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What is Integrative Psychology?

Allison Boelcke
By Allison Boelcke
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Integrative psychology is a way of examining the causes and treatments of human behavior through scientific study, spiritual guidance, and alternative medicine. This form of psychology is different from traditional clinical psychology, which tends to rely mostly on science, such as experimentation and medication, to treat mental disorders. Psychologists who practice integrative psychology typically take a patient’s social, cultural, and spiritual beliefs into account when discussing treatment options.

Psychotherapy is often one of the main foundations of integrative psychology. It is the process of a psychologist talking with a patient to learn more about his or her behavioral patterns and emotions, as well as any past traumatic or self-destructive events. By learning about the patient’s specific tendencies, a psychologist can then suggest coping strategies or other treatment options personalized to work best for the patient.

Although an integrative psychologist can recommend a patient take medication, it is often used in addition to other therapeutic techniques instead of as the only treatment option. Instead of focusing solely on a patient’s possible brain chemical imbalances, an integrative psychologist may implement methods to improve a patient’s well-being through alternative medicine. The exact program usually varies depending on the psychologist, but may include relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises. A psychologist may also recommend alternative medicine such as acupuncture, the Chinese medicinal practice that involves the use of inserting needles into the skin as a way of opening up blocked energy pathways that are thought to cause mental or physical disorders.

Patients who are religious may choose psychologists who specialize in theistic integrative psychology. This type of psychology is based on using a patient’s religious or spiritual beliefs as a way of helping him or her deal with mental or emotional problems. Supporters of this method believe it is more helpful to religious or spiritual patients than using scientific treatment options only and can improve morale and hopefulness. The psychologist does not have to share the patient’s religious affiliation, but rather uses the patient’s specific beliefs as a way of helping him or her cope with difficult matters.

Integrative psychology can be used to treat a wide variety of mental or emotional issues because it can be customized to fit patients’ particular situations. If a person is suffering from a mental disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder, he or she may combine medication with other therapeutic forms as a way to deal with and feel better about his or her situation on a daily basis. This form of psychology can also be used for treating people who have experienced trauma, such as victims of rape or assault, or those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. It can also be applied to less serious emotional issues, such as difficulty dealing with life changes, such as divorce or a child leaving home.

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