Integrative counseling is the formal name for what most counselors do informally.
I know over the years of my work, because every brain that I have worked with is different, with its own experiences, idiosyncracies, and preferences, a counseling tool or technique that worked with one brain will not work with another, so I had better be versed in a number of theories and the techniques of each.
Of course, counseling skills will remain the same, no matter what the theory so we need to be able to listen and reflect and attend and paraphrase.
Even though each of the brains we work with, and the story associated with it, will be different, the basics of what we can work with and what can change are the same for all of us.
We can change how we think, how we feel, and how we behave, and the change process will be the same no matter what integrative counseling theory or technique we use.
When I first was exposed to the need for some serious change in myself, and began reading about theories and schools of thought and the first that made some sense to me was Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy and its links to the Stoic school of philosophy, and I of course jumped into the ideas of William James, and I have read many other authors over the years, and I have found myself drawn to brief, solution oriented theory, and existential and experiential theories and practices.
I jumped into the practice of them, and developed a sense of how those ideas impact the psyche, and then developed an experiential understanding of the theory.
Then I went to graduate school and got the book learning, and began to understand why it is important to have a theoretical foundation for your work, and why credentials are important.
And then of course, along came functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and the discovery of neurogenesis, which is the daily growth of new brain cells, and a host of biofeedback tools like EEG biofeedback, and heart rate variability biofeedback, and new diagnostic tools, and even brain fitness tools, growing out of our deepening understanding of neuroplasticity or how the brain builds new connections.
And then Martin Seligman began to champion Positive Psychology, which is truly a reflection of my own experience, that human beings can change from the most impossible circumstances.
I have watched that happen time and time again, and for the most part that change is contingent on the client's determination and commitment, much more so than on the integrative counseling theory I am using.
So perhaps the most important integrative counseling technique is from the Scott Miller version of Solution Oriented Brief Therapy for addictions where I get to shout "Congratulations! Great job! How did you do that?"
It is great fun to encourage and cheer lead for folks bravely facing very difficult circumstances.
So What Are Your Favorite Integrative Counseling Tools?
I love to use Heartmath, or heart rate variability biofeedback, to begin, because stress management or anxiety will play a part in almost any counseling situation.
Folks are always amazed with the feedback the computer screen gives them about how quickly their thinking changes their physiology, and how good they can feel doing heart rate variability biofeedback, even though they have not gotten any richer or better looking. And since biofeedback is learned, it is possible to cue the good feeling on any given heart beat.
In other words, they learn that happiness (and change) are an inside job.
I love that clients get measurable data about their progress, rather than the usual vague "I think I am doing better", and the visible progress gives clients a confidence builder to remember when their thinking is a bit confused, or feelings are strong.
The next integrative counseling tool that I like to use with clients is the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro, which teaches us how to pay very close attention to visual and auditory stimulus and remember it through some noise and chatter.
It has a side effect though, which is a higher IQ. The research on this is just a year or so old, and the tool is therefore not too well know outside the brain fitness circles.
But be sure to check out the Posit Science Brain Fitness Pro. It will help you reclaim your memory, and again, a client gets a real sense of efficacy, a sense of hope that yes, they do have the necessary tools to do this, which is why I use them.
Would You Share What You Are Most Grateful For?
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.