Rebecca O. Weidner & Amy R. Soto, Brigham Young University
Single voices stand alone, but when voices coalesce, they create beautiful harmonies with a variation of sound and feeling. To be sure, advisors can successfully use isolated approaches; however, integrated advising approaches can empower advisors to uniquely adapt to individual student needs.
Kimball and Campbell (2013) make a call for an integrated approach by saying:
The field needs flexible, eclectic practitioners able to adapt their advising strategies in accordance with the needs of their students. Being married to a single approach to academic advising, advisors potentially disregard the diverse ways in which students learn and presume a single, linear developmental path that is clearly more idealistic than realistic. (p. 6)
When integrating approaches, advisors have a wide variety of advising approaches to choose from: developmental, proactive, motivational interviewing, appreciative, strengths-based, etc. What would happen if, when helping students, advisors intentionally and thoughtfully integrated approaches? How could both advisors and, more importantly, students benefit from this approach?
What is Integration?
Psychotherapy integration, also known as eclecticism, is a psychological treatment approach that looks beyond one single theory and instead attempts to combine or integrate multiple theories and techniques (Norcross & Newman, 2003). As it has evolved over the last 30 years, psychotherapy integration has become a defined area of interest and a popular therapeutic method. Norcross and Newman (2005) attribute this rise in popularity due to several factors including the increase in the number of theories available to therapists, the inadequacy of one single theory to fit every case, the limited number of differences in the outcomes between the different therapies, and recognition that success is more commonly a result of the alliance between therapist and patient and characteristics of the patient rather than a result of a particular therapy.
The four most common types of psychotherapy integration are technical eclecticism, assimilative integration, theoretical integration, and common factors (Norcross, 2005). Therapists who espouse technical eclecticism use the approach that works best for the client (Norcross, 2005). While the therapist may not subscribe to the theories supporting those methods, the therapist focuses on the most effective approach. Therapists who use assimilative integration base their practice on one theory but incorporate other techniques as needed. Theoretical integration uses multiple therapies with the hope of creating a new, emergent theory. Ideally, the sum of those theories will be greater than the parts. Finally, common factors integration refers to the core aspects that different therapies have in common. Some of these factors might include the therapeutic alliance or therapist qualities, such as empathy and positive regard (Norcross, 2005).
These different therapeutic strategies can also work well as advisors seek to combine advising approaches. Many advisors already seamlessly use integration. For example, they commonly use prescriptive advising with another advising approach. Like the development of psychotherapy integration, not one singular school of thought or one theory can encompass all students’ needs.
What are the Benefits of Integration?
Psychotherapy integration is thought to be extremely beneficial for patients (Zarbo et al., 2016). Researchers have studied the different integration models and the models’ use with various disorders to illustrate the many benefits (Schottenbauer et al., 2005). Integration of advising approaches can also have several benefits for advisors and students. It gives advisors flexibility to adjust to student needs and encounters. This integrative approach can be especially beneficial in difficult and complex situations. Using integration, advisors can create an individualized approach for all students, responding to their learning styles. Integration is also outcome focused; advising approaches are immaterial as long as advisors can help the student thrive. However, advisors who intentionally use and thoughtfully integrate advising approaches can have a strong outcome for their students.
How can an Advisor use Integration?
Here is an example of how one of the article’s authors used integration recently in a student appointment. Aubrey, a freshman in her second semester, arrived for a required advisor meeting following a challenging first semester—so rough that her GPA was below a 2.0. Her classes seemed to be appropriate, a good mix of general education and major classes with varying difficulty, but she was struggling to find a balance between school, work, and social life as she experienced life away from home for the first time. Unfortunately, her second semester, while a little bit better, was still proving to be difficult.
On the surface, Aubrey’s situation might seem typical to most advisors. She did great in high school, especially her junior year, despite a heavy academic load and significant extracurricular activities.
One option would be to use prescriptive advising—to cover the policy information related to her GPA—along with strengths based advising to help her find a path to success. In fact, the advisor started the appointment using the strengths based advising approach.
Although Aubrey needed to make changes to her current routine to return to her previous success, the advisor noticed Aubrey seemed ambivalent about the changes. Using strengths based advising alone wouldn’t necessarily help her to implement change. Integrating motivational interviewing into the appointment, in particular using reflections to evoke change talk and make a plan for the current semester, enabled Aubrey to explore her ambivalence and motivation. Motivational interviewing recommends an elicit-provide-elicit (e-p-e) or ask-tell-ask technique for giving prescriptive information (Miller & Rollnick, 2013). Using the e-p-e technique, the advisor gave Aubrey the applicable prescriptive information to explain the withdraw policy and her options for the current semester as she was still struggling. To give herself a better chance at success for the semester, Aubrey decided to withdraw from one of her particularly difficult classes.
Without even thinking about integrating advising methods, Aubrey’s advisor might have moved in the same direction. However, being intentional about the process can help advisors better serve students and be present in the moment with the advisor’s approach. Taking the time to be intentional enables advisors to be more proactive rather than reactive when assisting students. While new advisors may want to focus on mastering one theory or approach, experienced advisors can improve their practice by carefully analyzing and successfully integrating multiple approaches.
How can an Advisor Cultivate an Integrative Advising Approach?
While it may sound like a simple technique, integration of advising approaches, to be successfully attempted, requires both comprehension and implementation to be successfully experienced. This type of trial and error can come through practice and by using some of the following tips:
Collaboration. Advisors rarely advise in total isolation. Even a lone advisor in a single department has access to campus colleagues, collaborators, and professionals at neighboring colleges or universities which may provide connections and a wealth of collegiality, support, and a renewed perspective. For example, troubleshooting a tough appointment or brainstorming new ideas with the help of another is much easier and generative, rather than alone. Similarly, accessing NACADA’s advising communities, mentoring programs, and conferences are available to all and can provide new or seasoned advisors with access to individuals with varying backgrounds, feedback, and experience.
Personal Assessment. After an appointment, advisors can take a few minutes to personally assess it. Advisors should identify the appointment type, the core student needs, and the approach they used to address each need. Advisors can write down and brainstorm ways to address similar future student appointments. Although this process will take a few minutes of precious time, the benefits can be extremely helpful for professional development as it is an impactful practice to mindfully reflect and set goals for immediate improvement. Even five minutes to reflect can lead to a small, yet long-term impact. Later, when the same or a similar situation occurs again, advisors will be better prepared and grateful they already solved the problem or have resources readily accessible. Over time, advisors will become more adept at meeting needs that arise.
Formal Assessment. Advisors can record their student interactions or invite another advisor or supervisor to observe their interactions with students. Receiving valuable feedback from someone outside of the student interaction can help advisors to see the situation with fresh eyes. Be clear on expectations for this type of shadow and feedback session to guide the observer to attune to specific approaches or behaviors.
Advisors can use psychotherapy integration to enhance their success with students. In difficult situations, advisors can intentionally combine different advising approaches to achieve an individualized advising practice for each student they work with. Using collaboration, personal assessment, and a formal assessment process, advisors can continue to refine their practice. Advisors who integrate different approaches will create new harmonies for their practice, benefiting advisors and students alike.
Rebecca O. Weidner
College of Fine Arts and Communications
Brigham Young University
Amy R. Soto
University Advisement Center
Brigham Young University
Kimball, E., & Campbell, S. M. (2013). Advising strategies to support student learning success. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 3–15). Jossey-Bass.
Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational interviewing: Helping people change. The Guilford Press.
Norcross, J. C. (2005). A primer on psychotherapy integration. In J. C. Norcross, & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of Psychotherapy Integration (2nd ed, pp. 3–23). Oxford University Press.
Norcross, J. C., & Newman, C. F. (2003). Psychotherapy integration: Setting the context. In J. C. Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (pp. 3–45). Oxford University Press.
Schottenbauer, M. A., Glass, C. R., & Arnkoff, D. B. (2005). Outcome research on psychotherapy integration. In J. C. Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of Psychotherapy Integration (2nd ed, pp. 459–493). Oxford University Press.
Zarbo, C., Tasca, G. A., Cattafi, F., & Compare, A. (2016). Integrative psychotherapy works. Frontiers in psychology, 6(2021). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.02021
Cite this article using APA style as: Weidner, R.O., & Soto, A. (2022, September). Implementing an integrative advising approach. Academic Advising Today, 45(3). [insert url here]