Integral Vision: from Embedded Perceptions to Multiple Perspectives

How we look at a problem, and what we then find, largely depends on our viewpoint and perceptions. Our preferences about how we direct and focus our perceptions will determine what we see. Aware of them or not, as therapists we have working models or perceptual lenses through which we view the client’s situation and personality, as well as what we believe the therapeutic process should consist of. What should be discussed in treatment? How long should it last? How directive should the work be? What techniques should be used? Each therapist views these questions with their unique perceptual lens. These unconsciously superimposed lenses are used to view all information that the client brings: their emotional life, belief systems, behaviors, the social networks they are involved in, and the values and norms that they abide by.

The Integral perspective, which recognizes the partial truth and specific insight that each methodology contributes, provides a comprehensive framework for selecting what “seems best.” What if there was a clearer way to assess pathology by affording more insight into how each individual is unique? What would be the value of a more coherent approach to choosing an appropriate intervention or technique? Would it be helpful if there were an informed manner of assessing what might be the right “next step” in meeting people “where they are”? What if there was a way of assisting the practitioners in adapting their own particular styles to best fit with the individuals they are helping? What would it be like to have a system that was able to include, honor, and intelligently make use of all the contributions of other systems? The Integral approach to psychotherapy is such a system. “Integral” suggests applying techniques and procedures from the full range of psychotherapeutic orientations, while at the same time including an informed theoretical sense of how, why, and when to apply them.

“Psychopathology is not determined by any one level of development. Psychopathology is a fluctuation in the AQAL matrix that the self cannot functionally navigate. The Integral psychotherapist assesses the location of the client within the AQAL matrix, and holds in their awareness those conditions that constitute optimal health and those conditions that constitute dysfunction, according to the sliding nature of the self.”

—Ken Wilber, Bert Parlee, and Willow Pearson, 2023

Integral psychotherapy may be regarded as a comprehensive system of theory, assessment, and treatment. When a therapist uses the Integral model, he or she can be confident that theories valuing wide-ranging dimensions of the human condition have been appreciated and taken into account. From this theoretical jumping-off point, the clinician can also ascertain that an inclusive assessment has taken into account these various perspectives. After envisioning a coherent appreciation of the many contours of the presenting problem, the Integral approach is then also able to inform and allow for a more creative palette of treatment options.

“Psychological health is the balancing of all four quadrants, according to the self level of development.”

—Ken Wilber, Jeff Soulen, and Elliott Ingersoll, 2023

In summary, each therapeutic school occupies a crucial corner in the ever evolving storehouse of therapeutic wisdom. Yet, too often psychotherapeutic practitioners are trained to privilege one school over another—at the expense of a broader, deeper and more complete view of the human psyche. Without identifying the partial truth of a given therapeutic system as such, therapists are often taught to privilege the perceptions of one school over the particular perspective of that school. Integral Psychotherapy seeks instead to draw on and operationalize these partial understandings of the major schools of psychotherapy, as perspectives. In the therapeutic setting, one size does not fit all. Situating the partial understandings of each school in a therapeutic toolkit that includes and extends beyond the view and approach of any particular psychological tradition, Integrally-informed psychotherapists are best equipped to serve people as they work together with suffering and its alleviation.

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