What Is the Eclectic Approach in Psychology?

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Eclectic psychology refers to a therapeutic approach in which a variety of methods, principles and philosophies are used to create a treatment program that caters to a patient’s unique needs. Rather than adhering to a certain school of therapy, eclectic therapists use techniques from all schools to treat patients.

Eclectic therapy can be used in the treatment of substance-abuse disorders, behavior disorders, eating disorders, addictions, mood disorders and any other psychological disorder that responds to therapy. Although some eclectic therapists may draw more from a favorite school of therapy, such as psychodynamic or cognitive-behavioral, others are self-acclaimed eclectics drawing equally from each, depending on the needs of the patient.

Eclectic approaches became increasingly common in the 1970s, before which therapists generally identified with early schools, such as Freudian and Adlerian psychology. However, many therapists have been hesitant to label themselves as eclectic therapists, with only around 10 percent of therapists applying this label to themselves, according to Dr. Drewey of Psych Web. The famed therapist Arnold Lazarus clearly used an eclectic approach, but he instead opted for the term “multi-modal therapy.”

One factor pushing therapists towards an eclectic approach is insurance companies’ need for assurance that a particular treatment is right for the patient. Therapists may use various approaches to have a greater chance of insurance coverage for their services.