amalgamation and melting together
Image via Rob Owen-Wahl from Pixabay.

Is mastery over one’s life an exercise in integration?

Transtheoretical psychotherapy advocates an integrative approach of using techniques from a wide range of therapy styles (CBT, EFT, Gestalt, etc) to better meet each client at their unique challenges. There is clearly greater flexibility in this approach. It is more than just learning and assembling a toolbox of techniques (tools.) Integrative practice is learning to use all these tools in the context of common underlying philosophies and theories across the different styles.

In integrative psychotherapy, Werner’s Organismic-Developmental Theory sets out three stages leading to the integration of learning and experience “at a higher level [where] the unity and complexity of psychotherapy are appreciated” (Norcross & Goldfried, 2005, p. 16). We can apply this to live in general as follows:

Stage 1. We perceive the whole of life, but not necessarily the distinctive components making up that whole. As children, we are aware of this experience called life. As someone embarking on learning to be a designer, we are aware of this profession called design.

Stage 2. Appreciates individual components and the application of them. Isolated techniques are learned and used, but in a way that is disconnected from the whole. At this stage, we are consciously practising the skills we learn, and applying the experience we have gathered. As we grow, we realise that life is made up of components like school, social connections, and life skills. As a budding designer, we realise that there are distinct techniques for generating ideas, visualising concepts, and evaluating decisions critically.

Stage 3. There is simultaneous appreciation of individual components and how they work together as the whole. Component techniques are applied with the whole big picture in mind. As we grow into adulthood, we begin to integrate the life skills we have learned to a more cohesive whole. We no longer think about the daily activities of teeth brushing, buttoning up shirts, driving a car, or filling in forms. As a qualified designer, we are more able to focus on solving a client’s problem without consciously thinking about which stage of the design process we are at, or the specific steps of facilitating a brainstorming meeting. We begin to integrate our professional skills with our lives. Life decisions become design decisions. Design presentation considerations influence how we dress. Our life is design. Design is life.

I think this is how we achieve mastery of both our field of endeavour and our life, as a cohesive whole.

Norcross, J. C., & Goldfried, M. R. (Eds.). (2005). Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.