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  1. Demystifying Therapy: What are Dual and Multiple Roles? | Dr. Keely Kolmes
    July 13, 2009 @ 11:57 pm

    […] Demystifying Therapy: What’s a Theoretical Orientation? […]


    • Jana H.
      September 14, 2016 @ 8:49 pm

      Thank you so much for creating this post. It was immensely helpful in building knowledge of what type of treatment is most fitting for me ( and also not so fitting). Do you have any recommendations for other things to look for when selecting a therapist?

  2. Theoretical orientations | Beyondromance
    September 6, 2012 @ 12:38 am

    […] Demystifying Therapy: What’s a Theoretical Orientation? | SF Bay …May 29, 2009 … Finding a therapist who is a good match for you can sometimes feel like a very mysterious process. Of course, as in any relationship, some sort … […]


  3. ilais
    March 12, 2013 @ 4:55 am

    I found this to be a really helpful write-up of exactly what I wanted to know — when does that ever happen?! I lucked out on this search.

    I had no idea what the difference between psychoanalytic and psychodynamic approaches to therapy might be, for instance. And now I know the name of the orientation that I realize from past experience works less well for me (Humanistic).

    One question: Doesn’t family systems (Bowen?) also work for individual therapy? I was first exposed to those ideas in an individual therapy context, and it blew my mind. Now I’m looking into whether I can find a therapist with a similar approach for family sessions.

    Thanks for your article, so clear and concise; I really appreciate it.


    • drkkolmes
      March 13, 2013 @ 8:22 pm

      Yes, ilais, family systems can be extremely helpful for many people in individual therapy. Many people appreciate having an individual therapist who understands and appreciates how an individual can change family dynamics or how issues may be perpetuated in a couple, relationship, or family dynamic. Bowenian Family Systems is but one theory of family systems, but there are others as well. I wonder if might be able to help you find a Bowenian therapist in your community? Of if you Google Bowen Family Therapy and your city, you may find therapists who describe this approach who are local to you. Good luck.

  4. Amy
    January 7, 2015 @ 5:38 pm

    I’m a graduate clinical mental health counseling student and am moving into practicum. I’ve been finding it difficult to choose my theoretical orientation since many theories have beneficial aspects to them. I find that I am very drawn to Narrative Therapy (is that actually a theoretical orientation?) and also like to employ mindfulness techniques. I know that CBT is very effective, and I like aspects of Feminist theory and Gestalt. Although I wouldn’t employ all aspects of Psychodynamic or Humanistic theories, I like some of the features of these theories. I plan on working with children and adolescents & think that Narrative therapy lends well to this population. I am wondering if you have any ideas on how I can further develop my theoretical orientation. I will be working on this in practicum, but I’d like to start thinking more about this now. Thanks!


    • drkkolmes
      January 8, 2015 @ 1:43 am

      Dear Amy, this is a great question. Graduate school is such a wonderful time to open up to learning about different theoretical orientations and what speaks to you. My suggestion would be to take full advantage of your training opportunities and to get experiences from people who have a strong focus in the areas you wish to learn more about.

      I am still an integrative clinician and, like you, I always was integrative even as a graduate student. I never had that “purist” approach, likely because I’d been a psychotherapy patient and had the experience of different approaches working for me. I also have multiple ideas about how psychological problems develop and I think it depends upon the particular person. I don’t think there is just one answer. But sometimes, training with someone who is a purist can help you really learn a theory.

      If you are integrative it’s important to still have a good rationale for why you are using the approach you use with a particular client at a particular time.

      Even in my consultation groups, I prefer to have clinicians who prefer different theoretical models because it adds richness to my case conceptualization and I’m always open to trying new approaches. I try to tailor my approach to what seems to resonate for the client, but I will often fall into CBT treatment for symptom relief early on and then move into more Narrative or psychodynamic work once the person is experiencing more relief.

      And remember that even after you’re licensed, you may change your approach. I know a few people who went into analytic training following graduate school. Or people who moved on to less known models such as ISTDP or AEDP. So the learning continues even after you complete your graduate training.

  5. Eric E.
    March 11, 2015 @ 5:26 pm

    I really needed this article today. I am a PsyD Counseling Psychology student with my undergrade in organizational management and graduate work in Career counseling. I have been feeling like an alien when my advisors ask me about my orientation. I align a lot with contemplative psychotherapy as very much integrative to use otnher theories and tools to find out what the client needs to be empowered And live in the way they deem fit.


  6. Kalina Pearce
    May 23, 2015 @ 9:19 pm

    I’m a Graduate Student, in Forensic Psychology and this was extremely helpful! thank you so much. I was wondering if you had any suggestion on anything that would help me with furthering my understanding with treatment modality? I’m looking forward to your response and thanks again for the information.


    • drkkolmes
      May 24, 2015 @ 12:46 am

      Dear Kalina,

      If you’re already in graduate school, I suggest chatting with faculty who teach from particular modalities or perhaps doing some more reading on those that interest you. I was able to just scratch the surface in these posts, but a good google or amazon post will lead you to resources and books to deepen your understanding. Good luck in your studies.

  7. Rachel Fleischman
    June 5, 2015 @ 5:17 am

    Once again, you are amazing.
    You took the time to do what so many of us are too tired to do (Ok, I should just speak for myself). You laid out a succinct, crystal clear glossary that we all – therapists and clients alike – can utilize. Deep bow.
    Thanks Dr Kolmes. You so totally rock.


    • drkkolmes
      June 5, 2015 @ 5:47 am

      Thanks, Rachel, and everyone else for the kind words. I’m glad people liked this post.

  8. Maggie
    October 15, 2015 @ 3:16 pm

    Great Article!!! I am supervising a student and would like know if you have any other resources for beginning supervisors and for practicum students beginning their clinical experiences?


  9. Theresa Gibbons
    November 23, 2015 @ 4:14 pm

    Im MA psychotherpy student and struggling with assigment – How do you account for the finding from research that diverse theoretical orientations/techniques used by therapist produce different results /outcomes for clients…would appreciate any artcle or current research on this thank you


  10. Marcia
    January 29, 2016 @ 4:50 am

    Thank-you for a great synopsis!
    Why isn’t there any mention of art therapy? I’d be happy to write that.


  11. Auday
    May 18, 2016 @ 1:34 pm

    Thank you for this information. Do you know any resources that list interventions that I can review? It becomes time consuming searching journals to find what therapy interventions one by one.


  12. jane
    June 20, 2016 @ 1:34 am

    it really helped me in doing my assignment


  13. jane
    August 28, 2016 @ 5:25 pm

    I am researching the long term strengths and weakness of the major counseling theories. I sure could use your insight as well as some good reference sources.


  14. Michelle
    January 23, 2021 @ 2:06 pm

    I think Francine and other leaders might say the description of EMDR is limited. It is an information processing model, referring to how we process and store information cognitively, emotionally, and physically. It is very much an integrative approach as it incorporates multiple theories/modalities.


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