer a phobia but also want to address generalized anxiety, the therapist might use a desensitization technique for the phobia and mindfulness-based therapy to help with the anxiety.


Approach The Same Problem From Different Angles

An eclectic therapist can also use different therapies to help you deal with one difficult problem. For example, say you went into therapy because you felt like you were failing as a parent. The eclectic therapist might use several different methods to help you with that problem. If you're feeling anxiety about being a parent, they might teach you relaxation techniques and use art therapy or the 'empty chair' technique to help you express your feelings about the situation. They might find out the specific things you need to change and use cognitive behavioral therapy to help you change your thoughts about how to be a good parent so that you can change your behavior. This combination of techniques is what makes the eclectic approach so versatile.

Increases Engagement In Therapy

Sticking with one type of therapy to solve a complex problem can be grueling and, quite honestly, boring for some people. You might even get to the point where you dread going to therapy, feeling you already know what's going to happen there. When a therapist uses the eclectic approach, though, you get more fresh experiences in therapy sessions. Therapy can be more exciting, and it can help you stay alert and engaged.

Cons Of The Eclectic Approach

Eclectic therapy isn't always right for everyone with every type of problem. When you're considering starting therapy, it makes sense to look at both sides of this issue before you select a therapist. So, when wouldn't eclectic therapy be the right choice for you?

Requires A Highly Skilled Therapist

Getting therapy from a counselor who isn't highly skilled is never a good idea. It's even worse with eclectic approach psychology practitioners. Eclectic therapy demands that the therapist is well-trained in not just one but many different types, styles, and techniques. A therapist with poor skills might turn their eclectic therapy style into a trial-and-error project, leading you down many paths but never concluding any of them. They might not use the therapies that are right for you, but instead just choose whatever therapy comes to mind. So, it's important to know that your therapist is licensed and knowledgeable.


Can Seem Confusing

When an eclectic therapist moves too quickly from one type of therapy to another, you might feel confused about what's happening in your sessions. A skilled therapist can eliminate that confusion by letting you know at the end of one therapy session what you'll be doing in the next session, explain it briefly, and ask if you have any questions. Then, when you return, they can remind you what's going to happen.

Sticking To One Type Of Therapy Might Be Better For Certain Problems

What if you only have one problem you want to address through therapy? Depending on the problem, one specific type of therapy might be the best one for all parts of your therapy. People with Borderline Personality Disorder, for instance, typically do very well with just dialectical behavior therapy. DBT covers so many different aspects of this disorder that there might not be any need for other therapies. If you have PTSD or a phobia, desensitization techniques might give you the relief you need. Still, the therapist may focus on these techniques but bring in others as well.

How To Find A Therapist Who Uses The Eclectic Approach

Finding a therapist is easy, but finding the therapist who is best for you can be a little more difficult. Fortunately, if you would like a therapist who uses the eclectic approach, you'll probably have many to choose from. In fact, if you look for an eclectic online therapist, you'll have hundreds to choose from that you can talk to from wherever you are. So, what's the best way to identify an eclectic therapist? Here are some avenues to explore.

What If I'm Beginning Therapy For The First Time?

If you're new to therapy and don't know much about how it works, the best thing to do is spend some time researching the therapists you're considering. When you find the one you think is right for you, you can discuss it further with them at your intake interview.

Initial Research

For the initial research, check online for each therapist's credentials and specialties. When you look for a therapist at, you can find out about their main specialty or specialties on their profile page.

Choose the therapists that sound best to you. Then, contact those therapists and ask them if they ever use different types of therapy besides their main specialty. It's best to avoid the term 'eclectic approach' when having this discussion because many therapists prefer to characterize their practice differently. However, by asking how many different types of therapy they practice, you're essentially finding out the same thing. Choose one therapist and set up the first appointment.

Intake Interview

You can also find out more when you have your first therapy session with your new therapist. Although changing therapists locally can be a hassle, you might find it worth your time if you don't feel the therapist is a good fit for you. The good news is that when you choose online therapy at Better Help, switching therapists is extremely easy. And, since you don't have to rely on insurance to keep your costs low, you don't have to worry about satisfying an insurance company's requirements for a new therapist.

What If I'm Not Satisfied With My Current Therapist's Approach?

Suppose you're going to therapy and seeing no progress. Maybe you would like your therapist to use a more eclectic approach with techniques and styles of therapy that suit you better. Your current therapist may consider using methods they have never used to you before. Still, in most cases, the therapist is already using the techniques they consider best for you.

However, just because you're already seeing a therapist, it doesn't mean you have to stick with them no matter how it works out. If you've been in therapy very long and haven't at least felt a sense of relief and hope, it might be time to move on to a therapist whose therapeutic approach suits you better. Follow the same steps you would if you were starting therapy for the first time. Since you have some experience with being in therapy, you'll have a better sense of what to ask and how to ask it.

In the final analysis, a therapist who uses an eclectic approach is one who might be best-equipped to meet your unique needs. An eclectic approach to therapy may be just what you need to resolve your mental health issues in the quickest, most complete way possible!

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