Eclecticism in psychology: 6 advantages and disadvantages of this form of intervention

In twentieth-century psychology, models and interventions emerged that did not strictly adhere to a theoretical orientation, but combined the contributions of many. For example, Klerman and Weissman’s interpersonal therapy, which emerged in the 1970s, has been influenced by psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and cognitivism.

Eclecticism promotes explanatory and applied frameworks that seek to overcome the limitations of traditional perspectives, although their greater complexity can lead to difficulties. In this article, we will describe the benefits and the disadvantages of eclecticism in psychology, As well as the types of integration that exist.

    Types of eclecticism in psychology

    There are a large number of eclectic models which combine contributions from different theoretical orientations. These are categorized according to how the integration of paradigms is achieved.

    1. Theoretical integration

    In theoretical eclecticism concepts from different theories are combined, Usually using one of them as a frame of reference. The objective of this type of integration is to increase the ability to explain certain problems.

    The book “Personality and Psychotherapy: An Analysis in Terms of Learning, Thinking, and Culture” by Dollard and Miller marked a milestone in the history of eclecticism in psychology. The authors have synthesized the explanations of neurosis offered by psychoanalysis and behaviorism and have added concepts such as “pleasure” and “reinforcement”.

    A special case is that of metatheoretical integration, which seeks to provide a common framework in which different theories can be encompassed. For example, Neimeyer and Feixas have highlighted the relevance of constructivism as a higher level theory allowing the convergence of models.

    2. Technical eclecticism

    This kind of eclecticism consists of use different orientation techniques. Lazarus, one of the pioneers of technical eclecticism, argued that theoretical integration is not possible due to contradictions of different perspectives, although many different tools may be useful under certain conditions.

    A common criterion in technical eclecticism is the level of effectiveness demonstrated empirically. In this case, we seek to find the most suitable treatments for each situation, according to scientific research.

    On the other hand, we call “intuitive eclecticism” the integration of techniques based exclusively on the ideas and preferences of the psychologist. Many people have criticized this type of practice for its lack of systematization.

    3. Focus on the common factors

    Theorists of this approach seek to identify common factors that explain the effectiveness of psychological interventions. Authors such as Rosenzweig, Fiedler, and Rogers have paved the way for this type of eclecticism with their studies and models of the therapist’s attitude as a key variable.

    Jerome Frank identified six common factors different psychotherapeutic orientations:

    • Relationship of trust between therapist and client.
    • Offer a rational and credible explanation of the problems.
    • Provide new information about the issues.
    • Customer expectations for improvement.
    • Opportunity to live successful experiences and foster a sense of control.
    • Facilitate emotional activation.

    Benefits of eclecticism

    The advantages of eclecticism they are linked to the growing complexity of explanations and to the availability of a greater number of tools.

    1. Greater explanatory capacity

    Theoretical models, as well as the corresponding interventions, favor certain aspects of reality over others. So, for example, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses almost exclusively on the overt behavior and conscious perception of the person, while psychoanalysis focuses on the unconscious.

    The combination of different orientations it makes it possible to overcome the explanatory limits of each particular model, Replace weaknesses with strengths from other perspectives. It is more common to occur in complementary paradigms, as is the case with cognitive and behavioral.

    2. Improved efficiency

    Having concepts and techniques of different approaches allows use the most appropriate tools for each situation instead of those indicated by a concrete theory; this increases the effectiveness of interventions. It also facilitates the application of holistic treatments, that is, treatments intended for the person as a whole.

    3. Customization of interventions

    Anyone has characteristics that set them apart from others; therefore, it is essential to tailor interventions to each client. Eclecticism is very helpful in this regard, because increasing the range of care better meet the different needs of customers.

    Disadvantages of eclecticism

    The negative side of eclecticism can sometimes become very relevant. It mainly depends on the level of complexity in the integration.

    1. Difficulty in combining orientations

    Integrating different perspectives is conceptually complicated, among other things because it requires a very in-depth knowledge of the guidelines and techniques involved if you are to generate a model correctly. This difficulty is particularly remarkable in theoretical eclecticism.

    2. It can be confusing

    Although the explanatory capacity of eclectic models and interventions is generally superior to that of the classics, these can be difficult to convey to experts who do not master any of the orientations in question. In addition, integrative models sometimes offer unnecessarily complex explanations.

    3. Complicates the evaluation of interventions

    From a research perspective, eclectic interventions they are more difficult to evaluate than the simple ones. In particular, it is very difficult to separate the therapeutic contributions of each of the guidelines or techniques used.

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