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Eclectic Therapy: Definition, Pros & Cons

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 15 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

A puzzle is very hard to solve if you only look at a single piece. In eclectic therapy, the patient is viewed as a whole complex picture and multiple therapy styles are used to address all aspects of the patient's needs.

Eclectic Therapy

Imagine having a large family with members' ages ranging from infancy to adults. Now, imagine that your doctor's office could not accommodate all of your family members. You would need to go to one office for the infant, another for each age group child, and another for the adult female and adult male. How incredibly annoying would it be not to be able to attend the same office for all of your family's general needs? Having a single doctor that can see all members of a family would be much simpler.

This scene is a metaphor for traditional psychological treatment, which can be combated with a method of therapy known as eclectic therapy. Eclectic therapy allows for and encourages the use of multiple types and styles of therapy to give a well-rounded approach to psychological treatment. The eclectic therapist is able to assess a person's whole situation and address all aspects of what is happening to move the person toward a healthy future. In a sense, eclectic therapy views the person as more than simply the sum of their needs.

Pros of Eclectic Therapy

The best thing about eclectic therapy is that it accommodates the full complexity of humans instead of needing to compartmentalize their mental care. Very few mental disorders or difficulties happen in a vacuum, and most patients have multiple aspects needing multiple approaches for treatment to be effective. Eclectic therapy offers patients the ability to focus on their whole selves by getting assistance with every aspect of their needs from the same therapist.

Additionally, the therapist is more able to get a full picture of what is happening with the patient if he or she is working on all the issues instead of just a small piece of the puzzle.

Eclectic therapy works best with emotional concerns that may need multiple approaches to resolve. Issues like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) which result in behavioral maladies, cognitive issues, and possibly chemical imbalances can be addressed effectively with a properly trained eclectic therapist. In the case of PTSD, the therapist might offer talk or cognitive therapy to deal with the patient's mental distress over the events that caused the PTSD, behavior modification therapy to reduce any behavioral concerns that have stemmed from the PTSD causing event (such as jumpiness, drinking, or other harmful actions), and possibly pharmaceutical assistance to help the patient deal with the stresses he or she experiences with the mental strain of the events that caused the PTSD. All of these different approaches deal with the symptoms caused by the one aggravating disorder and helps the patient find wholeness faster.

Because of the ability to identify and work on all aspects of the patients concerns, eclectic therapy is able to be much more individualized than single school therapies can be. Therapists can use only those portions of each style of therapy needed to assist the patient in the best way possible. In fact, each of the therapist's patients may receive completely different therapy plans. This individuality is another large positive for eclectic therapy.

Cons of Eclectic Therapy

While the pros for eclectic therapy are clear, eclectic therapy does have a major negative aspect.

Let's go back to the doctor's office. Imagine that you've found an awesome general practice doctor that can see your whole family. When your infant sees the doctor for a sore stomach, the doctor may remember that your toddler was in the week before with similar symptoms and come to a fast conclusion that the two are connected. If your two children were seeing different doctors, neither would have been able to make that connection.

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