What does "integrated" mean in a psychological sense?
August 15, 2010 5:02 PM   Subscribe

What does it mean when my therapist calls me "integrated"?

My therapist will sometimes use the word "integrated" to describe someone's overall psychological health (eg, that she sees me as "integrated", or that a crazy person is "unintegrated")

What does that mean in the most concrete terms possible?

posted by mpls2 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
IANAT but my sense is that this means you are fully connected with all parts of yourself and your life experiences, rather than being in denial about anything. For example, a victim of a trauma may not truly believe the trauma to be part of her history until psychological work is done to help her integrate that experience into her normal self. The disintegration would express itself as upset, mania, depression, denial, etc. Integration would present as an acceptance of the event without getting caught in a cycle of feeling like a victim, being restimulated (re-living it), etc.
posted by hansbrough at 5:08 PM on August 15, 2010

BTW, I would strongly suggest you ask your therapist what he/she means specifically, too!
posted by hansbrough at 5:13 PM on August 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Much like Stuart Smalley, I am not a therapist, but I am an avid consumer of therapeutic services *giggle*

Without further context... being integrated is likely a good thing. A lot of people struggle to integrating the parts of their lives with each other -- their work life with their home or non-work life, their behavior while out with friends with their behavior while at home or with family, their inner turmoil with the face they show to the world, etc.

Keeping up a facade and/or living multiple lives is really, really difficult and causes stress, which affects all parts of your life (whether you're "integrated" or not). If someone has been abused, for example, they may try to compartmentalize it and push it to the back of their mind so it doesn't come into play in other areas of their life. However, that's not so easy; if they don't deal with it (nonintegration), it still spills over into relationships with family members, lovers, bosses, etc. and may affect how they behave in certain situations.

Integration, on the other hand, helps smooth out the jagged peaks and valleys of what could otherwise be a turbulent life. So if I am integrated (which I like to think that I am), I don't have a different set of values for different people, and I don't have to face the conundrum of, say, trying to rationalize what I did when I was drunk or flying off the handle. I am a whole person, whose life and selves are not compartmentalized. Every part of my life affects

In a business sense, for example: I was reading an interview with some CEO recently that discussed the things he looks for in new employees. He said that he'll ask some question (let's say it's "Whom do you admire?") and if the person responds by asking, "Do you mean in my work life, or outside of work?" he'll know that that person is not the person he's looking for, because he or she does not integrate different parts of life. You don't want someone who is only honest part of the time, or someone who has good common sense in the office but goes wild outside. You want someone whose character is the same every day, who will be ready to answer a question no matter when or where you ask it, and whose values don't change based on a situation.

Does that help?
posted by Madamina at 5:18 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Blergh... that sentence should read, "Every part of my life affects every other part of my life, and while I don't always think about it, I don't deny that this happens."
posted by Madamina at 5:20 PM on August 15, 2010

They could possibly mean integrated as in "a normal, functioning member of society". I don't know if I would like a therapist who uses it like that, though.
posted by wayland at 5:22 PM on August 15, 2010

Ask your therapist.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:48 PM on August 15, 2010

The idea of psychological integration is related to integrity ... building on what Madamina said ... you mean the things that you say, you don't have many "masks" for home and work and friends and so forth -- you are who you are, you're comfortable with that, you feel comfortable exposing your well-integrated self to all comers, etc.

As Madamina said: "I don't have a different set of values for different people, and I don't have to face the conundrum of, say, trying to rationalize what I did when I was drunk or flying off the handle. I am a whole person, whose life and selves are not compartmentalized." ... which is basically behaving with integrity in all aspects of your life and at all times.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:58 PM on August 15, 2010

IA(was)AT--My use of the word integrated meant that ones behavior, cognition(thoughts) and affect(emotions) were are all in synch (integrated) with each other. While it is usually assumed to mean doing well, comfortable with oneself etc it does not necessarily suggest that others are necessarily pleased with you. A sociopath could be well integrated. But I do think that for all practical purposes it means things are running smoothly. Usually being well integrated means that one is operating with integrity--to the extent that one's behavior, thoughts and values are working harmoniously. Once again--a professional con man can behave with integrity.
posted by rmhsinc at 6:57 PM on August 15, 2010

Best answer: I think many of the posters above have it right.

My father’s a psychiatrist, and he once observed that beyond the various diagnoses and illnesses people can get, there is a general integration that they lack when compared to mentally healthier people. The way he put it, some people can have tragedy in their lives – a death, a separation, failure at work, etc.- and understand and accept those events, however unfortunate, as part of a whole life. This integration of the good with the bad makes us better able to deal with the bad when it happens, and can also help to keep us grounded during the good times (so we don’t go overboard with celebration – buying a new house because of a small windfall, for example).

In addition to the ability to integrate the various aspects of a life, healthy people can also integrate the various aspects of themselves – the hobbyist, the employee, the parent, the sibling, the partner, the friend, the acquaintance, etc. By understanding that these are all various facets of ourselves, we can enjoy them all as appropriate, and keep them in check if necessary. Compare the person who has a quick-to-anger side, but who quickly calms down and apologises – “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that” – with the person who has no way of dealing with anger in their ‘normal’ persona and vents explosively from time to time – “It wasn’t really me that got angry, I swear I’m not like that”.

So from my understanding, it’s a compliment. I’m sure she can give a more in depth answer though.
posted by twirlypen at 7:21 PM on August 15, 2010

Integration is when all your "selves" are working together. It's easier to understand by looking at its opposite.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:36 PM on August 15, 2010

Integrative means whatever your therapist thinks it means.
posted by WhiteWhale at 8:57 PM on August 15, 2010

As a person who has been integrated, it means combining all thoughts and feelings into one central place and viewing the world as something to be taken as a whole, not splitting experiences off into sections and putting them in separate containers in the mind.

When parts of your selves have secrets from the other parts, then you create splitting, where one self holds those memories/secrets and other parts know nothing of them. To be integrated, there can be no more secrets. If every part knows everything about The Person as a whole and every part is working together with the same goals, then integration is possible.

Of course, that is all information pertaining to someone with a Dissociative Disorder. If you are speaking in general life terms, it means when some event happens, you are able to see it, accept it and respond with all your faculties working together, instead of flying off the handle, plunging into deep depression, self-destructing or avoidance.
posted by leahpeah at 10:06 AM on August 16, 2010

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