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Monday, October 23, 2017

The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy

Integrative psychotherapy is a client-centered approach to therapy that combines various forms of psychotherapy depending upon the needs of each client and the skills of the psychotherapist (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy

Psychotherapists, who use integrative psychotherapy, choose the types of therapy that they combine for each client.

As a psychotherapist, I combine a psychodynamic approach with various forms of mind-body oriented psychotherapy, including EMDR therapy, clinical hypnosis, Somatic Experiencing and Ego States work.

The benefit of using integrative psychotherapy is that the psychotherapist has many different ways that she works so that she can find the approach that is best suited for each client.

Integrated psychotherapy can be used together or separately at different points in therapy.

Let's take a look at a fictionalized vignette to see how integrative psychotherapy can be used:

Pat came to therapy to work on unresolved childhood trauma that was affecting her in her relationships.

She had heard from a friend, who was in EMDR therapy, that EMDR was effective in helping her friend to overcome emotional trauma, so Pat requested EMDR therapy.

Pat chose a psychotherapist who practices integrated psychotherapy, which included EMDR therapy, among other treatment modalities.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy

After the initial consultation and the history taking sessions, her therapist discussed the preparation phase of EMDR where the therapist assists the client to develop internal resources to deal with whatever might come up in EMDR therapy.  This is called the resourcing phase of EMDR therapy.

Since the therapist was also trained in clinical hypnosis, after discussing hypnosis with Pat, the therapist helped Pat to imagine a relaxing place (see my article: Safe Place Meditation).

While Pat was in a relaxed hypnotic state, she imagined herself on the beach and, using hypnosis, her therapist helped her to engage all her senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, physical sensation, hearing) to make the image as vivid as possible.

Afterwards, Pat said she felt very relaxed and she could use this image of the beach if anything came up in EMDR therapy that was disturbing to her.

Using clinical hypnosis, her therapist also helped Pat to imagine various friends and loved ones that had qualities that she liked (a nurturing person, a wise person, and a powerful person).  These are called imagine interweaves and they are also part of the resourcing phase of EMDR therapy.

Pat and her therapist talked about touchstone memories that related to the unresolved trauma, so Pat chose certain memories that reflected how emotionally neglected and invisible she felt as a child (see my article: What is Childhood Emotional Neglect? and Growing Up Feeling Invisible and Emotionally Invalidated).

Pat chose a memory that was emblematic of her parents neglecting her emotionally, and her therapist asked her, as part of the EMDR Therapy protocol, what negative belief she had about herself as it related to this memory.

Pat thought about it for a moment, and then she said, "It makes me feel unlovable, and I've felt this way my whole life" (see my article: Overcoming the Emotional Pain of Feeling Unlovable).

As Pat and her therapist began working on the memory using EMDR, they came to an obstacle in the work.  Although Pat made clinical improvements until then, she was unable to get beyond a certain point in the therapy.

This is a common problem in trauma therapy, and her therapist helped Pat to explore if there was a particular belief (called a blocking belief in EMDR) that kept Pat from making further progress in their work.

Using Somatic Experiencing, her therapist helped Pat to explore what the blocking belief might be.

At first, Pat couldn't come up with anything.  But when her therapist asked Pat to sense into her body and see what she felt when she thought about the trauma being resolved, Pat said that she felt a tightening in her stomach (see my article: The Body Offers a Window Into the Unconscious Mind).

Her therapist helped Pat to describe this tight feeling in her stomach and to put words to this feeling.  Pat responded by saying, "I don't deserve to be loved."

As soon as she said this, Pat wanted to take it back.  She said, "I'm surprised that this is what came up because I don't feel this way completely."

Pat's therapist helped Pat to understand that we all have different aspects that make up who we are, and that there can be parts of ourselves that feel a certain way and other parts that don't (see my article: Understanding the Different Aspects of Yourself That Make You Who You Are).

In Pat's case, there was a significant part of her that felt that she didn't deserve to be loved, and until her therapist could work with this part, their work together would remain blocked.

Using a combination of clinical hypnosis and Ego States work (also called Parts work), her therapist helped Pat to give a voice to this part who felt undeserving of love.  It turned out to be a very young part that had internalized her parents' emotional neglect and believed that Pat was unlovable.

By asking Pat to imagine this young aspect of herself sitting next to her, her therapist helped Pat to understand this part.

Using Ego States work, her therapist helped Pat to embody this young part so she could express what this young part needed.  Then, her therapist asked Pat to switch back to her adult self and to imagine her adult self holding and nurturing the younger part.  Then, she asked Pat to embody the child part and to feel the love that was coming from the adult part of her.

Since this was a very ingrained blocking belief, Pat and her therapist continued to do Ego States work  for several sessions until the younger part felt nurtured and deserving of love.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy

At that point, the blocking belief was resolved, and they were able to go back to doing EMDR therapy without any further problems.

Integrative psychotherapy combines various forms of therapy based on the client's needs and the psychotherapist's knowledge and skills.

The fictionalized vignette above demonstrates how various forms of therapy, including EMDR therapy, Somatic Experiencing, clinical hypnosis and Ego States work can be combined based on the needs of a particular client.

Not every therapist uses integrative psychotherapy.  So, in the case above, for a psychotherapist who only does EMDR therapy, she might have to use another approach to overcome the blocking belief.

In my experience, using integrative psychotherapy offers the therapist the best possible tools to help the client overcome problems that come up in the work, and it is more effective than just using one treatment modality, especially since there is no "one size fits all" form of therapy that works for every client.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you've decided that you could benefit from attending psychotherapy, it's good to be an informed consumer, which means educating yourself about the various forms of therapy (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

When you see a psychotherapist for an initial consultation, you can ask the therapist how she works and what treatment modalities she uses.

In my professional opinion as a psychotherapist, an integrative approach that includes various mind-body oriented therapies is the most effective approach for most clients.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I use an integrative approach that combines mind-body oriented therapy with psychodynamic therapy.  

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.

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