How Pluralistic Therapy Works

The idea for pluralistic therapy emerged from an appreciation of four key findings that have been established on the basis of more than 50 years of research into counselling and psychotherapy:

  1. There are many effective ways of dealing with emotional, psychological and behavioural problems in living. There are lots of things that help.
  2. People who enter therapy are already actively involved in trying to sort out their problems. They possess significant knowledge, insight and preferences around what they think is most likely to be useful (and not useful) for them.
  3. Therapy is more effective when it takes account of the client’s preferences and their understanding of what helps. Therapy that is not informed by the client’s preferences has the potential to be destructive and even abusive.
  4. Therapy is more effective when the relationship between client and therapist is characterised by collaboration, caring and trust.

Pluralistic therapy provides a framework for harnessing these factors in the interest of helping clients to live more satisfying and productive lives.

In pluralistic therapy, it is assumed that both the client and the therapist have ideas about what might be helpful. In the case of the client, these ideas are based on personal experience, observing how other people cope with difficulties, and learning derived from reading, watching movies, and access to other similar sources of information.

It is likely that, for the client, much of this knowledge is implicit and that it will take time and support for him or her to articulate and make use of it. By contrast, therapists have a wealth of ideas about therapeutic processes, readily available to consciousness.

Therapists also possess important personal knowledge based on life experience that may also make a vital contribution to the process of therapy. For both client and therapist, some of the relevant knowledge that they possess will refer to activities outside of therapy (cultural resources such as art-making, sport and exercise, spiritual practice, etc.) that may be activated in the service of therapeutic change.

From: McLeod, J. (2017) Pluralistic therapy: distinctive features. London: Routledge