Pluralistic Practice: Embracing a Global Perspective
The initial development of pluralistic counselling, psychotherapy and coaching reflected an appreciation by practitioners working in front-line community agencies and private practice – initially, mainly based in the UK and Ireland – that pre-determined theories and treatment packages were not sufficient to meet the enormous diversity of needs and preferences expressed by those who seek help. Pluralistic practice represents a flexible and responsive approach to therapeutic support that emphasises the strengths and resources of clients and the communities and relationships that sustain them. Key principles of pluralistic practice include a commitment to a process of dialogue and shared decision-making through which the knowledge and life experience of both client and therapist can be combined, and respect for the creative possibilities associated with open-ness to differences between individuals and across cultural traditions.
It has become clear that these concerns, values and forms of practice are shared by practitioners and community initiatives in all parts of the world. Recent meetings and conferences of the pluralistic practice network, and blogs on this website, have promoted dialogue and awareness around forms of emotional support and healing within different cultural traditions, the challenges and opportunities arising from recognising the continuing effects of colonialism and intergenerational trauma, the experiences of the growing number of individuals who exist between cultures, and global mental health issues such as how to respond to covid-19, the climate crisis, and the invasion of Ukraine.
A collaborative pluralistic approach has the potential to make a valuable contribution to the provision of mental health care and social support in an increasingly precarious world. This can be accomplished through access to training materials, continued development of a form of practice that builds on existing capabilities, and a way of thinking about mental health and therapy that does not privilege European and North American assumptions about what is important and what is helpful. Further important aspect of this work involve co-creating research studies with the active participation of service users and practitioners, and supporting and empowering practitioners who are marginalised by policy-makers.
Pluralistic counselling and psychotherapy is based on two key principles:
- There’s no ‘best’ way of doing therapy: different clients need different things at different times.
- If therapists want to find out the best way of helping clients, they should talk to them about it.
This doesn’t mean that clients will always know what they want, or that what clients want is what they need; but that any views that clients have on how best to do therapy should be actively elicited, respected, and engaged with.
Pluralism in counselling and psychotherapy can be both an attitude towards therapy and a specific practice.
- Pluralistic attitude: a general respect for different approaches, and a willingness to help clients find the right therapy for them. That means that therapists who practice ‘pure form’ therapies—like person-centred counselling or CBT—can still consider themselves pluralistic.
- Pluralistic practice: a form of therapy in which the practitioner draws on a range of methods and understandings to try and tailor the therapy to the individual client—based on what they and the client think may be most helpful.
This Pluralistic Practice website is the central hub for information and resources about the pluralistic approach, developed by the leading people in the field. It is primarily orientated towards counsellors and psychotherapists who identify with, or are interested in, the pluralistic approach; but it is also accessible to clients and other interested laypeople.
If you are interested in contributing to the website we welcome blog posts. You can also join our Facebook discussion group @pluralisticpractice , or see our posts on Twitter @PluralPractice , or Instagram @pluralisticnetwork .
You can also email us with your comments and ideas.
Marc Johnson, Abertay University, has developed a fantastic new video on developing a timeline map.