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Integrative Therapy: What is it? Why is it important?

There are many different types of psychotherapy. Some of these approaches, such as CBT, IPT, and psychodynamic therapy, have amassed substantial evidence for the efficacy of these approaches in the treatment of specific disorders. Most of these studies, unfortunately, have been conducted on individuals who are mostly displaying symptoms associated with a specific psychological disorder. Participants in these studies are selected based on strict inclusion-exclusion criteria (i.e., criteria about who gets into the study).

The reality is that many clients seeking services do not present with just one discernible disorder. In fact, some will have co-occurring psychological disorders (i.e., different types of psychological issues, such as depression, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, personality traits); while others will have multiple additional issues to contend with, including different types of relational, existential and meaning issues, grief and interpersonal problems that wreak havoc and create complexity in their work and personal lives. It’s vital that your clinician has familiarity with more than one treatment approach to be able to address your specific issues; otherwise, treatment will be limited to the practitioner’s preferred modality. For example, if you go to someone who only knows CBT, you are going to run into difficulties if you are needing to explore and grow by addressing complex emotional experiences (i.e., grief, defensive and more primary emotional experiences and needs), or want to understand the origins of your issues and work through a family of origin or relational matters (e.g., complex childhood trauma and attachment-oriented issues), self-esteem deficits and issues, or wanting to deal with complex existential issues of meaning and purpose. There is a wealth of knowledge from other treatment modalities for these particular areas of inquiry.

Clinicians at CFIR can provide you with first-line treatment options in addressing your concerns. Clinicians at CFIR are able to work with you at the level of symptom reduction by using a wide range of CBT approaches to learn new skills to alleviate your distress, while also delving deeper into the origins of this distress—either through accessing and exploring deeper feelings and emotions associated with your distress, or working through earlier painful experiences related to your childhood and adolescence. Delving deeper into the origins of your symptoms involves using more experiential and psychodynamic treatment approaches. For example, psychodynamic approaches help you to gain insight into how you have become a person who is anxious or depressed in the way that you are. The approach considers your unique experience in the world by exploring how earlier experiences may have affected how you think, feel, react, act, behave, and relate to your self and others in the world. Your relationship with your therapist becomes a vehicle of change in this approach. Ultimately, this awareness and your relationship to your therapist empowers you to make significant changes by looking at your current sense of self and relationships. With support from your clinician, the learning and insights gained in integrative therapy can become the springboard of new action in the world using behavioural strategies. 

Integrative therapists at CFIR typically have you undergo an assessment to understand your issues’ earlier origins while working with you in the ‘here and now’ to reduce your distress and resolve your difficulties. Our therapists are also well-versed in multiple modalities to support you through a wide range of issues, including self-esteem, grief, existential and relational issues. We are also a one-stop setting for all of your psychological service needs with over 25 treatment services and 17 assessment services.

Dr. Dino Zuccarini, C.Psych. is a clinical psychologist, and the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR). He has published book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles on the subject of attachment, attachment injuries in couples, and attachment and sexuality. He has taught courses at the University of Ottawa in Interpersonal Relationships, Family Psychology, and Human Sexual Behaviour. He has a thriving clinical practice in which he treats individuals suffering from complex attachment-related trauma, difficult family of origin issues that have affected self and relationship development, depression and anxiety, personality disorders, sex and sexuality-related issues, and couple relationships. At CFIR, he also supports the professional development of counsellors, psychotherapists, and supervised practice psychologists by providing clinical supervision.