The integrative approach is about discussing and solving specific problems, making decisions, dealing with crises, improve relationships, development issues, the improvement of personal awareness and efficiency, and dealing with emotions, thoughts and internal conflicts in an adequate manner. The general aim is to offer you the possibility to give meaning to your life with the ultimate goal to have a meaningful life, both as an individual and as a member of society.
Last century’s way of thinking – a clear distinction between body and mind – has been a detour in medical history. A human being is much more than a physical form (medical model), thoughts and behaviour (cognitive behaviour therapy), interaction with his or her surroundings (transactional analysis, system therapy), et cetera.
The so-called tree metaphor is a powerful metaphor that can act as a human clarification model. This metaphor considers a human being as a tree that grows in a certain social context and develops into adultness. In its turn, the tree and its development influences its surroundings: A tree can force out other trees and bushes, can take away sunlight, can catch a lot of wind, et cetera.
Many human dimensions can be depicted by this tree metaphor:
• The roots of the tree represent its genetics; the almost unchangeable core items of a human being (gender, physical appearance).
• The trunk of the tree is the symbol of your core beliefs about our self, others and life. Changes to the trunk of the tree have a huge impact on growth and development of the tree.
• The big branches symbolise beliefs: rules to live by, items you apply from your social context, judgements about yourself and the other.
• Smaller branches are automatically appearing thoughts, associations and emotions.
• The leaves represent the behaviour that a tree shows in the outside world.
• The climate in which the tree grows, reflects past and current developments and the social context of the tree.
Therapy often uses a “leaf for leaf” approach. When the first leaf is dealt with, usually another leaf moves in. In such cases it seems more efficient to focus on the branch to which the leaves are attached. In other words: which thoughts, associations and emotions are at the root of the behaviour? As a next step, you can then decide how to fertilise the soil in order for the roots to take in this nutrition and pass it on to the branches and the leaves. You can also discuss how we can influence the climate in order for the tree to grow.
More exciting, however, is the question about that “something” that causes the tree to grow. Integrative therapists consider this “something” part of every human being. Of course the growth of a tree is impacted when climate and surroundings are affected. And sometimes you wish you could sanitise the trees surroundings… However, this is not how the integrative method works; it operates on a different level.
Even though the tree metaphor can be fitting, the human being is more than a tree! A human being has a soul, a will, wishes, dreams and ambitions. That “something” is our imagination, our unconsciousness that navigates us through the sea of our lives. Did you know that our imagination is stronger than any of our will power? If you change your own growth and development, this eventually will have an impact on the forest in which you were once planted as a human being.
The integrative approach offers you both a program in the outside world at the level of situations, triggers and behaviour as well as the inside world at the level of thoughts, associations and emotions – that particular feeling you have inside. In that sense, integrative therapy goes beyond cognitive behavioural therapy and body-oriented therapies.