The Beauty of the Integrative Approach to Counselling

“Beauty” may seem a strange word to choose to use in the title of this article but for me it does accurately describe how I feel about the integrative approach to counselling and therapy. There is a subtle art to integrating seamlessly and I really appreciate its qualities. People are unique individuals and for this reason I highly value having trained in the integrative approach to counselling so that I can tailor what I offer to the client I am with. I worked in roles for over eleven years where for the one-to-one aspect of the job, I was employed to solely use one approach, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Having trained in several other approaches during that time that I felt particularly drawn to, it has been wonderful in the last two years on my counselling placement to be able to bring this all together in an integrative way of working.

Whilst I saw many people improve with CBT, there were also times when I felt a little bit of something else in addition would have been particularly helpful. For example, a significant number of people with depression have a self-critical element to their presentation and would really benefit from elements of Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). When people have become depressed following a bereavement, offering a space where they can explore their emotions around their loss and fully feel their way through their grief before then looking at how to move forward in life makes sense. There have also been people whose depression or anxiety is significantly influenced by the relationships they have around them for whom including a therapeutic approach with more of an emphasis on the relational element feels like it could have been especially helpful. Similarly, I’ve had clients who would have really benefitted from having some input on becoming more mindful, in addition to the coping strategies they were learning to manage the specific anxiety disorder or depression.

On my counselling placement I’ve also worked with a number of clients with anxiety and depression. In this role it has been a joy to be able to offer them what I feel they really need, drawing on whichever approach I’ve been trained in that feels like it would be most helpful in any given moment. Often, I will include elements of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) as these are my favoured approaches for depression and general anxiety and are well supported by a growing body of research evidence. With bereaved clients I’ve largely used a person-centred approach, giving them the space to talk about their loss, but have also brought in creative interventions where appropriate. When relationship issues have been presented Transactional Analysis, and again creative interventions, have often been helpful. I would also draw on techniques from CBT for clients with social anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or a phobia as these are currently the most evidence-based ways of working with these difficulties.

I offer one-to-one sessions of integrative counselling in central Exeter with a free initial consultation. I would love to work with you if you are local and like the sound of my approach. Please contact me if you wish to discuss my way of facilitating therapy further.

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