Notwithstanding the many methodological advances made in the field of psychotherapy research, at present a metatheoretical, school-independent framework to explain psychotherapy change processes taking into account their dynamic and complex nature is still lacking. Over the last years, several authors have suggested that a dynamic systems (DS) approach might provide such a framework. In the present paper, we review the main characteristics of a DS approach to psychotherapy. After an overview of the general principles of the DS approach, we describe the extent to which psychotherapy can be considered as a self-organizing open complex system, whose developmental change processes are described in terms of a dialectic dynamics between stability and change over time. Empirical evidence in support of this conceptualization is provided and discussed. Finally, we propose a research design strategy for the empirical investigation of psychotherapy from a DS approach, together with a research case example. We conclude that a DS approach may provide a meta-theoretical, school-independent framework allowing us to constructively rethink and enhance the way we conceptualize and empirically investigate psychotherapy.
Gelo, O. C. G., & Salvatore, S. (2016). A dynamic systems approach to psychotherapy: A meta-theoretical framework for explaining psychotherapy change processes. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 63, 379-395. Link