What is Integrative Counselling?

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I practice near Wigtown in Moray,

Please phone me on   079 2210 7678  if you think counselling could help you. 

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Integrative Counselling


Individuals think, feel and react in different ways. By integrating different ways of helping people bring about change in their lives, an integrative counsellor can work with each client to produce a unique therapy adapted to suit what that client wants and needs.



Integrative Counselling draws on mainstream theoretical perspectives, integrating knowledge and skills from different therapies.


Working together we can use the insights and techniques of Person Centred Counselling 1, Psychodynamic Counselling 2 and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy 3 

to help you bring about the changes you want in your life. 



Very brief descriptions.


1. Person centred counselling offers a non-judgemental relationship between client and counsellor, in which the client can explore what they need and want, and how they can achieve their goals.

2. Psychodynamic counselling works by bringing unconscious thoughts and feelings to the surface; there is an emphasis on the influence of the past, and on  recurring  patterns of relationships.

3. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy works by examining the ways that thought, behaviour, and feeling effect each other, and how different aspects of these can be changed to solve specific problems. 


The exact nature of the work we do will depend on what suits you, the client, best.


For example:



  • A client who wants to overcome a phobia or anxiety in order to be able to get on with their life may choose to examine patterns of thought and feeling, and experiment with safe ways of getting past their fears (drawing on cognitive behavioural techniques); or they may choose to explore their memories to find the source of their fears (using psychodynamic or person centred techniques).
  • A client with an alcohol or drug related problem may want to work out ways of controlling their use, find safer ways of feeling better, (drawing on cognitive behavioural techniques) explore the past stresses and present triggers that lead to the use, (using psychodynamic or person centred techniques), or work in greater depth and do all these things. 
  • A client who needs to deal with the influence of past traumas, (abuse, neglect, bereavement, etc) may choose to talk about their childhood, exploring their memories and dreams (drawing on psychodynamic techniques).
  • A client dealing with a trauma that is recent, or still happening, (domestic violence, divorce, bereavement, etc) may want to think about ways of coping, and ways of reducing the pain (drawing on person centred and cognitive behavioural techniques).
  • Clients who want to explore who they are, or who they want to be, can talk about feelings, plans, and fantasies; identifying patterns and unacknowledged needs. (drawing on person centred or cognitive behavioural techniques).  
  • A client dealing with any issue may want to work on improving their self esteem, and this can be done by both talking and experimenting with ways of behaving (drawing on person centred, psychodynamic or cognitive behavioural techniques). 



There as many issues as there are individuals,

and just as many different ways of dealing successfully with them.



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For students:


I see from StatCounter that many people find my website by typing “what is integrative counselling” into a search engine.  “Ah ha,” I think, “they must be students.”  I remember being a student. Lots of fun and excitement and just as much tearing out of hair and muttering crossly over essays.


There are many fine academic websites out there, and I’m sure you will be dutifully trawling through them looking for succinct, simple concepts.

Just in case it may be helpful, I shall add a small something to your resources.  Here, very briefly, is my personal understanding of “what is integrative counselling”.  I wouldn’t bother plagiarising any of this stuff, my writing style is not good enough.  But obviously you may quote and reference  


In integrative counselling the counsellor works from a cohesive theoretical model.  This model is formed by looking for similarities; resonances, common sense correspondences, between different theoretical approaches.


Psychology is the youngest of sciences, attempting to describe and explain, of all things, the human mind. Each mind is different at different times and all minds are different from each other. Not only that, the study of the mind, especially consciousness, is somewhat recursive. A torch trying to shine on itself.


While each different school of thought uses its own vocabulary and methodology it is possible to identify areas where they are clearly attempting to describe and explain the same phenomenon.  My suspicion is that when a greater number of theoretical perspectives seem to be describing the same thing we are getting closer to something resembling an actual “truth”.


One aspect of my personal integrative model suggests that subconscious associations (Psychodynamic) are the result of deep schematic links being activated at a low level. (Cognitive).  Rephrase that any way you like!

E.g. I am made anxious by glasses cases because the doctor who gave me my first inoculation handed me his glasses case to play with, then really hurt me, the nasty man…  But then I was a toddler, now I’m 45 and have forgotten all about it.

When I see a glasses case, this activates more than one associative schema. There is my grandmother’s glasses case, my own glasses case in primary school where I hid pennies and fiddled with the cloth lining during lessons, and so on.  These I can call to conscious awareness.

Because I have not thought about it for 40 years, maybe actively repressed it,  the schema which includes “glasses case” and “scary doctor” is merely potentiated, activating fleetingly and not coming to full consciousness. (Look up some websites on neural pathways for more on potentiation.)

The limbic system responds to such subliminal stimuli by kicking in with a fight or flight response. Survival depends on our not having to be fully conscious of all threats at all times in order to respond.

So I get scared without knowing why.….  Absurdly, I may eventually form a further link:  pain – glasses case – Granny -  why am I nervous about Granny!


For me, that instance makes sense, (although I can pick holes in it just as easily and invite you to do the same) I can integrate Psychodynamic and Cognitive with relatively few problems.  There are many, many, other crossing points between theoretical perspectives, and these are the building blocks of my theoretical model. 


I naively tell myself: “well, if they have all discovered the same thing, despite describing it in different terms, then it is more likely to be, if not true, then useful”.


Also useful are those areas where perspectives clearly disagree, these disagreements may be constructs of theory rather than observation and have less real life validity. Or they may be the result of incomplete descriptions.  Or each “truth” may apply to different types of mind.  Think about multiple intelligences and representational styles here. Imagine a client for whom CBT makes NO sense at all, but dream work and the use of archetypal stories leads to massive personal change. Then imagine the type of person for whom imagination, metaphor and symbol are empty, but for whom the linear, logical style of CBT changes everything.     


For me these disagreements are triggers for personal study and hypothesising – fantasising – “going off on one”.


Also, the model has to be ever-evolving.  To be a responsible practitioner I believe I must keep learning from as many sources as possible in order to enhance my model and my practice.


If you have been faced with an essay title asking you the difference between eclectic and integrative…..

Integratives claim that Eclectics just use what they think works, without any solid theoretical underpinning. This is frowned upon as slightly irresponsible.   (Yes, ok. Please don’t get cross.) As an integrative counsellor rather than an eclectic one, I do not switch from one methodology to the other, but blend them together, different degrees of each depending on the client. I may use a dream as the starting point for Socratic questioning leading to a core belief. While using a thought record I may notice recurring imagery and do something psychodynamic with it; perhaps pausing to wonder about my personal sense of… wanting to act like a mother, or leave the room, some kind of counter-transference process.  I imagine many eclectic practitioners do the same. 


I know Eclectic Counsellors who have their own theoretical models, and really, what’s the difference? 

I also know people who studied Integrative who are less bothered by the need for a cohesive model… they may be closet Eclectics… 

In the end it’s the quality of the therapeutic relationship that makes the difference.  

But that’s another essay.


Good Luck with your studies!