Pros And Cons Of The Eclectic Approach To Therapy

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated March 14, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you're considering therapy or are searching for a new therapist, there are many approaches to choose from, including the eclectic approach. This type of 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. 

Eclectic Therapy Isn't For Everyone - But Could It Be For You?

What Is 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.

The eclectic approach to therapy may involve using various theories of psychology and therapy techniques together, specialized to a particular client and their circumstances It’s an integrative approach that aims to help people create a personalized treatment 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 psychology industry often relies on evidence-based practice (EBP) by using evidence-based techniques (EBT). Evidence-based means that the therapy used for any mental health condition or symptom has been proven effective in scientific studies. Eclectic therapy is an evidence-based approach.

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. For example, certain therapists might only practice CBT, dialectical behavior therapy, desensitization psychology, sensory therapy, or humanistic therapy. An eclectic therapist may use two or more of these techniques to create an effective treatment plan.

In addition, many therapists practice the eclectic 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 therapy 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 Of The Eclectic Approach 

Below are a few potential advantages of the eclectic approach or integrative therapy. 

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 approach to psychotherapy 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 The Same Problem From Different Angles

An eclectic therapist can also use different therapies to target one concern from various angles. For example, if you go into therapy looking for relationship advice, your therapist might use concepts from couples therapy, CBT, DBT, and trauma therapy to help you develop a treatment plan. 

If you're experiencing anxiety, they might teach you relaxation therapy techniques, art therapy, 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 In Therapy

You may find that utilizing one therapy method seems repetitive after some time. Eclectic therapy 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 therapy method can also change. 

Eclectic Therapy Isn't For Everyone - But Could It Be For You?

Disadvantages Of The Eclectic Approach

Eclectic therapy and the eclectic approach 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. 

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 personalized techniques but try various forms of therapy to see what works. Before trying eclectic therapy, ensure your counselor is a licensed therapist and has training in the therapy methods they practice. If you're not sure, you can ask them.  

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. They might also let you know before you start a new type of therapy for your symptoms and offer resources if you want to learn more about how the therapy might work for you. 

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 borderline personality disorder (BPD) 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 to a method like grief therapy and abandons the structured format of DBT. Certain mental health conditions, like personality disorders and eating disorders may respond better to a more traditional approach.

What If I'm 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 therapy. 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. If you're looking for an eclectic therapist, you might ask them if they practice more than one type of therapy or utilize an "integrative" approach. 

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

It can be challenging if you're going to therapy and feel no progress has been made. If you think an eclectic 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. Consider revising your plan and testing out a few methods of therapy. 

If your therapist's methods are not working and they cannot offer an eclectic approach, you might also consider finding a new provider specializing in integrative therapy. An eclectic 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 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 therapy. You can also consider telling your journal with your therapist each session. This can help you build a better therapeutic relationship with your therapist.


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 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 or eclectic 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 approach with online therapy, 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. 


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

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started