Multimodal therapy embraces technical eclecticism, or the idea that treatment can and should consist of techniques from many different theoretical perspectives, without the clinician necessarily adopting the theoretical basis for those techniques. While Multimodal therapists enjoy a great deal of flexibility in terms of technique selection, they are expected to consult relevant research and to favor research-backed techniques over techniques without research backing. Much emphasis is placed on tailoring treatment to the individual client. What's more, rather than using traditional diagnostic nomenclature, Multimodal therapy uses several methods to identify specific problems within the various BASIC I.D. modalities and proposes specific therapeutic interventions for each identified problem.

As a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Multimodal therapy can be used to treat many of the same conditions, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Phobias
  • Addictions.

CBT has been shown to be effective in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, and possibly more effective than pharmacological treatments in the long term Cognitive behavioral therapy has also been shown as an effective treatment for clinical depression. The American Psychiatric Association Practice Guidelines (April 2000) indicated that among psychotherapeutic approaches, cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy had the best-documented efficacy for treatment of major depressive disorder.

CBT can help patients with severe mental disorders to make sense of experiences that lead to symptoms, and to associate key thoughts and feelings with factors that predispose to or precipitate them. For instance, it can help to make rational connections between precipitating causes such as stimulants or hallucinogenic drugs and symptoms such as psychotic episodes. With the help of a therapist, patients may even devise and carry out behavioral experiments that can help them to learn how to improve their quality of life.

The use of CBT has been extended to children and adolescents with positive results. It is often used to treat major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and symptoms related to trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. CBT has been used with children and adolescents to treat a variety of conditions with good success. CBT is also used as a treatment modality for children who have experienced complex post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic maltreatment.

The multimodal therapist might target each modality in the order in which might be the most helpful in a largely psychoeducational approach.

Problem behaviors might be dealt with through positive or negative reinforcement, counterconditioning, or extinction. Affective responses, or things that deal with unpleasant emotions might be treated with cognitive behavioral type therapy, such as learning to own up to and accept feelings, or abreaction, which is reliving an experience in order to purge it of its emotional excesses; a type of catharsis.

Psychosomatic complaints, or Sensations, may be treated with tension release or sensory pleasuring, positive relaxation imagery and calming techniques. Negative self-images may be treated by creating coping images, meditaition, visualization exercises, and guided imagery. Issues with cognition, or problems with irrational thoughts may be addressed with cognitive restructuring, or work to create self awareness, mindfulness based thearies, defusing exercises, and thought diaries. . Problems with interpersonal relationships can be helped with dispersing unhealthy collusions, paradoxical maneufers, and learning nonjudgmental acceptance.  Drugs and other biological interventions use medications to assist in therapy.

Pros for this therapy

As an approach of CBT, multimodal therapy would be effective for a variety of disorders, such as those of the mood, anxiety, personality, eating, substance abuse, and other psychotic disorders. Because multimodal therapy addresses all aspects of the personality, there is a good chance that someone’s problem can be adequately addressed. Like CBT, multimodal therapy may not be effective in treating psychiatric problems caused solely by drug or alcohol abuse. These patients may have more success with multimodal therapy after (ideally complete) abstinence has been achieved.

Cons for this therapy

Multimodal therapy, as an approach of CBT is unlikely to be effective in treating psychiatric problems caused solely by drug or alcohol abuse. It has been argued that the treatment of such patients should be directed at tackling their substance abuse problems (ideally aiming for complete abstinence) prior to the commencement of CBT.  

Multimodal therapy originated within the context of behavior therapy and, later, the framework of cognitive behavioral therapy ("CBT"). Indeed, Arnold Lazarus introduced the terms "behavior therapy" and "behavior therapist" into the professional literature in 1958. During his pioneering work in the clinical arena of CBT, Arnold Lazarus realized that more areas of psychosocial functioning often needed to be addressed in therapy than merely actions and thoughts. This led him to expand the model of traditional CBT by incorporating additional modalities for assessment and treatment. This was briefly referred to as "broad-spectrum behavior therapy," and ultimately became multimodal therapy.

Multimodal therapy is a therapeutic approach based on the idea that humans are biological beings that experience emotions, think, feel, act, experience the senses (touch, smell, feel), imagine, and interact. Each of these "modalities" should be addressed in psychological treatment. Multimodal assessment and treatment is built around the acronym BASIC I.D.

  • Behaviors
  • Affective responses
  • Sensory reactions
  • Images
  • Cognitions
  • Interpersonal Relationships
  • Drugs and other biological interventions
Primary Therapy: 
Review Date: 
February 15, 2012