What Is Eclectic Therapy?

Eclectic therapy embodies an approach rooted in the utilisation of diverse theoretical orientations and techniques. It champions flexibility and adaptability, enabling therapists to tailor treatment to each client’s unique needs by employing the most suitable methods. Sometimes termed multi-modal or integrative therapy, it represents a versatile and multi-faceted framework for therapeutic intervention. This article explores the workings of eclectic therapy and its potential applications and highlights some of the essential techniques employed. Additionally, it delves into the efficacy of eclectic therapy and provides considerations before opting for an eclectic therapy approach.

History and development

In the earlier phases of the 20th century, many therapists adhered to specific treatment styles. Arnold Lazarus was among the pioneers advocating for an integrated therapy approach, exemplified by his multimodal therapy. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, various forms of eclectic therapy emerged and underwent continual development. Even now, contemporary eclectic therapies are emerging as ongoing research endeavours to discern the factors contributing to the efficacy of psychotherapy for individuals facing diverse challenges.

Contemporary research indicates that a significant majority of psychotherapists adopt an eclectic or integrative stance. A survey conducted among professionals revealed that merely 15% adhered strictly to a single theoretical model, while the median number of orientations integrated into practice stood at four.1

How it works

The eclectic therapist employs a dynamic approach, eschewing conventional rigid structures in favour of adaptability. They customise the therapeutic journey according to each patient's unique requirements, selecting treatment methods deemed most beneficial. Unlike adherents to a one-size-fits-all model, the therapist doesn't seek universal behavioral patterns; rather, they gather precise patient information to tailor treatment modalities to the individual and their specific disorder.

Types of eclectic therapy:

Brief eclectic therapy: This variant, characterised by its brief duration, combines components of psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioural treatments, typically administered over a limited number of sessions. It aims to address specific issues, such as PTSD, by aiding individuals in deriving meaning from traumatic experiences and cultivating new coping strategies.

Cognitive-interpersonal therapy: This method integrates aspects of cognitive-behavioural therapy to elucidate the impact of thoughts on interpersonal relationships.

Multi-modal therapy: Drawing from social-cognitive learning theory, this approach amalgamates techniques from various therapeutic modalities. It involves a comprehensive assessment of an individual's needs, encompassing behaviour, emotions, sensory experiences, visualisations, cognition, relationships, and physical well-being.2

Transtheoretical therapy: This approach focuses on comprehending the stages and processes involved in behavioural change. It equips individuals with the tools to pursue their objectives, enhance relationships, and effect positive transformations in their lives.

What challenges can eclectic therapy help you with?

Research indicates that eclectic therapy is particularly effective in addressing a range of mental health concerns, including but not limited to:3

  • Major depression
  • Dysthymic disorder
  • Postpartum depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Relationship difficulties within marriages, families, or other contexts
  • Developmental challenges and issues associated with specific life stages
  • Complexities related to pregnancy
  • Academic or school-related challenges experienced by children and adolescents
  • Enhancing coping skills for managing medical conditions or health-related issues


Research findings indicate the efficacy and safety of eclectic therapy as a viable treatment option:

  1. Eclectic therapy has demonstrated effectiveness in addressing selective mutism, an anxiety disorder prevalent in children characterised by an inability to speak in specific social settings. This approach incorporates interventions derived from psychodynamic, behavioural, cognitive-behavioural, and family theories.
  2. Research evidence indicated the success of an eclectic treatment program for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers amalgamated components from psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioural approaches to devise a comprehensive therapeutic intervention.4
  3. Evidence from another study highlights the efficacy of an eclectic approach that integrates art therapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) in enhancing mental well-being and reducing anxiety levels among children.5

Criticism of eclectic therapy6

  1. The absence of a standardised structure or procedure may result in clients feeling uncertain about session expectations and duration.
  2. Utilizing techniques from various disciplines can be perplexing or disorienting for certain individuals.
  3. Therapists may encounter challenges in articulating a clear roadmap of the therapeutic process from initiation to conclusion.
  4. Without clear communication regarding the rationale behind therapeutic interventions, the approach might appear syncretic, resembling a haphazard collection of strategies lacking cohesive purpose.

Advantages and disadvantages of an eclectic approach6

Examining both its benefits and drawbacks can assist in determining if eclectic therapy aligns with your preferences and needs.

Advantages of an eclectic approach:

  • Embraces flexibility to cater to diverse client needs, diverging from a one-size-fits-all therapeutic model.
  • Suitable for addressing multiple and intricate issues, recognising that clients are often present with various interconnected concerns.
  • Utilizes evidence-based techniques proven to be effective in therapeutic settings.
  • Tailor therapy to suit the individual client, prioritising adaptation over adherence to a fixed model.

Disadvantages of an eclectic approach:

  • Perceived unpredictability or confusion in the therapeutic process.
  • The impression that the therapist employs a trial-and-error methodology.
  • Absence of a clear, discernible structure, which may create uncertainty for some individuals.


Eclectic therapy, a dynamic approach to mental health treatment, embraces diverse techniques tailored to individual needs. Its roots trace back to the early 20th century, gaining prominence through advocates like Arnold Lazarus and evolving over time. This approach rejects the confines of rigid treatment structures, opting instead for a fluid and personalised approach. This philosophy recognises that no single therapeutic model fits all and prioritises the integration of various techniques to address the complexity of human experiences.

Diving into its diverse manifestations, eclectic therapy presents an array of modalities, each finely tuned to tackle specific mental health challenges. From brief eclectic therapy, which offers targeted interventions over a limited timeframe, to cognitive-interpersonal therapy, which explores the interplay between thoughts and relationships, the versatility of eclectic approaches knows no bounds. The research underscores its efficacy across a spectrum of issues. Yet, for all its strengths, eclectic therapy is not without its critiques. Some sceptics raise concerns about its perceived unpredictability and the potential for client confusion. Additionally, the absence of a clear, standardised structure may leave some individuals feeling adrift in the therapeutic process. Nevertheless, the advantages of eclectic therapy are manifold. Its adaptability allows therapists to tailor interventions to suit each client’s unique needs and preferences, fostering a deeper sense of engagement and empowerment. By drawing from a diverse toolkit of techniques, eclectic therapists can address multifaceted issues with precision and sensitivity. In weighing its pros and cons, it emerges as a versatile but nuanced approach to therapy, offering tailored solutions while navigating challenges of clarity and structure.


  1. Tasca GA, Sylvestre J, Balfour L, Chyurlia L, Evans J, Fortin-Langelier B, et al. What clinicians want: Findings from a psychotherapy practice research network survey. Psychotherapy [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2024 Feb 8];52(1):1–11. Available from: https://doi.apa.org/doi/10.1037/a0038252
  2. Dr. Ofer Zur [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Multimodal therapy: a primer, article by arnold lazarus, ph. D. , abpp. Available from: https://drzur.com/multimodal-therapy/
  3. Day S. Theory and design in counseling and psychotherapy. Boston: Lahaska Press/Houghton Mifflin; 2004. 526 p.
  4. Gersons BPR, Schnyder U. Learning from traumatic experiences with brief eclectic psychotherapy for PTSD. European Journal of Psychotraumatology [Internet]. 2013 Dec 1 [cited 2024 Feb 8];4(1):21369. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/ejpt.v4i0.21369
  5. Ahmadi A, Mustaffa MS, Haghdoost AA, Mansor SMS. Eclectic approach to anxiety disorders among rural children. Trends Psychiatry Psychother [Internet]. 2017 Jun [cited 2024 Feb 8];39:88–97. Available from: https://www.scielo.br/j/trends/a/6pLV4fSwDtfvczQrsYzWPzd/?lang=en
  6. Pros and cons of eclectic therapy | betterhelp [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 8]. Available from: https://www.betterhelp.com
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Styliani Tsolka

MSc, Health Psychology, University of Surrey, UK
BSc, Psychology, University of Surrey, UK

Stella is dedicated to promoting Mental Health Awareness, among people of all backgrounds and knowledgeable in applying theoretical concepts with real-life scenarios. In the future, Stella aspires to qualify as a Counselling Psychologist, focusing on individualized holistic care.

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