Integral Theory’s Quadratic Assessment

This post is part of my 100-question challenge, where I review work from researchers, coaches and counselors to identify questions that support participants to reflect and find solutions to their problems. Learn more about this challenge here. These are questions 29-41.

Integral theory proposes that a comprehensive description of a phenomenon requires recognizing that multiple aspects of reality are important. Of particular interest, this reality can be classified into four quadrants (Wilber, 2000; Marquis, 2007), which integrate contradictory perspectives of human experience proposed by different disciplines. These four quadrants are:

(1) Interior-Individual/Intentional (Upper Left), which deals with subjective realities. This quadrant includes all experiences, perceptions, feelings, and sensations that can be described in “I” language. 

(2) Exterior-Individual/Behavioral (Upper Right), which deals with objective realities such as individual action or physical manifestation. This quadrant includes observable behaviors, events, and processes that can be scientifically described in “it” language.

(3) Interior-Collective/Cultural (Lower Left), which deals with the intersubjective reality of a group. This quadrant includes shared worldviews, values, customs, and meanings shared by a group and can be described in “you/we” language.

(4) Exterior-collective/Social (Lower Right), which deals with the interjective reality of a social group. It includes systems and structures (e.g., economic systems, labor market, transportation systems). In this quadrant, the social phenomenon is described in objective, (its) language. 

Advocates of integral perspectives on counseling (Marquis, 2007) and coaching (Divine, 2009) propose that when individuals’ experiences are mapped across the quadrants, we can better understand their complete experience. The Upper Left provides information on how an individual experiences a phenomenon “from the inside,” including feelings, self-image, and beliefs. The Upper Right on how an individual experiences a phenomenon from the outside, including behaviors that may support or hinder outcomes. The Lower Left provides information on how individuals experience ethnicity, relationships, and cultural meanings. The Lower Right highlights the individual’s context, such as socioeconomic status, racism, and other social systems that contribute to the individuals’ experience.

Andre Marquis, in his book “The Integral Intake: A Guide to Comprehensive Idiographic Assessment in Integral Psychotherapy,” provides a detailed list of questions for a psychotherapy intake using the quadrants as a guide. For our research purposes, many of these questions may not apply. Below I list some that are particularly promising.

Experience: Individual-Interior

  1. What are your strengths?
  2. How would you describe your mood/feelings?
  3. How do you make decisions (for example, do you use logic and reason, or do you trust or gut and heart)?
  4. In general, how satisfied are you with (your life/job/situation)?
  5. In general, how much control do you feel you have over your (life/situation) and how you feel?

Behavior: Individual-Exterior

  1. Please describe your habits/patterns (as it relates to the topic under investigation).

Culture: Collective-Interior

  1. Please describe your relationships with friends, family, and coworkers (as it relates to the topic under investigation)
  2. How do you identify yourself ethnically? How influential is your ethnic culture to you?
  3. What values are most important to you (as it relates to topic)?

Social systems: Collective-Exterior

  1. Describe your current (relevant – work, home) physical environment.
  2. What aspects of your life are stressful to you?
  3. What type of support system do you have?
  4. What is your educational/professional background?

While using the quadrants for designing an interview is not necessarily transformative, it helps structure an interview to ensure all aspects of the experience are included. 

Consider: do you tend to focus on one quadrant and ignore others?


Divine, L. (2009) A unique view into you: Working with a client’s AQAL constellation, Journal of Integral Theory & Practice, Vol. 4 (1), p41-67.

Marquis, A. (2007) The Integral Intake: A Guide to Comprehensive Idiographic Assessment in Integral Psychotherapy, Routledge.

Marquis, A. (2011) What is integral theory? Counseling and Values, volume 51(3): 164-179.

Wilber, K. (2000). A theory of everything: An integral vision for business, politics, science, and spirituality. Boston, MA: Shambhala.