Do you believe therapists should specialize in multiple theories/modalities?
Should therapists tailor a treatment plan that would fit best with the client’s
presenting problems?
Should therapists choose 1 theory and Only work from that?
This is one of those questions to which you will receive many different opinions. Here is
As you know the most important therapist factor in outcome is the relationship and that
means the therapist’s capacity to demonstrate unbiased understanding of the client. The
next factor is the therapist’s confidence in the process and communication of at
confidence to the client. Lastly is skill. Theory washes out, but some include it in skill.
(This last statement is controversial).
Since the specific theory essentially makes no difference, then learning many and
tailoring them to the client is not useful. This is very old thinking and presumes that you
could master many, which is not likely, and that different theories really make a
difference. In my option (and the research support this), they, for the most part, do not.
It is critical to master one approach (that can be theory or model). That alone takes
many years. My humble opinion is that some form of person-centered theory should be
at the core of every therapist’s approach and is therefore, the most important approach
although I believe can (and should) be integrated into every other approach since it is
the central basis for ALL theories and all approaches. After that, one other theory may
be useful but not necessary. I am a person-centered, cognitive therapist. Having studied
and been trained in most traditional therapies, I see cognitive and most fundamentally
curative as opposed to helping people adjust to situations which is a common
My advice, learn to be a skilled person-centered therapist and then learn one other
model that “speaks” to you. If you have to choose one, person-centered is the most
effective although often criticized for its slow impact OR choose one and make sure that
you begin and maintain a person-centered approach as you implement other
interventions. An excellent person-centered approach does not need to exclude any
intervention that you choose to use within that approach.